For a playoff team, the Dallas Mavericks show some glaring weaknesses. They owned the worst defense of any playoff team, according to John Hollinger's defensive efficiency statistic, and the average age of their top seven players by minutes is a little over 33.
Well good thing the draft is looming.
Though the Mavericks only have second-round picks, that doesn't mean they can't work to solve these problems. Obviously anyone picked up through the draft will help to fix that aging problem, and defensive ability is one of the easier things to identify in a prospect.
Picking at No. 34 and No. 51 might not be sexy, but given Dallas' needs, it can find a rotation player. Whether it's a big guy who can help on the glass, or a wing who can provide depth, there are second-round prospects who the Mavs need to have their eyes on.
We'll break down the top three targets at both pick 34 and 51, so you can have some idea who Dallas should target come draft night.
And who might be the start of the next era of Dallas Mavericks basketball.
Round 2: Pick 34
1. Clint Capela
If Clint Capela makes it to pick 34, there shouldn't be much of a decision for the Mavericks.
Capela stands 6'11" with a reach of 7’4.5” and a vertical that should belong to a guard, not a near 7-footer.
Though he’s raw, he’s made a name for himself by using his tremendous physical gifts to attack the rim on one end and defend it on the other.
He may lack refined post moves and a jump shot, but his athleticism allows him to finish around or sometimes even over his competition. And on defense, that wingspan doesn’t go to waste. He blocks 1.5 shots per game in only 22 minutes, which makes for an impressive ratio given that he’s only 20 years old.
This kind of draft profile evokes the memory of a young Serge Ibaka. Both Ibaka and Capela were raw, athletic and very lean youngsters who had a knack for blocking shots. And though Capela is very far away from where Ibaka is now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
And if Capela can be Ibaka, the Mavs have to take a shot with their first second-round pick.
It’s a great low-risk, high-reward pick. Maybe Capela flames out and never becomes half of what Ibaka is. But getting a guy with his upside in the second round is nearly unheard of.
In an interview with the The Dallas Morning News, Eddie Sefko said Donnie Nelson told him that there’s a group of players from 25 into the mid-to-late 30s that are relatively interchangeable. It could go any which way.
Which could mean that Capela slips down to No. 34.
Is it likely? Probably not. But if Capela does slip that far, Dallas needs to be ready to take him despite his status as a project.
2. Mitch McGary
A guy like Capela carries a lot of risk, so if Dallas is looking for more of a sure thing, look no further than Mitch McGary.
The former Michigan big man has a game and skills that translate well to the NBA. His motor is ridiculous, even borderline crazy. He gobbles up rebounds and uses his 6’11", 265-pound frame well on defense. He’s not easily pushed from his spot, and he moves very well for a guy his size.
So what’s the catch?
Well not only did he miss the vast majority of this past season with a back injury that required surgery, but his impending yearlong suspension for failing an NCAA drug test due to marijuana pushed him into the draft.
Though these episodes don’t sound great, they are actually good news for the Mavs.
Before all this came out, ESPN’s Chad Ford (subscription required) had McGary clearly slotted for the first round, if not the lottery. Now, he’s a borderline first-rounder. Which is right where Dallas wants him.
The issue with him, besides the off-court incidents, is his lack of an offensive game. Simply put, he doesn’t score in the post. Ever. And sometimes when he caught the ball there he would panic and turn it over.
But to be fair, Michigan is an almost exclusively perimeter oriented team. So McGary was never put in that position either, and thus it’s hard to completely judge him with such a limited sample.
He brings energy, rebounding and defense to a team that could really use all three. His upside may be limited, but if Dallas wants a rookie who can contribute this season, McGary is their man.
3. Bogdan Bogdanovic
If Bogdan Bogdanovic was definitely going to come over this season, Dallas would have no shot at him. But since his situation seems sticky, there’s a distinct possibility he might not come over for a year or two.
Enter the Dallas Mavericks.
Similarly to Capela, if the Mavs can snag a first-round prospect at pick No. 34, that’s pretty clearly a win.
Bogdanovic's natural position is shooting guard, but at 6’6”, he also dabbled at the point this season after the starting point guard for his Euro League team went down with an injury. And he went on to average nearly four assists per game while splitting time there.
And with that height, he can also man the wing. Meaning he can at least moonlight at three different positions, making him a nice piece down the road.
