The consensus top player is a point guard who has a very real chance of never cracking the top-10 players in the league at his position. The consensus second-best player is a guy who may not have a position. After that, it’s a beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder situation, filled with a number of raw college freshmen, unproven international players, or flawed players with limited ceilings.
What it does have, however, is depth. There aren’t many sure impact players but there are well over 30 players who can make a rotation or potentially do much more than that. The player that winds up at 25 may not be all that different from the one that goes at 5.
So while that’s a big headache for teams like Washington, Sacramento, and Toronto, it’s a boon for your World Champion Dallas Mavericks, who select 26th. The Mavs have a chance, for a third consecutive year, to add a promising young player to their roster and maybe, just maybe, turn him into a core piece moving forward along the lines of Roddy Beaubois.
Who could that core player be?
Here, in alphabetical order, are 12 guesses in a special Dozen Draft Donuts.
DONUT 1: Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia
6’10’’, 210 lbs, 18 years old
Upside reminds you of: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Like every lanky European with a jump shot, scouts have compared the sashimi-raw Bertans to The UberMan. (That's Dirk's 33rd birthday present today: Everybody wants to be The UberMan.) This time, they swear the assessment sticks but standing 6’10’’ rather than 7’0’’ and with a skill set that better resembles that of a small forward’s, it’s tough to take overly seriously. But he can definitely shoot as well as create off the dribble, giving him a chance to be a player somewhere down the line. Should Dallas opt to take Bertans, it is with an eye much more toward the future than the present; expect him to get the Dominique Jones treatment as he adjusts to a new country, culture, league, and style of play.
DONUT 2: Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
6’8’’, 225 lbs, 21 years old
Upside reminds you of: DaJuan Blair with fully-functioning ACLs
It’s going to take a bit of luck for Faried to slip from a projected slot in the late teens to early 20s in the draft all the way down to Dallas’ 26th pick. But if he does, allow me to make my position perfectly clear: Dallas should draft him without a millisecond of hesitation. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Simply sprint the draft card over to David Stern and select Faried, a freakishly athletic rebounding kamikaze. He lacks anything resembling a polished offensive game, but would immediately crack the rotation as a physical backup to Dirk and a two-years-removed heir apparent to Brandon Bass.
DONUT 3: Justin Harper, PF, Richmond
6’9’’, 228 lbs, 21 years old
Upside reminds you of: A hybrid of Channing Frye and a ponzi scheme victim’s Kevin Durant
According to most draft experts, there is likely to be a glut of stretch 4s and combo guards available where Dallas selects. Of the former, Harper is the most intriguing due to his athleticism. Unlike many others of his ilk, Harper is mobile enough to make plays off the dribble as opposed to simply shooting from a set spot on the floor, with some scouts believe he can hold his own at the 3 as well. There are red flags, though. Harper doesn’t add much when the ball is out of his hands and he’s not of much help either on the glass or on defense. For Dallas, there’s also the matter of their own history at the position as Austin Croschere, Keith Van Horn, and Nick Fazekas all failed to produce as a Dirk-lite backup. If the Mavs try to go down that road again, Harper would be a very intriguing option for instant offense off the bench.
DONUT 4: Tobias Harris, F, Tennessee
6’8’’, 220 lbs, 18 years old
Upside reminds you of: Shane Battier with an offensive game
Harris is another guy who the Mavericks would feel fortunate to have slip their way, as he’s projected to go anywhere from late lottery to the early 20’s. He needs to put on some weight and is a bit of a tweener who has observers divided over which forward position suits him best, but that may have as much to do with the strengths of his game as the shortcomings. Harris has very few weaknesses, capable of handling the ball, distributing, creating off the dribble, and shooting from both midrange as well as beyond the arc. In addition, he has a very high basketball IQ and is uncommonly mature for an 18-year-old; he’d have no trouble at all fitting into the Mavs’ locker room. Should be somehow be available, he’d be an outstanding selection.
DONUT 5: Tyler Honeycutt, SF, UCLA
6’8’’, 186 lbs, 20 years old
Upside reminds you of: Tayshaun Prince
Honeycutt has lottery-type talent and, had he remained in school for another year, very likely would have landed there in next year’s class. Instead, he came out after his sophomore year amid concerns that he’s too passive with the ball, and unwilling to affect a game at the level his talent dictates he should. But that aggressiveness can be fostered; Honeycutt’s skill set – which includes a strong two-way game, defensive aptitude, ball handling, and outstanding passing for a wing player – cannot. He needs to work on creating off the dribble but so many of the necessary tools are already in place for him to be a very good player at the NBA level. With Jason Terry and Shawn Marion set to turn 34 next season and Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic all free agents, the Mavericks would be wise to draft in a young perimeter player of Honeycutt’s caliber and there’s a solid chance he’ll be on the board when their pick rolls around.
DONUT 6: Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College
6’3’’, 208 lbs, 21 years old
Upside reminds you of: Devin Harris, with less athleticism but a better jumper
After his heroics in the championship run, there’s a very strong chance that another NBA team with give JJ Barea a Godfather offer, the type he can’t refuse and one Dallas would be unwise to match with a hard cap likely looming in the new collective bargaining agreement. Roddy Beaubois will, in all likelihood, be the first place the team looks to fill those minutes but the Mavs would also look to bring in another point guard to fill Barea’s roster spot as well.
