After experiencing one of their most disappointing seasons in last decade as a franchise, a season involving a little bit of everything — from injuries, trades, and buyouts, the Mavericks now enter the NBA lottery for only the fourteenth time in franchise history.
The Mavs currently have a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick, a 2.0 percent chance of landing the 2nd overall pick, a 4.41 percent chance of landing the third overall pick and 81.31 percent chance of landing the 9th overall pick.
With little draft success over the years, the Mavs must take advantage of a loaded 2017 draft. Is this the year the Mavericks can finally hit that draft day home run?
The NBA draft serves as one of three avenues (draft, trades, and free agency) where teams have the ability to acquire franchise-altering players. During the 1998 NBA draft, the Mavericks were able to find one of those franchise changing players after they were involved with one of the most lopsided draft day deals in NBA draft history.
We all know the story, the Mavericks swung a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks — swapping their 6th overall selection of Robert “Tractor” Traylor [RIP] for the 9th & 19th pick. That 9th pick ended up becoming a young German big man by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. Yeah, the future 1st-ballot hall-of-fame player turned out to be pretty good. If that wasn’t enough, the Mavs managed to swindle another asset, the 19th pick who turned out to be Pat Garrity. Garrity was a member of the Mavs for only a matter of minutes after he was later used as a trade chip that brought in on a backup point guard from the Phoenix Suns by the name of Steve Nash.
So let’s go over it again.
Mavs receive: Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash
Mavs trade: Future 1st round pick, Robert Traylor (6th pick), Pat Garrity (19th pick), Bubba Wells, Martin Muurseep.
These are franchise-rattling moves that look to be normal trades on the surface back in June of 1998 but ultimately ended up reshaping who the Mavericks would become as a franchise.
Wins would soon follow — since adding Nowitzki to their roster back in 1998, the Mavericks have been one of the league’s most consistent playoff attendees of the last two decades, appearing in the playoffs in 15 of 19 years.
Can the Mavs find the same draft day magic they managed to muster up back in 1998 this year? Time will tell, but let’s run through four different scenarios that could unfold during tonight’s NBA lottery.
So here are four lottery scenarios which may end up defining the future of the Dallas Mavericks franchise.
Best case scenario: The Dallas Mavericks land the #1 overall pick.
Out of the 1,001 total number of combinations in this year’s lottery, the Mavericks have 17 of those combinations, giving them the 9th best odds, a 1.7% chance at winning the number one overall pick.
By landing the number one overall pick, the Mavericks would become the third team in NBA history, joining the 2008 Bulls & the 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers as teams that won the lottery with the ninth-best odds. The largest lottery night upset happened back in 1993 when the Orlando Magic snagged the number one overall pick with the 11th best odds at 1.5%.
Do you believe in miracles?!
If the Mavericks do end up experiencing a miracle on lottery night and win the lottery — who should they draft?
If you have followed any of the pre-draft coverage, the first thing that pops out is the abundant amount of guard talent. The class is highlighted by two top point guard prospects Markelle Fultz of Washington and Lonzo Ball of UCLA. Both are viewed as “can’t miss” franchise players. Both bring unique skill sets that immediate translate to the NBA game.
Fultz is a smooth 6’4″ 195lbs prospect that has an all-around game that resembles a young Dwyane Wade. He can play both on the ball as the point guard or off the ball as a shooting guard. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds on 41 percent from 3–point territory and 50.2% on 2’s. Fultz was asked to run an offense with both little talent and lackluster spacing at Washington. His team may have finished 9–22 on the season, but they were bound to finish a lot worse if it wasn’t for Fultz. Fultz’s strong frame with a massive 6’10” wingspan will allow him to compete with all point guards around the league from day one.
Ball is another “can’t miss” prospect that is worthy of the number one pick. Ball possesses excellent size at 6’6″ 190lbs, to go with an uncanny ability to control the floor. He has shown flashes of Jason Kidd like ability at the college level, averaging 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds per game on 41.2 percent from 3-point territory. Ball may need to tweak his unorthodox release which albeit was efficient, will be harder to get off at the pro level.
