Mavericks NBA Draft: What Dallas Knows About Another 'Next Dirk,' Lauri Markkanen

As The Dallas Mavericks Approach The NBA Draft ... Their Thoughts On Mock-Draft Riser Lauri Markkanen And His Status As Yet Another 'Next Dirk'

On the surface, there are those who are going to connect Lauri Markkanen with the Dallas Mavericks because:

a) He's an overseas guy, and that's where Mavs boss Donnie Nelson has deeper connections than most;

b) He's a 7-footer who can shoot, and so he's automatically going to be viewed by some as yet another "Next Dirk.''

As of a few weeks ago, I was told by people close to the situation that the Mavs did not see the University of Arizona standout (by way of Finland) as being worthy of their ninth-overall pick. Maybe that view was influenced by Dallas' focus on point guards in this PG-heavy class ... but it was the view.

Now comes a mock draft from ESPN's Chad Ford, and no, Markkanen isn't projected to Dallas at No. 9. (Frank Ntlikina is.) But maybe that's only because Markkanen is projected to go at No. 8, one spot ahead of Dallas.

Why is the kid's stock rising?

It's true that he's a fairly polished offensive player already. He's good in the pick-and-pop. He's got range (42 percent from the college arc), making him the best big-man shooter in this draft. He makes his free throws, at an 83-percent clip. And at 7-foot, he can finish.

And the standard credentials are there. He was a first team all-Pac 12 selection in his lone season at Arizona.

Markkanen is not considered "an elite athlete'' in the traditional sense and for a 7-foot, 230-pound guy, isn't excessively "long,'' either. He's a stretch-4, most likely, and that's part of the reason you'll hear the Dirk Nowitzki comparisons. But there are other reasons.

He doesn't yet have a fully-developed interior game. And despite the fact that he grabbed 7.5 per game, NBA people I talk to do not consider him a natural rebounder. And this is where Mavs people demonstrate to me their deep thoughts on Markkanen: They've expressed to me the general thought that if Dirk can essentially be a "self-taught'' force as a rebounder, this kid can do the same. And, as long as Mavs Nation's mind is open there, it's worth envisioning Markkanen actually learning what Dirk learned ... from Dirk. On the same team.

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Yet I continue to be told that while Marrkanen might be a top-10 pick in a "normal'' draft, Dallas is struggling to visualize him going as high as, say, sixth to Minnesota ... because of the depth at the point guard position ... and because of the Mavs' particular needs there. If Markkanen is viewed here as a true "Next Dirk'' (quite a stretch), that can be the tiebreaker on the board. But if his grade is very similar to that of a point guard ... there is your tiebreaker in favor of the guard. But the fact the Mavs staff has given Markkanen enough thought to wonder if he can learn to rebound "like Dirk'' and maybe even "from Dirk'' ... tells you about their level of consideration here.


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