The NBA lottery has come and gone, and no matter which way you slice it, the Dallas Mavericks are going to draft somebody at No. 9. (Lest you think we are being Captain Obvious here: DallasBasketball.com is reporting that the front office is on board with the coaching staff and the personnel department about not swapping the pick for a middling veteran point guard. So the resistance to a Dirk-helping Band-Aid fix is an important angle.)
As for who’s going to be available and what hand the Mavs are going to be dealt? That all depends on who picks in front of them.
After one of the dumbest and most lopsided trades in league history, things will start with off with the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed, the Boston Celtics. Most believe they will take Markelle Fultz with that pick, creating an interesting scenario in the backcourt for Brad Stevens to navigate.
The LA Lakers will likely follow suit by selecting Lonzo (and by proxy, LaVar) Ball, who was born and bred for the big lights and Hollywood lifestyle of Los Angeles. (We are talking about the spotlight-hogging dad here, not the son, as we will illustrate more thoroughly below.)
Though there are some who believe the Lakers are going to take a serious look at De’Aaron Fox (who owned Ball in the NCAA Tournament, by the way), Ball is the favorite. And as Fish points out here, that will send the Rumor Mill into motion with talk of D’Angelo Russell being on the move ... but likely not to Dallas.
What happens after that is anyone’s guess.
So let’s take a different approach to this whole "mock draft" thing ...
The fact is, were told the Mavs think this draft is 10 (maybe 11) guys deep, and at No. 9 they are more than likely going to get one of the guys they like well enough. So instead of doing a traditional (and usually unreliable) mock draft, let's rank these prospects in order from a Mavs’ needs standpoint. ... with the help of Fish's reporting from sources with knowledge of Dallas' plans
DONUT 1. Markelle Fultz G 6’5 186 lbs – Washington
As the heavy favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Boston Celtics, Fultz is essentially irrelevant to the Mavs come draft night. You can read our full (early) scouting report on him here, but rest assured, there is a reason he's favored to go No. 1.
Fultz can do it all on the offensive end of the floor. He can shoot from both midrange and deep, drive, dish, pick and roll, and even create his own shot consistently. He is without a doubt the most polished and offensively-gifted prospect in this draft.
He also has all of the athletic tools. Speed, strength, size, you name it, Fultz has it.
Where Fultz’s game takes some heat is on the defensive end of the floor, where he was a bit lacking during his one season at Washington. Some of those problems however, could easily be linked to over exertion on the offensive end of the floor, where the rest of his teammates were pretty much atrocious.
It was also because of this lack of talent around him, that Fultz failed to get his team to the NCAA tournament, making him the only player in the top 11 not to play in the field of 68. Don’t let that fool you however. Fultz is the real deal, and it’s likely that the Celtics know that, and are going to be getting one hell of a player.
Best Case: Dwayne Wade (with a better shot) or Pre-Injury Brandon Roy
DONUT 2. De’Aaron Fox PG 6’4 190 lbs – Kentucky
We’re on record here stating that we think Fox is the ideal fit for the Mavericks in just about every way. His style of play, his character, and hi passion are all things the Mavs covet desperately in their first-round pick.
Not only is he easily the fastest guy in the draft, he's an exceptional defender and distributor of the ball as well. He can also get to the basket and finish as well as just about anyone in the class. That burst of speed and quickness also allows him to be aggressive and create in both isolation and in the pick and roll.
At Kentucky, he did just about everything the Wildcats needed, averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per while shooting 48 percent from the field, and 74 percent from the line. It should also be noted that he also faced down and schooled Lonzo Ball head to head not once, but twice on big stages, helping his draft stock skyrocket. Which is also why I have him ranked ahead of Ball here.
In our opinion, Fox’ upside is as high or higher than anybody else in this class, but his big problem is his consistency shooting the basketball from long range. He will also have to improve his strength, frame, and consistent aggression on defense if he is to matchup night in and night out defensively against the NBA’s best point guards.
Finally, Fox’s speed can sometimes get the best of him, and it can effect his distribution and vision when attacking to create for his teammates.
If he manages to develop that shot, and work out a few other kinks in his game, he has a chance to be a superstar at the NBA level. For the Mavs, Fox is everything they want and more in a point guard prospect. If by some miracle he’s available to them at 9, Dallas would more than likely jump at the chance to lock him down.
Best Case: John Wall
Realistic case: Elfrid Payton
FISHTIP: He’s a leader. He lights up a room. He’s a distributor. A decade from now, if we’re still bemoaning Dallas’ failure to properly fail during the 2016-17 season, Fox will be the source of our sorrows.
