With Thursday's NBA Draft on the horizon, the Dallas Mavericks are working to figure out what they'll do with their No. 46 pick. Assuming the Mavs keep it, they'll use it on a player that they hope can have some impact in the next year or two. Based on player rankings at several different sites, there are some legitimate prospects at No. 46, but no one on a national level has a clue what the Mavs will do. Hit six different mock drafts and you'll find six different players.
Who might the Mavs be interested in? I took a look at players by position group — realistic possibilities — leading up to the draft. Today we look at forward.
Pascal Siakam, PF, New Mexico State (6-foot-10, 227 pounds)
The Cameroon native comes to the NBA via New Mexico State University, where the 22-year-old was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore, scoring 20.3 points, grabbing 11.3 rebounds and blocking 2.2 shots per game. That wasn't a fluke. He was the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2014-15. Siakam chose to pass on his final two years of eligibility. He had an impressive combine. His wingspan (7-foot-3) and vertical (36 inches) lines up with some of the centers we profiled. The difference is Siakam's mobility and athleticism. He runs the floor. He plays defense close to the rim and away from the basket effectively. He has a good base of inside-the-paint shots to work with, including a hard-to-defend hook shot. He'll need to add to that in the NBA. He also needs to add some upper body strength and improve his outside shot (44 percent in college). But you watch film and you see a player that projects as a full-court performer with difficult-to-defend length.
Jarrod Uthoff, PF, Iowa (6-foot-10, 214 pounds)
Uthoff averaged 19.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game last season for the Hawkeyes and some think he could be taken in the late first round. I watch tape and I see a highly-fundamental player who knows how to play with his feet on the floor and with his feet in the air — and there's a difference. But his biggest strength is his shooting ability. He's especially good at the catch-and-jump and has enough skills to move with the ball and create some space. He worked a lot in one-on-one situations at Iowa, and that could come in handy in the NBA. Defensively he's one of the best shot blockers in the draft, as evidenced by his average. He uses his body well in space and does a good job of avoiding contact when possible. I don't see him as a prolific scorer in the NBA. He has a ceiling. But if he could project to a player that can give you a 10-point, 6-rebound, 1-block per night kind of player in a couple of years, he's worth considering.
Wayne Selden Jr., SF, Kansas (6-foot-5, 230 pounds)
He's listed as a shooting guard but with his height, weight and wingspan (6-foot-10) he could stretch into a small forward with some teams. One of two Kansas players on this list, Selden saw serious jumps in his production his junior year, scoring 13.8 points per game and shooting nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line. A small forward with that kind of range can help stretch defenses. Watch his highlights and you see a player that can close the deal at the rim. If there are concerns there are two. First, he's not a good free throw shooter (61 percent in college). Second, he took a big jump from his sophomore to his junior statistically, similar to what Justin Anderson did at Virginia. Think of Selden as a player much in Anderson's mold, one that will need time to develop and earn playing time in Year 1.
Perry Ellis, PF, Kansas (6-foot-8, 220 pounds)
Ellis played four years at Kansas, a rarity in the college game these days. He played with a great deal of consistency at Kansas, averaging 12.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in his career and hewing close to those numbers his final three seasons. He has a smooth, effective mid-range jumper and defends well from the basket. Additionally he's developed a nice 3-point shot that has room to develop. Ellis doesn't possess a lot of athleticism, but he's functionally quick and moves well laterally (he actually had the fastest three-quarter court time at the NBA Combine). Draft him and you get a player who is mature and can play minutes off the bench right away, assuming he can handle the physicality at the NBA level.
Rade Zajorac, PF, Serbia (6-foot-9, 205 pounds)
You didn't think we could get through this without a foreign player, did you? Of course not. Zajorac is the thinnest player on this list, but he has a skill set which projects well in pro basketball. He was going to be a part of the 2015 NBA Draft but withdrew. The 20-year old won't be dropping out this time after a short season in Serbia that saw him score 13.1 points per game in 29 minutes. He only played 13 games due to a broken elbow, so teams have been combing through his physicals. He's not a tremendous isolation player, and you need that in the NBA. Same goes for his long-range shooting, though at age 20 he has time to develop that in his game. But he's a slashing forward with an eye for finding good lanes to the basket and has improved his defense the past two years. He's a project. He probably needs two more years before he could be really effective in the NBA. If you draft him you might leave him in Europe for another year before bringing him stateside. But he could become something special.
Worth noting: In DB.com's assemblage of pre-draft visitors (click here), none of these names pop up. The same is true of my list of "Four Centers Dallas Could Draft At 46.'' (Click here.) That speaks to the wide-open process, maybe to how Dallas is playing this somewhat close to the vest (good for the Mavs), and how you should keep it locked in here and at DB.com Mavs Boards for all the info as it happens!
Next up: Guards