DONUT 1: Not Trading 9, But ...
The information I have at this moment is that the Dallas Mavericks are not planning on trading the No. 9 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. That is what I'm being told in on-the-record conversations, and it's what I'm being told via behind-the-scenes whispers, too. And I believe – based on the information that the Mavericks presently have - that it's the truth.
But what happens as they advance their information? As their information changes? Does trading 9 then become more viable? More advantageous?
DONUT 2: A Veteran Take On Draft Day?
Here is one of my "pick-up-the-phone" scenarios at 9:
It's Draft Day.
Let's say ... the Suns are offering you Eric Bledsoe for 9. The T'Wolves are doing the same with Ricky Rubio. You are not especially tempted here because you, as an organization, have come to terms with the idea that this move, this big, singular June 22 move, needs to be how about 12 years for the franchise, and not about 12 months for Dirk Nowitzki.
Nevertheless, you keep them and their ideas on hold ... in part because you don't yet know what is available at the No. 9 spot.
DONUT 3: Almost On The Clock ...
Part of the day has been spent making certain the ultimate goal isn't "getting a single player" but rather, "asset acquisition." Somebody should really scribble this up on Donnie Nelson’s grease board; teams become so laser-focused on “Which Player?” that they miss the forest for the trees.
And ... now it is almost your turn to decide … what if that “forest’’ is best-accomplished by ... moving down and gaining other picks in this draft or in future drafts? And/or maybe other assets, too?
DONUT 4: The Look Of The Board
I'm not predicting this scenario (for starters, it's impossible to know what the other eight teams are thinking) but rather just being open-minded about it:
Let's say the Mavs are looking at the board and there sit Zack Collins and Frank Ntilikina. Both of them were in Dallas' top 11 coming in (see our Mavs-centric rankings here) … So that's OK.
Are there two directions to go? Or are there three?
DONUT 5: Speaking Frankly
I am told that as you read this, "the (Mavs) room is split" on Ntilikina. That's not shocking, or even unusual; there are always differences of opinion, and a consensus always has to be built. (once Donnie gets back from his European scouting tour that includes time spent with Frank, Dallas will surely have its decision-making tiebreaker.)
I know that the national media has already locked Dallas into Ntilikina, and I have reported often that that is premature. Indeed, for the sake of this discussion, let's assume "the room" goes south on Frank, predicting his road to success is too bumpy and too lengthy.
DONUT 6: 'Double-Up Danger'
So what about Zack Collins, the center from Gonzaga? I have been told that philosophically, the Mavericks aren't sure they want to "double-up" at the center position - meaning, spend a great deal of resources to employ Nerlens Noel and a high first-rounder to play the same position.
Two center-related sidebars here:
One, Dallas has historically loved the idea of a two-headed center rotation. There was Damp and Diop and then there was TY and Big Wood. Why deviate from that?
Well, two ... none of those four guys were being paid 25 percent of the salary cap, which is the situation with a young max a deal for Nerlens Noel. The Mavericks don't automatically have to pay restricted free agent Noel his five-year, $146.45 million max. But that is the cost of doing business here, quite possibly, and so it naturally gives you pause as to what you're going to do at the center position.
But assuming you've decided to retain Noel. … and assume that means drafting another center this high isn't ideal.
Can you play “The Futures Game"?
DONUT 7: 'The Futures Game'
If the evening of June 22 looks like it is about to play out this way, I want to find a trade partner who is infatuated with Collins. And I want the Mavs to use that infatuation to get a haul. A haul for the future, and that'd be nice. Nicer still, of course, if I can also improve myself now, and improve my cap situation as well.
DONUT 8: 'The Haul' Equals Options
I believe (and I am pretty sure the Mavs scouting department believes) that there are a number of viable NBA prospects in the late-teens/early-20’s of this draft, both at point guard and wing.
If I’m willing to let somebody else fall in love with Collins (or Ntilikina, or Malik Monk, or Lauri Markkanen, whomever), can I trade down? Net an extra pick? Net a cheap-but-helpful veteran?
