With the Mavericks dropping to 2-7 after a 93-77 loss in New York on Monday, it’s becoming more apparent by the day that this Mavs team is almost destined to nab a top-5 pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft. While it’s going to be a rough 225 days until the draft, the opportunity to land a 19 to 20-year-old potential star is what’s keeping me going. This particular draft class is one I’m actually very familiar with, as these guys are my age and I’ve been following them since high school. So now, let’s dive into the top five scenarios the Mavs could encounter next June.
As long as the Mavs finish in the top five picks:
THE BEST SCENARIO – PG Markelle Fultz, Washington
This one is a long shot, and therefore it’ll be my least extensive. Fultz is a 6’5 195lb combo guard with the innate ability to create for himself and others around him. Fultz is increasingly being viewed as a lock for the #1 overall pick, and his 30 point, 7 rebound, 6 assist opener against Yale was definitely a great start in that direction for him. His one glaring weakness is his streakiness as a shooter (we don’t know anyone like that, do we? @Wesley). His shot isn’t broken, he has good form and his misses generally look close. Regardless, at this stage in his game, he’s more of a shot creator than a spot up shooter. He’s a creative ball handler, with the ability to change speeds and keep defenders off balance. He can create space, elevates well, and can be a lock down defender if he really gives it his best. All-in-all, Fultz is my number one pick. If we can luck into a lotto win, I’m all in on Markelle Fultz, however I’m not going to put all of my money on that happening.
Markelle Fultz NBA Comparison: Brandon Roy / Dwyane Wade
OPTION 2: SLASHING POINT GUARD – PG Lonzo Ball, UCLA
Here’s where we get into a more likely situation. Lonzo Ball is my favorite player in this year’s draft. Last year, he led Chino Hills High School to a 35-0 record, the High School National Championship, and was awarded National Player of the Year honors from MaxPreps. He’s currently listed as the 4th player on the board at NBADraft.net, but in my opinion he could go as high as #2 overall given how he’s started this season at UCLA. Ball brings a mixture of pure passing, insane physical tools, and great athleticism to whatever court he’s on.
- Size/Physical Features: Ball is a 6’6 190lb point guard with a frame that could fill out to a solid 205lbs before it’s all said and done. Along with his size, Ball has great bounce and dunking talent. Throughout high school he showed slashing ability, along with the capability to finish over larger defenders. The biggest perk of his size, however, is his ability to crash the boards and pull down rebounds (11.3 rebounds/game in high school). So far at UCLA, he’s averaging 8 rebounds a game and further proving his ability to crash the boards with some of the best athletes in the country.
- Instinctive Passing: I believe Lonzo Ball is the best passer in this draft class. He has the ability to sling passes across the court and through tight spaces to set teammates up for easy buckets. He plays with his head on a swivel, and constantly whips the ball around. At this summer’s Adidas Nations Summit, Ball averaged 8.7 assists per 40 minutes, and so far at UCLA he’s averaging 8.5 assists per game. He has the potential to be an elite passer at the professional level.
- Shooting Inconsistency: The one odd part of Lonzo Ball’s game… he has a funky form. DraftExpress describes it as a “slingshot release” from the left side of his face. It’s easily contestable, and could screw his shot up eventually. However, he’s shooting 71% from the field and 54% from three thus far at UCLA so maybe Steve Alford helped him out a little. He’s got some work to do on his jumpshot, but I still think he’s a top prospect heading into this year’s draft.
OUTLOOK – Depending on how he finishes this season out, Lonzo Ball could be the #2 pick or the #12 pick in June’s draft. He’s a triple-double threat on a nightly basis, and I love the versatility he’d give us as a team.
Lonzo Ball NBA Comparison: Penny Hardaway (ceiling)/Michael Carter-Williams(floor)
OPTION 3: SCORING POINT GUARD – PG Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
Dennis Smith Jr. could very well be the most explosive player in this year’s draft class. He’s a two-foot dunker, making many of his dunks Westbrook-esque. He has a great ability to create and use his athleticism to score the ball. Though he suffered a torn ACL before his senior season in high school, he enrolled early at NC State and began his rehab on site before participating in the Adidas Nations camp this summer. So far, his recovery looks to have come full circle. Keep an eye on him at NC State this year as he progresses even further.
