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Fixing The Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs need to think long term as they move forward this summer, writes David Yapkowitz

David Yapkowitz

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With the 2016-17 NBA regular season winding down, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in an interesting position. They started out with a 4-17 record and looked well on their way to a potentially high lottery finish. Since the New Year started, they’ve gone 19-15 and have climbed back into the Western Conference playoff race. It would be in the Mavericks’ best interest, however, to miss the playoffs and perhaps fall a bit in the standings.

The one thing the Mavericks have to get ready for is the inevitable retirement of Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki has shown flashes of his former self this season, but his averages in points (14.2), field goal percentage (43.6), and minutes (26.4) are his lowest since his rookie year. He has one year left on his contract, a team option the Mavericks most likely will pick up. But even if Nowitzki plays one more year, the Mavericks should start planning now for life without him.

That would mean missing the playoffs and taking advantage of a lottery pick. Teams always want to be competitive, especially when a franchise legend like Nowitzki is still on the roster. However, barring an unforeseen event where they land a potential marquee free agent this summer such as Stephen Curry or Blake Griffin, there is no quick fix that is going to catapult them to the top of the Western Conference. Making the playoffs as a very low seed and missing out on a top draft pick will only set the Mavericks back further once Nowitzki is gone.

Fortunately for the Mavericks, this summer’s draft is shaping up to be a deep and talented one. Even a back-end lottery pick, which they’d most likely get should they miss the playoffs, could yield a potential impact player. Should the standings not fluctuate too much between now and the end of the regular season, one such player who may be available when the Mavericks are on the clock is Arizona’s freshman forward Lauri Markkanen.

At 7 feet tall and 230 pounds, the versatile forward has a similar game to Nowitzki. In his lone season at Arizona so far, he’s averaging 15.7 points per game on 49.6 percent shooting from the field, including 42.9 percent from the three point line, while pulling down 7.1 rebounds per game. Markkanen is exactly the type of player the Mavericks can groom into a possible Dirk replacement while he learns under Nowitzki for at least one year.

Every draft, there’s always a player or two that slips and ends up being drafted later than anticipated. If one of the other projected top ten players ends up slipping, the Mavericks should definitely snatch them up, even if Markkanen is still on the board. It’s always wise to draft the best player available and figure it out later. But if that doesn’t happen, and Markkanen is the best player on the board, he should be the Mavericks’ choice.

The draft is always a risk, and there are no guarantees that any player lives up to the expectations set when they were drafted. In addition to looking at the draft to begin the rebuilding process, the Mavericks can take a look at free agency to shape their roster. Again, aside from landing a potential marquee player, most of the bigger name free agents are just stop gap additions that would do nothing but slightly prolong the Mavericks rebuilding process. What the Mavericks should look for in free agency this summer are potential bargain players — young guys who still have something to prove and could come relatively cheap. It’s what they’ve been able to do with Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell.

Help in the front court is something the Mavericks need, and there are a couple of players who fit that bill and will be available as free agents this offseason. One player that comes to mind is Cristiano Felicio of the Chicago Bulls. The second-year center played sparingly his rookie season, appearing in only 31 games while averaging 10.4 minutes per. He started off similarly this year, low minutes mixed in with some DNP’s, until finally getting consistent minutes from December until now. He’s had three double-doubles so far, three more than all of last season. He started off this month with an 11 rebound effort in a win over the Golden State Warriors. He had one of his better offensive games (ten points on 4-8 shooting) of the season on Mar. 12 in a loss to the Boston Celtics. He is a restricted free agent, but it may be possible that the Mavericks can pry him away from Chicago with a decent offer the Bulls won’t match. At 24-years-old, the reserve big man still has room to grow.

Another potential front court player the Mavericks could target is Christian Wood of the Charlotte Hornets. Also a second-year player, Wood spent much of last season shuffling between the Philadelphia 76ers and their D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. This year, he appeared in only five games for the Hornets until this month. In March, he’s already seen action in six of the team’s nine games. He had his best game of the season on Mar. 10 in a win over the Orlando Magic when he scored 14 points on 5-6 shooting from the field and pulled down five rebounds. He’s spent time with the Hornets’ D-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, and it included a 45 point, 15 rebound, and eight block effort on Jan. 12 against the Long Island Nets. He is also a restricted free agent, but could possibly be had for an offer the Hornets wouldn’t match. A first-round talent who didn’t end up being drafted, Wood is only 21 years old and has quite a bit of potential.

One area the Mavericks have excelled at recently is finding and developing talent, particularly in the back court. Seth Curry was just a borderline NBA player before this season. Now he’s seemingly found a home with the Mavericks. Since being moved into the starting lineup on Jan. 12, he’s averaged 15.8 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting. Yogi Ferrell was toiling in the D-League before being called up to the Mavericks on a 10-day contract. Upon his arrival, the Mavericks won four straight games with Ferrell averaging 17.8 points and five assists, including a season- and career-high 32 points in a win on Feb. 3 over the Portland Trail Blazers. They skipped offering him any other 10-day contracts and gave him a two-year deal.