DONUT 9: Call Portland
The smart gang at DBcom Premium Boards has been busy cooking up ways to offer the Blazers some cap relief in exchange for a player and a pick. Can I move down and get one of their three first-round selections (they have picks No. 15, 20 and 26)? Can I do so by offering them a Trade Exception (and a future pick worth “air’’) while getting back, say, useful big man Ed Davis (with just a $6 mil salary) and pick No. 20? (One NBA team source tells me Portland might need to use its picks to get out from under Ezeli and Turner and more ... So we're on the right track here.)
If I do so, I now own picks No. 9 and No. 20. … and my roster is a little better.
DONUT 10: Call Orlando
Let’s target the Orlando Magic. What if they love Zack Collins? What if I offer them pick No. 9 in exchange for, say, picks No. 25, 35 and a future protected (top-15) first-rounder? Orlando gets Collins and I now gain Ed Davis and I hold picks Nos. 20, 25 and 35 in a marvelously deep draft … at a time during which extra players of qualify are more important than ever because of the new “two-way (16th and 17th) player’’ roster rule.
The Mavs, by making these sorts of wheels turn, have a vault of ammunition.
DONUT 11: Wait A Sec … Let’s Move UP!
I’ve painted Draft Day in a way that is all about recognizing that luring big fish from elsewhere isn’t a very workable method, that keeping your own big fish (Noel) is, and that suffering through another rebuilding season is the best option because, Dirk be darned, this franchise needs 12 good years, not 12 fun months.
So it’s “The Futures Game.’’
DONUT 12: Call The Kings. Call Every Team From 2 To 8
Yes, our Mavs, in this series of scenarios, began the evening focusing on a trade-down that can build an upward trend for the future. But let’s unplug from the Collins-related trade-down. Let’s stick with the Portland cap-helper.
If I’ve got the No. 9 pick AND Nos. 25 and 35, I have the tools to attempt to move up to pursue Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who is the apple of my June 22 eye. There are hints that he’s not opposed to being drafted by the Sacramento Kings at No. 5 … but at the same time, I had a scouting buddy tell me the other day that at the Scouting Combine in Chicago, a whole bunch of prospects and a whole bunch of their agents truly tried to avoid being interviewed by Sacto.
Can I get the Kings to give me No 5 (for Fox) in exchange for No. 9? What other pick(s) do they want? Can I persuade them to accept Wesley Matthews, who, of course, they liked in free agency just as much as the Mavs did a few years ago? Does Aaron Affalo need to be involved here? Cool.
We’re pipe-dreaming here, with some of these wrinkles, concepts and suggestions. But not all of them. These sort of moves, if they pan out, represent the best way (the only way?) for Dallas to accelerate the re-build. If I engineer the grabbing of additional picks by moving back, I have the ammo to engineer a move up to Fox, and I have my star point guard for the next 12 years. If I can avoid sacrificing that second-rounder I got, I can throw another draft dart (or, if you like, discover just how cheaply Rubio or Bledsoe can be had. Dwight Powell and change for Rubio, who has a new Mavs-friendly agent?) My preference, though, if I move off of Matthews’ money, is to suddenly be a player in free agency beyond simply re-upping Noel.
And all our speculation about a Jrue Holiday type (which I need a lot less now that I’ve drafted Fox) makes more mathematical sense. And all our speculation about an Otto Porter type (which I need desperately for this roster to turn a corner) makes more mathematical sense.
I can be wrong here, rolling all the way back to Ntilikina at 9. Maybe he's there, the consensus in "the room'' is that Dallas likes him and it picks him, and does nothing else. But the 12-step program above constitutes one of my favorite team-building analogies, the “Trade A Paper Clip Into A House.’’ It's a worthy exercise, I hope you'll agree. Unless they have a better idea ... I’d love to see the Dallas Mavericks start the swap-down, and the swap-up, on Draft Day.