Perhaps that player is a free agent or perhaps it’s the overseas-stashed Nick Calathes. (More on him in Monday's Donuts.) But if they opt to acquire one in the draft, Jackson represents the best, most realistic option for the Mavs.
He has excellent size for the position and vastly improved his jumper over the course of his junior season, shooting 42% from distance compared to under 30% shooting in his first two college seasons. He also boasts a seven-foot wingspan, highly unusual for a guard and something that can make him a weapon on defense. Scouts are divided on his athleticism, though; some think he is an elite athlete, while others find him merely average. Given that he’s better at creating for himself than others, that could be the difference between a successful career or playing overseas.
DONUT 7: JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
6’10’’, 220 lbs, 22 years old
Upside reminds you of: Hakim Warrick with a jump shot
Johnson is another stretch 4 likely to be on the board, though he didn’t earn that designation until this past season, when he added a 3-point shot to his arsenal. Johnson turned in stellar production over his four-year Purdue career and is an explosive leaper, but currently is too slight to mix it up in the post. The key is whether that new-found jumper is a trend or mirage. If it’s the former, he can make an impact as an energetic big man off the bench. Without it, though, his lack of an overall skill set makes him a Warrick-like journeyman at best, or get him bounced from the league at worst.
DONUT 8: Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia
6’4’’, 205 lbs, 21 years old
Upside reminds you of: Shannon Brown
Simply put, there is no better athlete in the draft than Leslie, who can jump out of the gym, explode to the rim and throw down highlight film dunks on a routine basis. But he comes with as many questions about his overall skill set as he does few about his physical gifts. His jumper is erratic on a good day and he has a very shaky handle, meaning that the only sure way he can make use of that special finishing ability is off-the-ball movement. As is the case with Honeycutt, Leslie merits consideration due to the age and uncertainty surrounding the Mavericks’ other perimeter options. But with a similar body type to last year’s first rounder Dominique Jones and similar shortcomings in his game, he may be too redundant of a player to bring in.
DONUT 9: Malcolm Lee, G, UCLA
6’6’’, 198 lbs, 21 years old
Upside reminds you of: Jrue Holiday
Lee is one several combo guards Dallas could consider and the one that possesses the best raw tools but also the most questions over his position. Lee played point guard for the bulk of his UCLA career but never looked comfortable there and many questions have risen over his basketball IQ. He has more than enough height to play shooting guard, but most games can’t shoot his way out of a paper bag. So why should Dallas consider him? Because he likely is the best perimeter defender in the draft, more than long, athletic, and savvy enough to become elite at the NBA level. That makes him both a fit for what the Mavs like to do and, with D-Steve possibly on his way out, a likely need pick as well. He also can handle the ball well and drive to the rim but even if provided nothing on offense, his D will good enough to keep him to carve out an NBA career.
DONUT 10: Nikola Mirotic, Montenegro
6’10’’, 226 lbs, 21 years old
Upside reminds you of: A younger, more well-rounded Peja Stojakovic
On talent, Mirotic is a top-10 pick in this draft. There’s always a ‘but,’ though, and Mirotic’s is a massive buyout with Spanish club Real Madrid that will likely keep him in Europe for another three years. So if the Mavs draft him, it’s clearly with a long-term investment in mind. Whenever he gets here, he’ll make an impact because he’s too talented and polished to do otherwise. The similar body-type and smooth jump shot make it hard to avoid the Peja comparisons, although his jumper isn’t quite that pure. But he is able to create off the dribble better than Peja ever could, not to mention possessing a decent back to the basket game and distribution skills. He’s no lockdown guy on defense, but he’s far from a sieve either, a refreshing change from so many other young European players in this and nearly every draft. Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Mirotic will be a long-term core piece rather than just might be. If he’s available, the Mavs will have to weigh whether the wait is worth missing out on several of seasons production in the interim.
DONUT 11: Josh Selby, G, Kansas
6’3’’, 195 lbs, 20 years old
Upside reminds you of: Monta Ellis
After a disastrous freshman season at Kansas, it’s easy to forget that Selby was a consensus top-five prospect in the country coming out of high school. Selby is another combo guard, and one that is likely to wind up at the 2 given his questionable decision making skills at the point. But that worked out alright for Ellis in Golden State and Selby bears far more than just a passing resemblance, from his explosive first step to the range on his jump shot to, yes, being a bit of a black hole once the ball goes to him. Then there’s the questions regarding his maturity, although the consensus is more that has to do with age than bad makeup. Selby, simply put, is a boom-or-bust guy. If he pans out, he can score 20 a night; if he doesn’t, he might not be in the league for too long. It’s a worthy risk to take at no. 26 but the question, if he’s available, is will the Mavs take it?
DONUT 12: Nolan Smith, G, Duke
6’4’’, 198 lbs, 22 years old
Upside reminds you of: Tony Delk
Smith is the epitome of what this draft has to offer, a player of limited ceiling but ultimately one who will contribute in some form or fashion. He’s yet another combo guard, and one with a streaky jumper at that. But he’s a gritty defender, a winner, and a coach’s dream, all things that fit like a glove in this locker room. His size may be a concern alongside the Mavs’ other undersized two guards but it’s tough not to envision Smith being a rotation player in the league for a number of years. He’s not a home-run pick, but a very safe double and the Mavs could do much, much worse late in the first round.
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