Continuing to develop talent already on the roster is the last way the Mavericks can get the rebuild underway. Assuming they re-sign Nerlens Noel in the summer, they potentially have their starting center for years to come. An interior defensive presence they’ve lacked since Tyson Chandler’s departure, and a great complement should they end up drafting someone like Markkanen. They also should use summer league to see what they have in Nicolas Brussino and A.J. Hammons. Brussino had his best game of the season this week in a win over the Washington Wizards when he scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Hammons has not played since Dec. 30, but he’s a young big man on a rookie contract. All the Mavericks need from him is someone to give Noel a breather.

Rebuilding is never easy, and sometimes teams try to do too much too fast. It’s a process, and it’s going to be rough, especially for a franchise like the Mavericks who have been a consistent playoff team for almost two decades. The Mavericks need to think long term rather than quick fix, and the potential payoff will be far greater.

 

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NBA

Trae Young Believes He’s NBA Ready

Trae Young has exceeded expectations since his freshman year of college, and he believes he will continue to do so in the NBA

Matt John

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Before the collegiate season started, many believed that the best players in the upcoming NBA draft were going to be bigs. DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, and Michael Porter Jr., all of whom were 6’10’’ or taller, were considered to be among the top prospects coming out of the NCAA, but Trae Young had something to say about that.

Coming out of high school, Young was regarded as one of the better incoming freshmen, but not among the best of the best. Young ranked no. 23 in ESPN’s top 100 in 2017 and was ranked third among point guards, behind Collin Sexton and Jaylen Hands, which led to low expectations for him. Young proved right out of the gate that he was much better than the scouts had rated him.

Young tore up college ball as an Oklahoma Sooner, as he averaged 27.2 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 42 percent from the field including 36 percent from three. While Young’s play made him stand out among his peers, it didn’t translate into much success on the court. The Sooners went 18-14 on the season and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Now that the season is over, Young is shifting his focus to his next stop: the NBA. With the draft coming up in just a little over a month, only one word comes to mind when describing Young’s current mindset: Confidence.

“I bring a lot of things to the next level. I think I would bring an immediate impact off the court as much as I do on the court,” Young said at the NBA combine. “I can space out the defense. I can attack defenders in multiple ways, get my teammates involved. I think I can pretty much do it all for a team and I’m looking forward to whichever team I go to and making a huge impact.”

While Young is not expected to be picked in the top five, he should be picked between the six to ten range. Any player who is selected in that range has to work his absolute hardest to live up to the lengthy expectations that he will certainly face once he enters the NBA. Young luckily sounds like he is up to the task.

“I prepared extremely hard coming into the college season and making a huge impact right away, and I’m working two times as hard this summer preparing to get into the NBA level,” Young said. “I want to make a huge impact right away.”

Young is expected to be a high lottery pick, but he doesn’t care much for where he is selected as much as he cares about going to the team that suits him best.

“My main focus is going to the right team. It’s not about going one, two, three or 30. You see a lot of guys going in the second round in certain years that make big impacts for teams,” Young said. “It’s all about the fit for me. Whether that’s one or whether that’s whatever it is, I’m going to be happy and I’m going to be ready to make an impact.”

Young’s expected high draft position stems from his electrifying play as a scorer in college. Young’s performance for Oklahoma his freshman year was impressive enough to draw comparisons to NBA megastar Stephen Curry. While Young is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Curry, he takes pride in being his own player.

“He’s a two-time MVP and a champion. I mean, I love the comparison but I feel like I bring a lot of different things from different players’ games to the table,” Young said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of Trae Young. That’s all that matters to me. I’m just getting started in this thing so hopefully I can achieve some of those things.”

Young’s skillset may remind fans of Curry, but Young prides himself on modeling his game after his favorite player of all time: Steve Nash.

“With his size and my size, we’re pretty similar,” Young said. “He is very cerebral. He can score on all three levels and he knows how to get his teammates involved. He’s a winner so I feel like a lot of his characteristics match with mine.”

Those who have watched Young know of his offensive repertoire, but skeptics have pointed to his defensive shortcomings as a red flag. Young, however, believes his play at the combine will show that he can be a positive on the other side of the ball.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to show people that I can play defense, and I’m excited to show that from day one,”

When all is said and done, Young may very well wind up being the most prolific scorer to come out of what many believe is a loaded draft, but Young has much bigger ambitions in mind for his career.

“I think I’m the best overall player in this draft, but my main focus isn’t necessarily to be the best player in this draft,” Young said. “My goal is to be the best player in the NBA. That’s what I’m focusing on each and every day.”

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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