The Dallas Mavericks will have the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The last time the Mavs had a lottery pick was in 2013 when the team selected Kelly Olynyk with the 13th pick before trading him to Boston (Dallas eventually ended up with Shane Larkin.) After the ping pong balls fell on Tuesday night, the Mavs found themselves right where almost everyone expected them to be. If they had lost one more game this season, their chances for a top-3 pick would have improved dramatically. But that didn’t happen. With their dreams of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson dashed, what awaits Dallas as they plan for the future?
One name floated around as a possible pick is Lauri Markkanen. The Arizona freshman draws a lot of comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. This is because he is a white, European (Finnish), 7’0” power forward with a good shooting touch. Should he be compared to the greatest player in Mavs history? No. But that won't stop anyone from doing it.
In college, Markkanen averaged 15.6 points (54.5 percent on 2-pointers, 42.3 percent on 3-pointers) and 7.2 rebounds per game. If the Mavs front office is obsessed with finding a “new” Dirk, then it wouldn’t be surprising if they pulled the trigger on Markkanen if he’s still available at number nine.
However, power forward isn’t the most pressing need for Dallas, especially after Harrison Barnes admirably shifted into the role for much of last season. What the Mavs really need is a point guard. Though they’ll miss out on Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, who are widely expected to go first and second in the draft, there are still some names to look for.
If the draft gets interesting early, there's a small chance Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, who averaged 16.7 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in his freshman season, could be around still at number nine. However, most mock drafts have him in the top six.
Then there is Frank Ntilikina who plays for Strasbourg in France. At just 18 years old, he's averaged 5.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in pro ball. At 6’5”, he’s tall for a point guard and has a wingspan rumored to near 7'0 - but he only weighs 170 pounds. If the Mavericks take him, it could be shades of Roddy B all over again. Or they could strike gold on the next enigmatic international talent.
I’ve been told by several people that they would like to see Dallas take N.C. State’s Dennis Smith if he is still available. Though his team didn’t have a good season, the 6’3” Smith displayed poise on the court and racked up averages of 18.1 points (50.9 percent on 2-pointers, 35.9% on 3-pointers), 4.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. His ability to run the pick-and-roll makes him especially intriguing when you factor in that the Mavs will likely re-sign Nerlens Noel.
This is all just speculation for now. I asked Mark Cuban before the last regular season home game who he was looking at in the draft. All he said was that the Mavericks will take the best player available. We won’t know who that is until the NBA Draft on June 22. Let’s hope that’s the case. The Mavs need to actually take the draft seriously and get this one right.
You can follow Doyle Rader on Twitter at @TheKobeBeef