The Dallas Mavericks front office and fans alike took a huge sigh of relief when the team retained their first-round draft pick in this year’s NBA Draft Lottery. After tanking the last two games of the season, Dallas had put itself in position to be able to have a top 10 pick and either draft a young player to an aging roster or trade it for a win-now veteran that could help the Mavericks get back to the playoffs. With Dallas sitting right at draft selection 10, much of their decision was based on which players fell to them and which (if any) teams were interested in trading for that player.
Trade rumors had been swarming the team ever since the lottery was over. There were various reports stating the Mavericks would trade the pick no matter what player fell to them at number 10. There were reports that the Mavericks would attempt to use the 10th pick to offload some of their bad contracts and hopefully bring in a player that would be serviceable enough to slot into the starting lineup. By retaining the 10th pick, however, Dallas found itself in a unique position to do one of two things: add youth to an ageing roster by drafting a player who fits the timeline of their 24 year old superstar or trade the pick for a veteran to come in and hopefully remediate the defensive inefficiency this team suffered as the season wore on. The Mavericks likely won’t be picking this high in the draft again so long as Luka is on the team, so making the right decision was as crucial as ever.
GM Nico Harrison did just that…and more.
With Dallas on the clock at pick number 10, Harrison made a move with the Oklahoma City Thunder to trade back from the 10th pick to the 12th pick and off-load the contract of Dāvis Bertāns as well. With the 12th pick in the draft, Dallas selected Duke center Dereck Lively II, a young, defensive minded center who has drawn comparisons to former Mavericks legend Tyson Chandler. Lively II skyrocketed up draft boards in recent weeks.
Not only did Harrison have the foresight to know that Orlando was not going to target Lively II at pick No. 11 but trading away Bertāns’ contract generated a $17 million trade exception for the Mavericks as well as opening cap space to utilize the mid-level exception in free agency, all while still drafting the player the Mavericks coveted all along.
The Mavericks could have been content with that move but Harrison wasn’t done just yet. As the draft continued, another player Dallas had targeted began slipping down draft boards. Much like last year’s draft where Dallas made a deal with Sacramento to acquire Jaden Hardy, Harrison struck another deal with the Kings, this time utilizing the newly generated trade exception to absorb the contract of Richaun Holmes and the rights to the 24th pick in the first round, Olivier-Maxence Prosper.
Prosper is exactly the type of rangy, athletic wing player the Mavericks have sought for years. Another player who saw his stock rise immensely over the course of the last few months, Prosper was a player the Mavericks had rated nearly as high as Lively II on their board. As Harrison stated: “We were like ‘which one should we take?’ And we got ‘em both”.
Dallas, after making two key transactions in the first round, didn’t stop there. Immediately following the draft, they signed local TCU guard Mike Miles, Jr. to a two-way contract as well, adding another piece of youth and talent to a team desperate for both.
The Mavericks, going into the draft were essentially at a fork in the road. One path led to adding another veteran player, potentially on a high salary who would hopefully assist in getting the Mavs back into the postseason. The other path was to surround your young superstar and budding role players in Josh Green and Jaden Hardy with even more youth.
Harrison chose the latter, all while also finding the center this team so desperately needed, trading arguably the worst contract on the team, adding another depth piece in Holmes, drafting a wing defender who the Mavericks highly coveted and opened cap space to be able to continue adding pieces to the existing roster.
The Mavericks have key youthful pieces to develop around their young superstar. Harrison once again proves his brilliance in the NBA Draft, showing his ability as an NBA GM. The NBA draft was a rousing success, and it only kicks off momentum heading into free agency for this organization as the Mavericks build out the rest of their roster.