After wins by both the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic, the Dallas Mavericks hold the worst record in the NBA at 17-37, meaning they have the top odds for the #1 pick. While there are still 28 games to be played over the next 2 months, standings start taking shape at this time of the season and become less volatile. Here’s how each of the top prospects would profile as the #1 pick to the Dallas Mavericks:
#1: DeAndre Ayton
I’ve written plenty about DeAndre Ayton on Twitter and did a breakdown of his early season tournament. Ayton is my #1 prospect overall and for Dallas because he has arguably the best blend of talent, skill, athleticism, and fulfilling of a positional need. The Mavericks only have one guaranteed power forward or center for 2018-19, which is Dwight Powell. Maxi Kleber and Dirk Nowitzki have team options. Ayton is able to shoot, post up, face up, and play in transition. He and Dennis Smith could compliment each other very well, as both are two of the most athletic players for their respective positions in recent drafts. Ayton excels playing off of screens, being able to serve as an excellent roll man or as a threat in the pick ‘n’ pop. Ayton can guard multiple positions on defense and attacks shooters on closeouts better than just about any other big man, with the exception of Mohamed Bamba. While Ayton’s rim protection has been subpar, a big reason for that is his unwillingness to bite, which may be perceived as positive for the NBA. Cutting down on aggressiveness on chasing blocks is harder to fix than making a player start going for more blocks. Ayton has a 7’6 wingspan, which bodes well for rim protection upside. Ayton must improve consistency in his shot mechanics and overall consistency, but that should come with age. Ayton seems to be the complete package, and would give the Mavericks an excellent 1-2 punch with Dennis Smith JR.
#2 Marvin Bagley III
Arguably the most talented player in the draft, Bagley is a phenomenal athlete with a good understanding of the game, a high motor, and elite touch around the rim with his left hand. Bagley’s hard working traits combined with basketball lineage bode well for his development. I believe Bagley’s ability to improve his shot and improve on his other weaknesses will come much more easily because of his intangibles. Bagley is an elite college rebounder, averaging 11 rebounds a game. He must improve finishing at the rim with his right hand and understanding defensive rotations and systems. Bagley will frequently be out of place on defense, causing breakdowns in the zones being run. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to an NBA defense based around man-to-man.
Bagley would fit well with the Mavs purely based off of his coachability, growth, and overall supreme talent. He and Barnes could be a tandem for years at the 3/4, and Bagley would compliment DSJ in the P&R.
#3 Luka Doncic
One of the most skilled 18 year olds we’ve seen in years, Doncic also addresses a positional need as the Mavs are weak on the wing. Doncic has good size at 6’7/210 and has a knack for scoring and playmaking. He lacks explosiveness and elite athleticism, and has shown difficulty on defense in getting around screens and guarding explosive players. While normally I worry about wings that lack a degree of explosiveness, Rick Carlisle seems like the perfect coach to be able to hide his deficiencies and maximize his strengths as a secondary ball handler. The Mavs would need to add another explosive athlete in the draft or free agency, since athleticism is a significant need for the roster.
I wonder about Doncic’s fit with Dennis Smith, since Dennis Smith is weakest without the ball in his hands. However, the talent of Doncic is very hard to pass up, and I would trust a great coach like Coach Carlisle to make the fit effective.
#4 Michael Porter JR
It’s hard to evaluate Porter, but the combination of excellent shooting ability and a great frame will always be a valuable asset in the NBA. I don’t think the somewhat overlapping skillset of Porter and Barnes is enough to deter the Mavericks from drafting him, as he’s one of the most talented players in the draft. Running the pick ‘n’ pop and using off-ball screens should greatly allow for Porter to positively contribute to the offense right away. If his slashing is at an NBA level, he will for sure be in the conversation for the top pick. However, I don’t see him above Ayton or Bagley, but individual workouts will be crucial for Porter.
#5 Jaren Jackson JR
I have Jaren Jackson JR barely above Mohamed Bamba on my board due to better strength, better offensive production, and not much worse defense than Bamba. Jackson offers slightly less length, but still a high quality frame with a 7’4 wingspan and nearly 240 pounds. Jackson is versatile defensively and has shown upside as a stretch big. Jackson fits well with the Mavs because he can play within himself, and he seems to have a high understanding of defense already. Jackson must limit foul trouble, but his upside and floor are both high.
#6 Mohamed Bamba
Bamba has intriguing upside, but I worry about him putting it all together. His offensive game is pretty weak, with the exception of thriving in the P&R and being able to flash his 3 point shooting upside. I worry about Bamba’s lack of strength holding him back, as well as his touch around the rim, including layups and hook shots. Bamba would serve as a quality big under Rick Carlisle, but I worry that he may not be able to develop into the star that Ayton or any of the other bigs can develop into due to the lack of strength that Bamba has. Having Bamba at 6 is not a knock on him, but rather is a sign of how strong this draft is at the top.
These are the main 6 prospects I see the Mavs targeting should they get the #1 pick. Others may get a short look, such as Wendell Carter and Trae Young, but are not in serious consideration for the number one pick with Dallas picking. The draft class is very strong this year, and the fact that I wrote about six different players validates that assessment.
Conference play has about 3 weeks left before the conference tournaments and NCAA/NIT tournaments begin. Keep up with how the players are performing over the next few weeks by following my Twitter @MavsDraft!