The Dallas Mavericks have been better than expected this season and currently are fighting for their playoff lives, sitting just a game outside of the eighth spot in the loaded Western Conference.
If the Mavs end up missing the postseason this year, Dallas fans shouldn’t be overly disappointed, because next year the team could be back in title contention. The biggest factors contributing to this statement are the upcoming free-agent market as well as the upcoming 2014 NBA draft.
Dirk Nowitzki has stated before that he could take a pay cut to make room in the salary cap to bring in another big-time player. The free agent market this summer includes the likes of Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng and even Carmelo Anthony.
With a superstar in Dirk Nowitzki, a big-time scorer in Monta Ellis and a solid point guard in Jose Calderon, the Mavericks have a solid nucleus to build around. With free agency as an obvious priority, the next thing to tackle for the Mavs is landing at least one solid contributor in the 2014 NBA draft.
The Mavericks will send their first-round pick to the Thunder if it falls somewhere between Nos. 21 and 30, which will more than likely happen, leaving the Mavs still with two second-round picks. In a draft that has some quality depth, the Mavs have a chance to land a nice contributor in the second round.
According to draftexpress.com, if the season were to end today, the Mavericks would have the No. 35 and No. 51 overall picks. Let’s take a look at the best options for Dallas, particularly with the first of their selections in the second round.
With the imminent departure of soon-to-be free agent Shawn Marion, the Mavericks will be looking to find a replacement for the veteran contributor, providing depth on the outside and hopefully another scoring option.
Sam Dekker: Wisconsin, Sophomore Small Forward
Before the start of the season, Dekker was thought to be somewhere near a lottery pick. However, he has had a bit of an up-and-down season for the Badgers in 2013-14 and now is widely projected as a late first- to early second-round selection. When his jump shot is falling, he’s one of the most versatile players in this draft class.
At 6’8” and 215 pounds, he has ideal size for an NBA small forward. He is a fearless player, able to defend multiple positions. He’s a good athlete and a solid ball handler, and he can score from anywhere on the floor.
With the departure of Shawn Marion looking more and more realistic, Dekker could come in and provide many of the aspects that Marion brings to Dallas. He averages 12.4 points and 6.1 boards per game, and with a little added strength, Dekker could be a very nice pick in the early second round for Dallas.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: Arizona, Freshman Small Forward
It is unknown yet whether Hollis-Jefferson will declare for the draft or not, but if he does, some team could be getting a steal. If he does declare and happens to fall to the early second round, Dallas would welcome him with open arms.
At 6’7” and 205 pounds, he has lottery-type ability but never truly broke out until the very end of the season in the NCAA tournament. With a wingspan of 7’1”, Jefferson is a long, athletic and very strong defender.
He has one of the best motors in his class, excels in the open floor and possesses a nice mid-range game. If he can develop a consistent long-range jumper, he could turn into a star in the NBA. Hollis-Jefferson brings basically everything that Shawn Marion offers, except in a younger and more athletic body.
Nick Johnson: Arizona, Junior Shooting Guard
At the beginning of the season, Nick Johnson was hardly on any draft boards. Now the Pac-12 Player of the Year has positioned himself to get drafted most likely in the early part of the second round. The only reason he’s not projected higher is because of his size, being a 6’3” shooting guard.
However, despite being undersized, Johnson possesses some great attributes. He’s ridiculously athletic, possessing a 47-inch running vertical and a 38-inch standing vertical. He’s a good shooter with NBA range, and perhaps his best quality is his outstanding on-ball defense.
Although this is not a position of desperate need for the Mavs, Johnson would come in and provide an upgrade over the current options at the Mavs’ disposal. He has the ability to switch to point guard when needed and could be a perfect guy to bring off the bench to give Jose Calderon or Monta Ellis a break.
Glenn Robinson III: Michigan, Sophomore Small Forward
Glenn Robinson III obviously has a great basketball pedigree. However, he needs to become more consistent. The biggest knocks on him are that he is an inconsistent shooter and sometimes lacks a high motor.
A high motor can be helped in the right situation, and NBA coaches can work on his shot. Robinson also has quite a few positives about his game. He is an explosive leaper and a dynamic athlete, making him an intriguing defensive prospect for the next level.
He is a smooth scorer when driving the lane and pulling up and can be yet another Shawn Marion-type replacement for the Mavs.
The Mavs could certainly use a young defensive presence down low who can provide toughness and bring athleticism. With this draft not having a great stock of big men, let's take a look at the one player who could realistically come in and help and should be available in the early second round.
A.J. Hammons: Purdue, Sophomore Center
Many people probably have not heard of this big guy from Purdue, but he is quietly climbing up draft boards and has tremendous potential. At 7’0” and 280 pounds, Hammons is huge. He averaged 10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and a tremendous 3.1 blocks per game at Purdue this past season.
He is big and physical and also possesses a very nice touch around the basket. The only big flaw on Hammons is that he is still a little raw as a player.
For Mavericks fans, remember how Tyson Chandler affected shots and was the defensive force that drove Dallas to its first NBA title in 2011? I’m not saying A.J. Hammons is Tyson Chandler, but he could potentially have a similar impact. He would give the Mavs a much-needed defensive presence down low, particularly with the second unit.
As far as other big men go, besides Hammons, if Dallas wants to select a big, then they would also consider reaching on Michigan big man Mitch McGary, Baylor center Isaiah Austin or Florida center Patric Young.