DONUT 3. Lonzo Ball PG 6’6 190 lbs – UCLA
It’s no secret that Ball is the most polarizing prospect in this year’s class. It’s not entirely his fault, either. His father, LaVar, is a lightning rod for criticism. From the crazy things that come out of his mouth, to his outrageous price point on shoes, LaVar has drawn even more attention that his son … who we have a full scouting report on here.
Despite all that, Lonzo is a gifted player with great size and has high levels of production against the toughest competition in the country. (Though in head-to-head games against stars, we need to go back and take a hard eval here.) In his one year at UCLA, Ball averaged 14.6 points, six rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 55.1-percent from the field, and 41.2-percent from three.
Still, Ball doesn’t come without his faults. On defense, and despite the tools to succeed, he had little impact on that end of the floor. Also, his unorthodox shooting motion might be an issue against quicker defenders at the next level.
He also, as Fish notes here in Thursday’s Donuts, is not a fan of the spotlight, and isn’t much of a leader in the locker room. He also, we’re told, didn’t show up for the combine in part because he wasn’t comfortable in the interview room with the NBA teams and their decision-makers. What?
In any case, Ball is a hell of a talent with a lot of upside. And if he can put it all together at the NBA level, will likely be a top 10-15 player in the league without question. Whether or not he is worth all of the extra baggage that comes with his family? That’s up for the Lakers and the other teams in the lottery to decide.
Best Case: A taller Jason Kidd without the defense.
Realistic: A more athletic Ricky Rubio.
FISHTIP: I’ve got people who dislike Ball so much that they scoff at the Kidd/Magic comparisons to instead predict he’ll be Shawn Livingston. Mark Cuban tells me the Mavs are fine with the dad, and ultimately, Dallas would like to have this player. But there are flaws to offset the hype.
DONUT 4. Josh Jackson SF 6’8 210 lbs – Kansas
Going away form the point guard position a bit, this is an immensely talented wing player out of Kansas who the Mavericks take in a second. Not going to happen, but we can dream …
He's also an uber-athletic talent and an elite perimeter defender, both things the Mavs need. He can also fill up the stat sheet. At Kansas, Jackson averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.
Selecting someone like Jackson would also allow Rick Carlisle to move Harrison Barnes to the power forward spot full-time, and allow Dirk to come of the bench in a sixth man role.
Jackson has the talent to be the best player in this draft, and if he can develop his jump shot, has the ceiling to be a Kawhi Leonard type guy. The idea of him in a Mavs uniform would almost be too good to be true, and while it probably is, we can still have fun with it.
Best Case: Kawhi Leonard
Realistic case: Jae Crowder
FISHTIP: My scouts say he’s a top-three guy and the best two-way player in the whole draft.
DONUT 5. Dennis Smith Jr. PG 6’3 190 lbs – North Carolina State
Fish has reported it frankly: The team isn’t as high on Smith as some of the other guards in this draft. The system that Rick Carlisle runs is at its best when the team has a pass-first point guard, ala Jason Kidd running the show, and the proof of that is in the championship.
So why is the highly-athletic/attack minded so high on so many boards? He's a special talent. You can read the Dennis Smith Jr. full scouting report here.
In many other drafts, Smith would probably be a sure-fire top-three guy. His athleticism and scoring ability are top-notch, and he is highly underrated as a passer. He can do all of the things that Carlisle’s scheme demands, but can also get to the basket at a lightning pace, can rebound, and has the tools to defend.
Smith gets labeled a "shoot-first'' guy, but if you look at the hand he was dealt in college and the talent that surrounded him, maybe the situation dictated that he had to take on that role. Had he ended up somewhere like North Carolina, Kansas, or UCLA, things might have played out much differently for him.
When it comes down to it, the Mavs don’t have a guy on the roster who can both explode and finish at the basket consistently, as well as find the open man. Smith can do those things, and if the Mavs give him the opportunity, I believe he would excel in their system.
Best Case: Damian Lillard
Realistic case: Darren Collison
FISHTIP: I’ve got a lot of disagreement with Matt Galatzan here. There was a problem with that Wolfpack program, and Smith was part of the issue. That — and the fact that Dallas absolutely views him as something other than a “facilitator’’ — is why the Mavs don’t see him as a perfect fit. They think his upside is Steve Francis. That’s not a bad thing. In the end, it might mean he’s in the top six on the Dallas board. But his “fit’’ is not ideal.
DONUT 6. Jonathan Isaac F 6’10 210 lbs – Florida State
Now here’s an interesting option. Jonathan Isaac is another wing player, but one who’s an athletic freak on the level on a Monstar in Space Jam. He is a super-long and shows it on both ends, as well as exceptional almost-guard-like ball skills and shooting touch.
If developed to his full potential, Isaac could have the ability play as many as four different positions, and while virtually being able to guard any position on the floor defensively. Much like the Lakers’ young wing man Brandon Ingram, he will have to add some bulk to his frame before he can fully develop, but with his talent ceiling, he would be extremely tough to pass on for any team in the draft.
