Did the Mavs' best center just get called up from the G-League?

Johnathan Motley is quickly making a name for himself. With all eyes rightfully trained on this summer’s NBA Draft Lottery and a potential top-five pick for the Dallas Mavericks, it’s easy to overlook the assets the franchise already has on hand. The Texas Legends, Dallas’ G League affiliate, are one of the best teams on the minor league circuit, with a record of 20-12. Leading the way for the Legends is Motley, who has put together a monster season.

Motley was recently named the G League Player of the Month for January. He averaged 22.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks for the Legends last month. In 26 games this season, he’s averaging 21.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 blocks while shooting 55.7 percent.

After playing three seasons at Baylor, the 6'10 center went undrafted last summer. Dallas quickly signed him to a two-way contract after the draft, however. Two-way contracts, a new wrinkle for NBA teams this season, allow teams to sign a player who will spend much of their time in the G League but can also spend a total of 45 days total in the pros.

So far, Motley has played in two games with the Mavericks and is averaging 81 points per 36 minutes on 100% shooting.  Aren't small sample sizes fun? In reality, Motley has only logged a total of 4.2 minutes in the NBA. He’s also proven to be a capable rebounder and hustle player. What’s more, he’s earned the praise of Dennis Smith Jr.

“I think he could be phenomenal in the league,” Smith said recently. “He’s a five-man that can play. He can knock down the jump shot, he can score down low, he has a high IQ, super athletic. So, I think he can be a really good player in the NBA.”

Smith went on to say he believes Motley can make a positive impact on the Mavericks now. That’s something to consider with the G League season ending in late March. Motley has over 30 days of NBA availability remaining on his two-way contract and, as the Mavs bottom out, he stands to be the beneficiary of more time with the team, aiding his development.

Intentionally or not, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in last place in the Western Conference. Obviously, this summer’s draft is garnering the majority of interest from fans and the media. The Mavericks have continued to rebuild and whomever they select will hopefully have a positive impact on the future of the franchise. Rebuilding is about more than whom the Mavs draft, though. Dallas has a number of players waiting in the wings, already under contract, who are primed to contribute. Motley is leading the way, having proved his worth, and waiting for his moment.

You can read more of Doyle Rader's basketball musings at @thekobebeef

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