With the 33rd overall pick in the draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers took Bernard James of Florida State University. While he was technically picked by Cleveland, it was really the Mavericks that chose him, as his pick—along with the next pick (Jae Crowder) and the 24th pick (Jared Cunningham)—were in the process of being traded to Dallas for the rights to the 17th pick, Tyler Zeller.
Despite being a rookie, James is 27 years old. He served in the Air Force for six years prior to playing at Florida State. Thus, his ceiling is pretty limited.
Some mock drafts had James going when he did, while others didn't even have him getting drafted at all. So if there was a consensus, it would include him going towards the end of the second round.
That makes him a bit of a reach.
However, the Mavericks weren't looking for a future star. They were looking for a perfect fit role player, and that's exactly what they got.
Bernard James provides exactly what Dirk Nowitzki doesn't: he's athletic, he's a good rebounder, and most importantly, he plays defense. He was an elite shot-blocker in college, but his real forte is individual post defense, where he cannot be trumped. He also does not care about touches on offense.
Like Dirk, he can play both power forward and center, so they can play at the same time fluidly.
But, you may ask, why do they need him when they already have Brendan Haywood?
While Brendan Haywood is a great shot-blocker and a better rebounder than James, his one-on-one post defense is good but not great. He can only guard centers, and even then he doesn't quite count as a specialist. Plus, James plays with more confidence and leadership than Haywood does (the Mavericks could've used a bit more leadership last year, despite all the veterans), and while Haywood is kind of on the decline, James will be on the up-and-up for a few years.
James is more versatile because of his athleticism, and is slightly more capable offensively.
It's also good to remember that while James is 27, his knees, ankles, and back are fresh compared to any other 27-year-old in the league, as he is rather new to the game.
Finally, while his ceiling is obviously limited, he's still learning the game because he's new to it, and sheer experience might cause a greater jump in his game than most expect.
Bernard James will never earn a max contract in this league, but he couldn't be a better fit as a role player for the Mavericks.
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