He can do all of the things that Dallas values out of a wingman, and can be a versatile building block heading into the future alongside the Mavs young core, but it would be a reach to say that Isaac will fall to the Mavs all the way at nine. He is simply too talented and has too much upside for eight other teams to pass him up. However, if a miracle were to happen for Dallas, Isaac could be a great fit next to Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes in the Mavs front court.
Best Case: Paul George
Realistic case: Brandon Ingram
FISHTIP: Dallas really like Issac. He’s an extremely willing defender; he loves it, I’m told. And he almost never shot at Florida State, but there are scouting people who tell me that had he played at a different school, in a different system, he’d have scored 25 per. I’ve got people who think he’s got Harrison Barnes traits. I’ve got people who think he has Kevin Durant trails. This is a prize.
DONUT 7. Frank Ntilikina PG 6’5 190 lbs – International (France)
Frank Ntilikina is a guy that we’ve written extensively about on the site, and for good reason. Mavs GM Donnie Nelson has been on Ntilikina as long as anyone else in the NBA, and he knows exactly what he can do. You can read our full scouting report here.
Out of all of the top point guards in this draft class, Frank has the highest risk, and possibly the greatest reward as well if he fulfills his potential. As the youngest prospect in this draft, his age and relative inexperience vs. high-level competition are the biggest factors working against Ntilikina and any NBA suitors.
He has professional experience playing for SIG Strasbourg in the French LBN Pro A, as well as at the U-18 international level playing for France, but that is extent of it. However, in international competition, he has been dominant, taking home MVP honors at the FIBA Europe U-18 Championship, where he led his team to a championship.
In that tournament, he proved he could fill up the stat sheet, averaging 15.2 points, 4.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game, which included a 31-point outburst in the championship game against Lithuania. He put it all on display, including his speed, length and instincts on the defensive end of the floor.
Ntilikina is also a tremendous passer, and might be the best three-point shooter not named Monk in this draft class. He can run in transition, finish at the rim, and brings a very unselfish style to the game.
In short, Ntilikina has all the skills the and tools that the Mavs desire, and might also end up being the most realistic option at 9.
Best Case: A taller Dennis Schroeder
Realistic case: Dante Exum.
FISHTIP: Dallas has its Euro reputation and so the media can easily follow the narrative of Frank-to-the-Mavs. But I’m told the Mavs rank him a tick lower than most think, in part because he’s very much a project. … A project the Mavs will be happy enough with if he falls into their laps.
DONUT 8. Jayson Tatum F 6’8 210 lbs – Duke
Jayson Tatum is a dynamic, offensive-minded forward out of Duke who will be a very coveted prospect on draft night. Teams looking for scoring versatility on the wing will be foaming at the mouth when they watch Tatum’s tape, as he can pretty much do it all as either a small forward, or a small-ball four man.
He is strong with broad shoulders and fluid hips, but he also has speed and can cover a lot of ground in a short time. He also has a near seven-foot wingspan, which adds to his defensive skills and potential.
Tatum can score from anywhere on the floor, and much like the Mavs’ Harrison Barnes, can also create his own shot at will.
Tatum does have his weaknesses, though. He has the talent to be an above-average defender, but has had some consistency issues there. Also, his shooting has been known to be a bit streaky at times.
He also may get pushed around by bigger forwards at the next level, and may struggle to create against more athletic wings on the perimeter. He tends to be low on the close-out out on the defensive end, which has led to some pretty easy buckets for the opposition.
But again, with a little work, Tatum can rectify those defensive short comings and become a solid defender on the wing.
For the Mavs, Tatum might be a bit of a redundant piece in the overall scheme of things. Harrison Barnes, who the Mavs signed to a max deal last summer, can do all of the things that Tatum brings to the table, and already does them at a higher level. Tatum has all-star potential, though, and will remain an intriguing option should he fall their way.
Best Case: Harrison Barnes
Realistic case: Rudy Gay
FISHTIP: A scout tells me the key word here is “adaptability.’’ This is a compliment. Tatum is quite likely gone by 9. In fact, there might be a few teams that think he merits top five.
DONUT 9. Malik Monk G 6’3 200 lbs – Kentucky
As a pure scorer, Monk might be the most exciting prospect in this year’s class. He can score and create his own shot from anywhere on the floor, and is an exceptional three-point shooter. He is productive, explosive, and when given the opportunity, has shown that he can run an offense and distribute the ball well.
At Kentucky, Monk averaged just under 20 points, as well as 4.1 assists per game, and scored 30-plus points four times last season, including a 47-point outburst against the eventual national champion North Carolina Tar Heels. In a backcourt with Fox, the combo was nearly unstoppable for what was arguably the most talented team in the country.
