The Dallas Mavericks are not very good this season. It was only a matter of time before years of laughing when it came to the draft and free agency failures caught up with them, and sure enough, it all came to a head this season. Despite the remarks from Mark Cuban, the Mavericks are tanking this season. Cuban has always been adamant that the worst position you can be in the NBA is mediocre, either be good enough to compete for the championship or bad enough to get a good draft pick. The Mavericks have been on the treadmill of mediocrity for the past five seasons and it’s time for them to bottom out and look to the future.
If the Mavericks are to bottom out this season and get a high draft pick, it’s time to know who they will be looking at. While it’s still early in the college basketball season, it appears Washington’s Markelle Fultz has separated himself from the pack to emerge as the early favorite to go first overall in the NBA draft. I went to Fort Worth to get a first-hand look at Fultz when Washington played TCU and came away very impressed.
One of Cuban’s biggest takeaways when he was asked about the Mavericks tanking was that there was not a franchise-changing player worth tanking for this season. That is a very silly way of looking at things, and while Fultz may have not lit the world on fire against TCU, he sure looked like a player that would help the Mavericks immediately and provide them with a nice building block for the future.
The first thing that stood out was the obvious, his length at 6’4 can make life miserable for opposing guards as he posted up on the second possession of the game and easily shot over his man for the first Washington bucket of the game. His combination of size and speed really set him apart. He was everywhere. He has a smooth-looking jumper with a quick, compact release that should translate really well to the next level. He has a quick first step that allowed him to take his defenders off the dribble and attack the rim on more than one occasion. Fultz also showed very quick hands on defense that allowed him to get in the passing lanes and come up with steals. He likes to attack the glass, as evident by his 14 rebounds while playing the point guard position. There was a point in the game early on where he was involved on every possession. He hit a jumper on one end, came up with a steal on the defensive end, dove to the floor to secure it which led to an assist and on the next possession hit a crossover for a nice pull-up three that hit nothing but net. The kid can ball.
Of course, there was some bad from Fultz. A couple of careless turnovers ignited a TCU run that turned the game around and foul trouble led to Fultz being benched to end the first half. His free throw shooting was problematic all game as well, which was very odd considering how smooth his jumper looked. There’s no reason why he can’t be a good free throw shooter down the line, but he was a disappointing 4-of-9 for the game.
The six turnovers were also a bit alarming. There was a pass or two that maybe his teammates could’ve done better helping him out but nonetheless you don’t want to see six turnovers from your point guard. There was a point midway through the second half where the TCU crowd began to chant “overrated” at Fultz while he was at the free throw line and I half expected that to fuel him into takeover mode, but that didn’t happen.
I don’t know if I saw enough of Fultz to say he’s the clear-cut No. 1 pick in the draft. I did see enough to know that he will go in the first few picks in the draft and that the Mavericks should strongly consider taking him if he’s available to them. A 6’4 combo guard with a solid offensive game and quickness on defense paired with Harrison Barnes could be the start of something nice. We all know how this plays out though; the Mavs will trade down to save cap room and go all in for Blake Griffin next season.