But outside of his versatility, he has real skills. He can shoot well, hitting 37 percent from deep. He has a nice handle, shows a knack for attacking the rim and even plays the passing lanes well.
Unfortunately, his effort can be questioned on defense. He shows instances of great one-on-one defense but also laziness. If he’s motivated or focused, he can be a solid defender. But the issue is he’s not always clued in.
Bogdanovic is only 21 and is probably going to stay overseas for another couple of years, so these issues might improve by the time he’d be ready to make his debut.
Regardless, having a prospect stashed isn’t a bad thing when roster spots on this team are in short supply.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The Mavs have dealt with indifferent defense before, and keeping him abroad for a while might be just what they want. If that’s the case, Bogdanovic deserves a long look when the pick rolls around.
Round 2: Pick 51
1. Walter Tavares
At this point in the draft, upside is hard to come by. So when a 7’3” center with a 7’9” wingspan who only picked up a basketball in 2010 is available, he becomes a hot commodity.
Though Walter Tavares lacks experience, he makes up for it by being the size of a small car. He also moves well, something that is becoming more and more important for a big man in today’s NBA.
And just like the other big men on this list, he provides two things Dallas needs. Tavares can protect the paint, and he can rebound.
In 21.2 minutes per game, he averages 1.5 blocks and 6.8 rebounds. And he should average more in both categories, but he’s still adjusting to the game and doesn’t yet have a firm grasp on positioning, which causes problems.
But for a guy who started playing basketball at 18 years old, he’s taking to the game well.
Of course, his offensive game is almost nonexistent. Not only does his team not give him post touches, but he shows little ability to score on his own. He gets most of his points thanks to offensive rebounds and cuts to the basket.
Though that also seems to be true for the majority of NBA bigs, so it isn’t a huge strike against him.
Tavares is a project, no doubt about it. He will require a lot of work, but he has taken to the game well and shows a natural athleticism that is rare in prospects his size. The upside is there for him to be a serious contributor down the road, and this late in the draft, that’s all a team can ask for.
2. Joe Harris
For prospects to be successful at the next level, it’s very important they have an elite skill. They should have something in their game that can translate to the next level.
Joe Harris can shoot, and shoot very well.
In four years at Virginia, he never shot worse than 38 percent from three. He has a textbook jump shot and can use it off the dribble, spotting up or coming off screens.
Make no mistake, this will translate to the NBA.
And Harris isn’t a bad athlete, which is something he gets knocked for. At 6’6”, the wing has a 33.5” vertical. Nothing to brag about, but also fine for a vertical of an NBA player.
Though he’s not quick, Harris proved at Virginia that he knows how to play team defense. So don’t expect an all-defense selection out of him, but he can hold his own.
For what he is and where he should go, Harris is a great get. He can shoot the ball, and he doesn’t have to be hidden on the defensive end.
Considering how the Mavericks play, that skill set has value.
He has a very good chance to be a shooter off the bench with decent size, and for a late second-round pick, that’s pretty good. Most guys down this far don’t end up doing much of anything in the league, so to say Harris has a good chance at being in a rotation is quite the compliment.
3. Jordan McRae
Since perimeter defense isn’t Dallas’ strong suit, it might look to bolster that through the draft. And though locking down opposing guards isn’t Jordan McRae’s specialty, he can give the Mavericks some of what they want.
A 6’5” guard out of Tennessee with a ridiculous 7’0” wingspan, he has the physical tools to be a pest. He also plays hard, again necessary to fill the role.
But McRae’s main asset is his offensive game. He averaged 18.5 points per game last season in a variety of ways. His game is a bit unorthodox, but he gets results. McRae attacks the rim well, using his length to get off an array of layups and floaters.
But more importantly for his life as a potential Maverick, is his underrated shooting ability.
In his last two seasons at Tennessee, McRae shot over 35 percent while taking 5.5 threes per game. For a guy who isn’t considered much of a shooter, that is certainly better than you’d think.
And did we mention he plays hard?
McRae rarely, if ever, takes a play off. He relentlessly attacks the rim, hustles all over the floor and gives plenty of effort on the defensive end.
Unfortunately, he also weighs 185 pounds.
To say he needs to add strength is quite the understatement. He won’t just be able to use his length and tenacity at the next level. If he wants to be able to use his abundant skills, the strength needs to be there.
But for the Mavs, that’s a risk they can take. They need a defender, and given that he can be a complete player, he’s not a bad gamble this late in the second round.