However, Monk is also known to have his issues. He has lacked consistency on the defensive end, and been a bad decision-maker at times. He also struggles to create offensively against strong defenders, and is a bit undersized for the two guard spot at 6’3.
A popular thought is that he will make his bucks at the next level as a sixth man instead of a franchise-type player.
In the case of the Mavs, Monk isn’t as high on their board as other teams may have him due to a lot of his short comings. However, if he does end up being the guy, he would bring a good deal of explosiveness and scoring ability to a roster that has devoid of that at times.
Best Case: Jamal Crawford or CJ McCollum
Realistic case: Lou Williams
FISHTIP: Monk is a top-10 guy on Dallas’ board, but they certainly don’t view him as a “distributor.’’ Crawford is exactly the right comp. Nothing wrong with that … but Dallas is aiming for more.
DONUT 10. Lauri Markkanen PF 7’0 225 lbs – Arizona
Lauri Markkanen garnered a lot of praise during his freshman season at Arizona, and has drawn comparisons to stretch fours like Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs’ own Dirk Nowitzki. Those lofty expectations to make sense to a certain degree.
Stretch-4’s are the new thing in the NBA, and Markkanen is the best of the bunch in this class at that aspect. He is tall, athletic, agile, and can shoot from nearly anywhere on the floor. He has a smooth stroke, a soft touch, and moves very well in the pick and roll game, and off screens all over the floor.
As a Wildcat, the Finland native averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 boards per game, and was the go-to guy all year, and to be fair, in a tough conference like the Pac-12, those types of numbers are pretty impressive.
However, Markkanen has been known to be a bit of a liability on defense, and doesn’t rebound a nearly a high enough level for his size. He also hasn’t shown enough versatility outside of his shooting to deserve any sort of praise in any other facets of his game.
He lacks the wingspan and strength to matchup up defensively with NBA centers, and doesn’t have great instincts or shot-blocking ability. It's hard to see someone of his skill set improving those things to any sort of significant degree.
For the Mavs, Markkanen as a Dirk-type replacement is indeed an intriguing option, but as our Mike Fisher tells in his premium piece us here, he is not valued as high on the Mavs board as other teams may see him.
Best Case: Kristaps Porzingis
Realistic case: Ryan Anderson or Nikola Mirotic
FISHTIP: The Mavs believe in that Ryan Anderson comp. That’s no indictment. But if Markkanen lands in Dallas, somebody will literally have to teach him how to rebound.
DONUT 11. Zach Collins PF/C 7’0 230 lbs – Gonzaga
Rounding out our rankings for the 2017’s top 11 prospects is Zach Collins of Gonzaga. Collins, who helped lead Gonzaga to a national-title appearance this past season, averaged 10 points (22.7 per 40 minutes), 1.8 blocks and six rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game.
Despite the lower usage rate, Collins was effective when on the floor for the Zags. He boasts good size and agility, high offensive upside, a solid rebounding ability on the block. He also has the mobility and quickness to be effective on the pick and roll, as well as switch on defense.
Finally, has a great rebounding sense. He also boxes out well, and has a high motor on the boards as well.
Where Collins falls short of other players on this list is both his polish on the offensive end, as well as his aggressiveness and physicality on defense. At the next level, he will most likely struggle to protect the rim, and has the potential to get pushed around on the block by NBA centers.
Collins averaged 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes, and tends to bite to easily on shot fakes, showing his lack of disciple and instincts on the defensive end of the floor. He will also have to learn to develop his shot on the perimeter, as he needs some time to get his shot off from both mid-range and deep.
As a Mavs fit, Collins doesn’t make too much sense to me. He’s a good talent, and has some high upside, but due to the Mavs investment in developing Nerlens Noel, a selection of Collins would bring about more of a log jam than anything else for Rick Carlisle and company to deal with. Even so, should he be the guy, Collins could at the very least add value and depth to the Mavs rotation in the future.
FISHTIP: Collins is likely beneath the line that the Mavs would draw to separate “tiers.’’ But one NBA team I know (not Dallas) has him at No. 7 on its board.
DONUT 12: WHAT IF?
What about the unlikely scenario in which Dallas somehow doesn’t land one of the top 9, 10 or 11 guys listed here? There's a great thread here on DB.com Boards using bread crumbs and discussing what the Dallas board looks like. (Click in!) ... But we can tell you this: After Collins, there is another “tier line.’’ Quickie names that DallaBasketball.com is hearing some level of positive Mavs mid-round buzz on include OG Anunoby (Indiana forward) Jarrett Allen (Texas center) and Terrance Ferguson (a shooting guard from DFW and now in Australia).
But the most likely scenario? Dallas drafts a prospect worthy of the No. 9 pick, with the promise of being a key piece in what might be a long re-build. … A re-build that starts on June. 22.