Either way the Mavericks go with the number one pick, they have needs up-and-down the roster, with the point guard position looks to be the most glaring of all inadequacies.
After all, the Mavs ended up playing a little over third of the season (29 starts) with an undrafted rookie point guard, Yogi Ferrell manning the position. No knock on Yogi, who performed admirably with the Mavs, appearing in 36 games, where he averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds in 29.1 minutes per game while shooting 41.9% from the field & 40.3% from 3. As encouraging as Ferrell was running the show last year, he most likely projects as reserve point guard, not a full-time starter. Head coach Rick Carlisle could use Yogi the same way he has used J.J. Barea — as the pick-n-roll spark plug off the bench that will energize the team once he steps foot on the floor. He’s another young encouraging player the Mavs could use for the future, but he’s obviously no Fultz or Ball.
The Mavs need a franchise game changer, and Fultz or Ball will fit the bill.
Prediction: Markelle Fultz
2nd best scenario: The Mavericks land within the top 3 of the draft.
The Mavericks have a 6.1% chance of jumping from the ninth slot into the top 3. If they end up landing the number two overall pick, they should select whoever doesn’t get selected number one out of the Fultz and Ball grouping. Either player would be handed the keys from day one to be the point guard of the future.
Things get a little more interesting if the Mavericks received the number three pick. If Fultz and Ball are off the board, many draft experts predict Josh Jackson to be the 3rd player off that board. Jackson brings length, athleticism, and a high motor from the wing position. He has the potential to become a Paul George type player in this league. Having the core of Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel (assuming the Mavericks match any restricted free agent offer) and Josh Jackson, would give the team a solid nucleus both offensively and defensively.
Prediction: #2 Pick: Who is ever leftover from Fultz or Ball.
Prediction: #3 Pick: Josh Jackson
3rd best scenario: The Mavericks keep the 9th overall pick.
The most likely out of all the scenarios listed today is that the Mavericks retain the 9th overall pick. They have an 81% chance to keep that pick. The Mavericks front office must determine what area of need they want to attack. The 2017 draft has a clear cut 10 top players, with the Mavericks drafting at 9, they still have a chance to grab premium talent. Here is my tier rankings for prospects 1–10.
Tier 1: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson
Tier 2: Malik Monk, DeAaron Fox, Jonathan Isaac, Jason Tatum
Tier 3: Lauri Markkanean, Dennis Smith, Frank Ntilikina
The most likely scenario is that the Mavericks draft Frank Ntilikina from France. The team has an elite international scouting department and may be willing to take a chance on the young guard from France. Ntilikina has elite size for a point guard prospect, 6’5″ and will fill out his frame. Ntilikina has tremendous defense potential which would give the Mavericks a solid core of defenders: Noel, Barnes, Finney-Smith, Ntilikina. Teams are always looking for athletic playmakers that can defend at a high-level and Ntilikina fits the bill.
Prediction: #9 Pick: Frank Ntilikina
Worst case scenario: The Mavericks move back from the 9th Overall Pick.
A team selecting behind the Mavericks (Pelicans, Hornets, Pistons, Nuggets, Heat) have a chance, albeit small, to the top 3. If one of those teams does enter the top 3, that will push the Mavericks back from the 9th to the 10th pick. In this instance, the Mavericks will still have a chance to land one of the top 10 prospects listed above in my tier rankings. Would the Mavericks be interested in dealing the pick for an established asset like Eric Bledsoe or select the top prospect on the board?
Prediction: #10 Pick: Trade for an established player.
The Mavericks rarely keep their draft pick let alone a lottery pick. Samaki Walker was the last Mavericks lottery pick that was not traded on draft day to play for more than one season with the team after the draft. Walker was selected 9th overall in the 1996 draft.
The Mavericks have swung and missed year after year in free agency; it’s time for the Mavericks to infuse more young talent onto the roster and finding some luck come tonight is the first step.