Going into tonight’s Draft Lottery there are exactly seven scenarios that could play out for the Dallas Mavericks. Luck will be a huge theme tonight and luckily none of those instances include the Mavericks losing their pick.[/note]Which can’t be said of the Lakers, Pelicans, and Nets[/note] Here is who the Mavericks should and will choose in the case of every scenario.
1 – Markelle Fultz
#WeTheMedia do not agree on a lot, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone that has Markelle Fultz outside of the #1 Overall selection. The freshman guard out of Washington seems to have all the tools and metrics needed to succeed in the NBA. At 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan, Fultz would be one of the bigger point guards in the league from day 1. [Note]Unless you count Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Ben Simmons… which would be completely unfair[/note] Fultz scored 23 points per game but also had a 36% assist percentage which is second best in this draft behind only Jawun Evans according to Draft Express. Fultz also shot 48% from the floor, 41% from three, and a questionable 65% from the free throw line. If the Mavericks were to land the #1 pick, Fultz would change the direction of this franchise for years to come.
2 – Lonzo Ball
Despite some lavarish1 speculation from those that say they hate debate shows, Lonzo Ball is the second best player in this draft. If the Mavericks obtained the second pick in the NBA Draft and Fultz was off the board they should select Lavar’s boy, ZO2’s and all. At 6’6” Ball is even taller than Fultz and his passing/playmaking abilities are what really sets him apart. Lonzo could easily play next to Seth Curry or Wes Matthews seamlessly and utilize their spot up shooting. There are some writers that suggest Josh Jackson is the second best player in this draft but Lonzo would be the obvious choice for the Mavericks.
3 – De’Aaron Fox
This is the tough one… Every mock draft has either Jackson or Jayson Tatum in the top 4. The issue isn’t which of the two wings the Mavs should choose if they were to land at #3, the question is do they want a second Harrison Barnes? Tatum, Jackson, and Barnes all have similar qualities and happen to also be 6’8”, 205-210lbs, with a 6’10-11” wingspan. Tatum even shifted up to play the majority of his minutes at 4 this season at Duke, which is exactly what happened with Barnes in Dallas. In Real GM’s breakdown of Tatum, they list his best asset as his “individual scoring.” This season we saw first hand that Barnes’ strength is his one-on-one isolation play as well. The main difference between Tatum and Jackson is that Jackson is a year old, better passer, and shot 3% better from three-point territory in his lone season at Kansas. Between the two it’s a toss-up, but for the Mavericks the decision creates a redundancy. When push comes to shove the Mavericks should take Jackson over Tatum because of his playmaking abilities. Versatility at the wing comes at a premium and no team has enough of it. Barnes and Jackson shore up the Mavs wing positions for years to come. Now, do the Mavericks want two isolation wings that can both play 3 and 4?
While the two wings are much safer picks, if the Mavericks are serious about wanting a point guard for the future then De’Aaron Fox is their guy. If the Mavericks take Fox, they are getting an insane athlete but must be willing to interview every shot doctor who will take Mike Shedd’s calls. Fox draws comparisons to Mike Conley, John Wall, Ricky Rubio, and even…2 Rajon Rondo. There are obvious differences but imagine John Wall’s quickness with Rubio’s defense and Rondo’s jumper3 If Fox could shoot he would be the odds-on favorite as the second pick in the draft and potentially beat out Fultz for #1, he’s that good and has that much upside. The big problem is the jumper. There have been a few players that have fixed that issue transitioning from college to the pros, as Tjarks lays out here, but not many have improved from the Foxhole he is in now.4
9 – Frank Ntlikina
Assuming De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Dennis Smith are off the board, the last remaining guard projected to go top 10 may somehow have the most upside. Over the last few drafts, there is always at least one surprise pick, that I call Jumpers. A Jumper is a player that was supposed to go in the late first round that flies up boards to the Top 5-15 and after a few years, everyone claims they were going to take him. Last year it was Thon Maker and in 2013 it was Giannis Antetokounmpo. Frank Ntlikina may be that player in this draft.5
He falls right into the mold of that semi-unknown player from overseas with incredible measurables but not much information outside of that. At 6’5” with a reported 7’ wingspan, Ntlikina is basically the Giannis version of a guard. One would have to imagine the Bucks front office has been salivating at the idea of picking Ntlikina. Imagine a lineup of Frank, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis, and Thon Maker. No one could dribble through that slew of 6’10-7’+ span of wings. For the Mavericks, Frank would represent a giant project that could pay off in a big way, much like what the Bucks have been doing with Giannis and Thon Maker. However, investing in Ntlikina may set the Mavericks timeline back even further. Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry would be into their 30s by the time Frank hits his prime. This could be a Kawhi Leonard situation, where the veterans around him allow him to grow exponentially or this could be another conundrum like the Knicks have with Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony. Either way, it’s a huge investment that will take time to pay off.
10 – Jonathan Issac
If the Mavericks end up with the 10th pick in the draft then that means one of the Kings, Hornets, Pistons, Nuggets, or Heat have jumped them in the Lottery standings into the Top 3.6 Of those five teams, all of them could take point guards. The Kings wouldn’t go full David Kahn7 and take two points guards would they?8 Either way, with one of those pick they would probably take a guard, as would the Pistons and Nuggets who have not been impressed with Reggie Jackson and Emmanuel Mudiay respectively. The Heat have Goran Dragic for at least the next two seasons but really need a player like Monk that can be a better Dion Waiters.9
Then there are the teams that were already ahead of the Mavericks, and of those teams, the Celtics, Suns, Lakers, 76ers, Magic, Knicks, and Kings (again) could all possibly take point guards. If that were the case the Mavericks would be left without a viable guard option at the 10th pick.
Draft Express has the Kings taking Isaac at #8 but would the Kings really take another Big/Wing with Dennis Smith or Frank Ntilikina still on the board?10 The same could be said about the Mavericks, but the Kings need for a point guard is somehow greater than the Mavs. If all of those teams take a point guard there would be none left at the 10th selection, it’s just math. Isaac next to Harrison Barnes would be an incredibly versatile pairing where Barnes can play 3/4 and Isaac could play 3/4 or even 5 as Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer suggests.11
11 – OG Anunoby
12 – OG Anunoby
The Mavericks have a 0.04% chance at falling to the 11th pick in the draft. The Mavs are 4.25 times more likely to land the #1 spot than the #11 spot. They also have less than 0.01% chance of dropping all the way down to the 12th spot. If this were to happen I would expect Mavericks twitter to attack the NBA ruthlessly because some sort of conspiracy had to have happened for that scenario to play out. The #12 spot is a doomsday scenario where the top three selects are filled with either New Orleans12, Charlotte, Detroit, Denver, or Miami. At that point the Mavericks might as well swing for the fences. All of the guards will be gone along with the safe wing picks and OG has the most upside and defensive potential in this area.