- Ridiculous Athleticism: This 6’3 guard flies above the rim. At a game last summer, he even amazed Stephen and Seth Curry with his ludicrous leaping ability. Though he’s yet to post an official vertical measurement with any scouting website, I have no doubt he’ll post a 45+ at any draft workout. However, Smith’s athleticism goes far beyond jumping ability. He’s one of the shiftiest players in this class. His stutter-step hesitation has defenders on their heels, and his ability to change speeds is almost unmatched. Dennis Smith will blow past you with his lightning first-step, and then rise up over your teammates with a thunderous dunk.
- Elite Shot Creator: This attribute goes hand-in-hand with his athleticism. Because he can beat any opponent off the dribble, he’s at a major advantage to be open on many mid-range jumpers. He’s a great ball handler, great finisher at the rim, and has shown good consistency with his mid-range game. Also could be an excellent pick and roll threat down the line.
- Defensive Potential: Again, his athleticism gives Dennis Smith insane potential to be a lock down defender. He has lightning quick feet and has shown the ability to play passing lanes, however he tends to take defensive plays off at times.
- Perimeter Shooting: Still a streaky shooter from the arc (28% in DraftExpress-monitored games this summer) and leaves plenty of points on the table at the free throw line (72%). While his perimeter jumper is progressing, it’s still one of his weaknesses.
- Out of control at times: We see this pretty commonly with insane athletes like Russell Westbrook, they get rolling and tend to chunk up bad shots and lose the ball from time to time. He’s becoming a more conscientious player on the floor, but definitely has room for improvement.
OUTLOOK – An uber-athletic guard that has the ability to score from all levels on the floor. Coming back from a knee injury that could hurt his draft stock some, but still sits in the 2-4 range on most mock drafts.
Dennis Smith Jr. NBA Comparison: Russell Westbrook (ceiling)/Gerald Green (floor)
If the Mavs fall out of the top five picks:
INTRIGUING PROSPECT – PG Frank Ntilikina, Belgium
The Mavs hit big on an unknown European player once… why not try it again? If the Mavs do drop out of the top five, I really like this young PG from Brussels. Frank Ntilikina (knee-lit-keena) is an 18-year-old point guard that stands 6’5 tall with a 7 FOOT wingspan who is budding with potential.
- Court General: Watching him play, Frank looks almost unfazed by pressure. He has great intangibles and exhibits true maturity. He’s a dual-threat defender, who can defend both guard spots, get steals, and block shots. DraftExpress calls him “a coach’s dream”.
- Developing Offensive Skills: Currently, he’s an extremely unselfish passer, an incredible ball handler with great court vision, and has an improving jumpshot. On film, he has a solid looking shot form that is oozing with potential. Every part of his game is improving.
- Struggles Finishing: He currently weighs 175 lbs, and therefore he really struggles to finish in the paint at times and doesn’t get to the free throw line at a great rate. He’s still filling out his frame, but who knows how well he’ll gain weight in the near future.
- Great Upside, Huge Bust Possibility: Over recent years, players like Ntilikina enter the league and struggle mightily, sometimes never reaching their full potential. Betting on Ntilikina may prove to be either a great success or a colossal failure.
OUTLOOK – While I think Ntilikina is an interesting prospect to watch, I think it’s highly unlikely he’s drafted by the Mavs early in the first round of this year’s draft. He has potential to become something great, however I think his bust potential might deter Cuban and Co. from bringing the Belgian guard to Dallas.
Frank Ntilikina NBA Comparison: Shaun Livingston pre-injury (upside)/Rodrigue Beaubois (floor)
No matter where the Mavericks finish, I believe the focus this June will be on setting the team up with a future court general. While there are a few promising big men in this class, I think the emphasis needs to be on getting a leader to run the team within Coach Carlisle’s system. My prediction: The Mavs take Dennis Smith Jr. with the third or fourth pick in the draft. Keep your eyes open for a draft prediction article when we get closer to the draft!
Written By: Spencer Forsyth