DONUT 1: STORIES, BUT NOT STORIES
As it relates to the Dallas Mavericks, the Lauri Markkanen story, and the Zack Collins story, aren't really Dallas Mavericks stories. But these are names that might be pivotal to what the Mavs do on Thursday in the NBA Draft.
First, of course, there is the surface connection being made with Lauri by made observers because Mavs boss Donnie Nelson has deeper international connections than most (and Lauri, of the University of Arizona, is from Finland) and because he’s a 7-footer who can shoot. So, you know, he’s yet another "Next Dirk.''
"If you're a tall guy from anywhere in Europe,’’ Dirk said, “the comparison is going to come."
But I’ve been told for months that the Mavs did not see Markkanen 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.
And now we’ve got Dirk himself saying it out loud, noting that he’s developed a sort of big-brother relationship with Lauri, having visited with him on a Mavs trip to Arizona, when he exchanged phone numbers with the kid, but adding that, “(I don’t think) that’ the route we’re going to take.’’
At one point, ESPN's Chad Ford projected Markkanen to go at No. 8, to the Knicks, one spot ahead of Dallas. In most views, that’s changed now, and yet the rumors persist that Markkanen might go ahead of the Mavs because of a Timberwolves connection with him at the No. 7 spot.
That would be the good news for Dallas … oh, if only it were true.
DONUT 2: TOP 12, NOT TOP 9
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 to pass on him.
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.
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. Hey, in a normal draft that wasn’t so point-guard loaded, Lauri is certainly a top-10 pick and there wouldn’t be a negative in Dallas taking him. Same with Gonzaga center Collins, too, I think; as it is, Collins is still projected by various experts to go top-12.
But Lauri in this draft? Dallas’ major interest in watching him, and I think in watching Collins, too, is in hoping they go higher than No. 9, thus pushing more Dallas-desired talent like Jonathan Isaac and Frank Ntilikina down to the Mavs.
Is there real hope there?
DONUT 3: THE SMOKESCREEN IN FRONT
Sources suggest to me that Minnesota’s interest in Markkanen has largely been a smokescreen, one saying that a front-court pairing of Markkanen and Karl-Anthony Towns “would be a defensive sieve.’’
DONUT 4: THE NON-SMOKESCREEN IN FRONT
One of the same NBA people tells me that Orlando, picking No. 6, absolutely loves Jayson Tatum, but also has Collins (along with Dennis Smith Jr.) “higher than most other teams do.’’
These tidbits are critical in understanding what will or won't be available to Dallas. File them away, again, all along hoping that a Collins or a Markkenan goes earlier than Dallas thinks he should ... thus pushing more desirable talent down to 9.
DONUT 5: THE NON-SECRET IN FRONT
While the Mavs had Mark Cuban helping out the scouting department by being in Europe to breakfast with Frank Ntilikina, the New York media is reporting that the Knicks have a staffer stationed in France to "babysit'' the 18-year-old point guard. Frank's expressed a love for New York (the city) and a respect for the Knicks (the franchise) and even talks fondly of The Triangle.
"Babysitting'' him doesn't get him drafted to you; this isn't the NFL-AFL in 1965. But it shows the Knicks' hand, for sure.
DONUT 6: JUMP? HOW HIGH?
Does that mean Dallas could ... should ... must ... leap over the Knicks at No. 8 to take French Frank?
DONUT 7: NO DOUBLE-UP
Just as I address Lauri earlier, I address Collins here. If it's realistic that he might go to Detroit at No. 12, it's theoretically viable that he can go a few slots earlier, right? So you hope ... but you also prepare.
As the big night approaches, I can see the Mavs ending up with a Markkanen or a Collins, but only in a trade-down. So there is no real “connection’’ there with the two bigs and Dallas … except for Dallas hoping they go off the board earlier than the Mavs think they should.
Well, and this: I'm told both bigs have come through Dallas for pre-Draft visits. That counts as "connections,'' and necessary research ... just in case. And while Dallas is against the idea of "doubling-up'' in spending assets at the same position (that is, Collins and restricted free agent Nerlens Noel), that doesn't mean Collins doesn't have value later than 9.
DONUT 8: DOUBLE-UP, PART II
By the way, regarding that "No Double-Up'' Policy: It's obviously part of the reason Dallas desires a distribute-first point guard. The Mavs have a need there.
But at some point, don't you just take the best player, and figure out the "fit'' later? Once upon a time, the Mavs acquired Antoine Walker and Antawn Jamison at the same time. Dumb, right? Except eventually Walker was dealt for Jason Terry. And eventually Jamison was dealt for the No. 5 overall pick, which became Devin Harris, who was eventually traded for Jason Kidd.
The two Antoines/Antawns got you two of the pivotal figures on the 2011 championship.
Using the same logic: If Collins is the best player, and you own him and Noel, you work it out.
If you feel like Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry are already keepers at 2-guards/wings, but the best draftable guy at 9 is a 2-guard/wing, or a combo guard, or a whatever ...
DONUT 9: ANOTHER TRADEDOWN
The same aforementioned mindset regarding non-top-9-level guys exists for a scheduled set of visits today that I'm told features another top-12-level guy.
The 2017 NBA Draft includes nine players for sure who, in the Dallas Mavericks’ eyes, absolutely merit being chosen in the top nine spots. Just on the outside looking in on that group: Louisville combo guard Donovan Mitchell.
In the eyes of some NBA people, Mitchell — despite being just 6-3 and therefore imperfect for the job — is a potential starter from the get-go. But that only rings true for a team that doesn’t already employ 2-guard types Seth Curry and Wesley Matthews, two Mavs who’ve been deemed keepers by the Dallas front office.
But sources tell DBcom that Mitchell, who in theory could also play some point in the NBA, could be in play in the Nos. 11 or 12 slots … and that’s close enough for Dallas to have a fully understanding of what he’s about.
And our question about redundancy lingers here, too; Should Wes or Seth cause you to not examine Mitchell?
Of course not.
DONUT 10: QUOTABLE
"We lost almost 50 games this year,'' says Harrison Barnes, "so we need a lot of everything."
DONUT 11: EXTRA PICKS
I believe the Mavs are laying the groundwork for being able to deal up with Minnesota at 7. We can also predict they’ll do the same about grabbing an extra pick, with Portland being a primo spot to do so. The Blazers have cap issues that can be relieved via salary dumps, and a smart team will accept the dump in combination with a pick, trading “air’’ back to the Blazers.
Dallas gets pick No. 26 and Ed Davis’ contract while giving up nothing? Works for us.
By the way, I think Dallas should be doing some contract-dumping, too. We’ll be on the alert for Mavs management to understand that “We Love Our Boys In Blue’’ doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trade some of them away from a 33-win team.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
“The Big 9’’ is what we’ve taken to calling the top guys in this draft in part because of how neatly that number lines up with Dallas’ pick; the Mavs are certain to get a player they view as being a “potential star.’’ That includes Dennis Smith Jr and Malik Monk, two guards who are imperfect fits in Dallas … but two guards who could step right in and make electric contributions to the Mavs roster right away.
I’m told that if the choice left at 9 is Smith or Monk, Dallas’ present thought is that it will stay there and make that pick.
And that “imperfect’’ might very well still be damn good.