By Zack Cunningham
We’re three days away from the 2018 NBA Draft and, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the NBA rumor mill is running at 100%.
Kawhi Leonard’s feelings on the Spurs are now public which has temporarily provided NBA Twitter with something besides the mystery of Michael Porter Jr. to dwell on … and also given new life to the LeBron-to-LA narrative.
However, quietly in the background … the Dallas Mavericks have worked out Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr. and attended two of Porter Jr.’s workouts. In case you’ve been living under a slightly bigger rock, the Mavericks are slotted to pick at No. 5.
Also, this video surfaced late Sunday/early Monday of Bamba again draining deep 3s … but this time in Dallas shorts?
The case for Ayton going No. 1 to Phoenix seems to be mostly closed at this point, but from No. 2 down is anyone’s guess. The Kings have been linked to Porter Jr. and Marvin Bagley as well as Luka Doncic, who seems to have somehow slid even further down some of the more reputable NBA mock drafts (and potentially within reach to Dallas at No. 5?)
At this point, as the saying goes, it’s all a crap-shoot. You can argue that Dallas’ needs are most met by Jackson Jr. or Bamba as they fill the need the Mavs have for a defensive anchor with the potential of a 3-point threat or you can argue that Dallas needs more of an offensive infusion, a hole that players like Marvin Bagley III and Porter Jr. are more apt to fill.
There’s been a lot of talk that Jackson Jr. would be the pick for the Hawks at No. 3, but per Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, the Hawks have “ruled out” Jackson at the No. 3 spot which could leave Dallas with a tough decision two spots later.
Rumors of Memphis looking to package Chandler Parson’s albatross deal along with the No. 4 pick has some fans dreaming of Dallas owning BOTH of the Nos. 4 and 5 picks … but the Grizzlies would likely not entertain a deal that didn’t include Harrison Barnes in return, a condition Dallas is unlikely to acquiesce to (per Mike Fisher).
Could Dallas make the deal work without adding Barnes? Does Memphis hang up the phone right away? People in the know I’ve talked to say Dallas shouldn’t have to part with one of its foundation pieces to grab the No. 4 pick, and opinions on the issue range widely. Is Barnes a great player? Sure. Is he great enough for the Mavs to keep instead of closing a deal for another top-5 lottery pick? That’s debatable.
At this point in the offseason, what could be viewed as interest from a team towards a prospect could just as easily be a smokescreen put out to offset other team’s interest and to discourage clubs in front of the franchise in the drafting order from passing up on said prospect. My feeling is that there’s a lot of this surrounding Porter Jr.
Take this for example. Dallas is reportedly “comfortable” with the health risks surrounding Porter Jr. There are many layers to peel back here.
Are the Mavericks publicly expressing their trust and assurance in veteran trainer Casey Smith and his staff to be able to effectively maintain Porter Jr. should Dallas draft him? Sure. But is that the point?
Just because a team is comfortable with the risks of taking a player doesn’t mean that player is their guy. I feel there’s a lot of gamesmanship at work here, not just on the part of the Mavericks, but a lot of teams surrounding the orbit of Porter Jr. Suffice it to say, it will be fascinating to see what happens on Thursday night.