The Nerlens Noel saga has entered August, and it is becoming increasingly more likely that Noel takes the qualifying offer, which would likely mean that he would leave after the 2017-18 season, due to the expressed unhappiness during the free agency period. Should this scenario happen, the Mavs will have another hole at center, as after next season, both Nerlens Noel and Salah Mejri would become free agents. The only other center under contract would be Dwight Powell. I believe the Mavs should do whatever it takes to acquire a center in the 2018 draft in this scenario, namely DeAndre Ayton.
With an early look at the 2018 draft, the class makes a strong case for being even stronger than the almighty 2017 draft class. The 2018 class is headlined by Michael Porter and Luka Doncic as the top two players currently, with plenty of other top ten talent players, such as DeAndre Ayton, Mohammed Bamba, Miles Bridges, Isaac Bonga, and others that I’ll eventually be writing about. Ayton is widely considered the unanimous third best prospect in the class, followed by Bamba.
DeAndre Ayton is a unique specimen for a center. He has shown shooting potential, he’s mobile and runs like a wing, and he has an excellent frame around 7’0 with a 7’5 wingspan. While he hasn’t played a college game yet, his raw tools with his size are impossible to ignore. His athleticism, rebounding, and defensive skills could quickly replace Noel.
The question surrounding Ayton’s draft stock at this point for NBA teams is: how bad does a team have to be to land the elite center prospect? While it is too early to evaluate both where prospects will land definitively, and where NBA teams will finish, my educated guess would be that Ayton will go top 4, depending on what teams are picking high. The teams that seem like bottom tier teams based off of projections include: Brooklyn (to Boston), Sacramento, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York. Of those teams, three are in dire need of a center- Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston. The Mavericks are projected to be the 10th worst record in the NBA (tied with Memphis) by ESPN. The Mavericks would need some serious luck in the lottery, or have another Dennis Smith situation, where a top talent falls to them. With the continuous fall of the big man, maybe they can luck out and have Ayton slide to them.
However, Dallas may be too good to tank, as they won 33 games with a heavily injured roster. I will post my season prediction later in the season, but I believe that winning 33 games may be a floor for Dallas. However, if Dallas does enter a similar situation as they faced last season, they need to capitalize on a strong draft class and realize that making the 8 seed against the Warriors is a death-wish. Drafting a star big man to pair with Dennis Smith will be very important, especially if the hypothetical new big man can protect the rim as well as be a star on offense.
The Mavericks need to start building for a future when the Warriors are past their primes, and building around a Dennis Smith, Harrison Barnes, and potentially DeAndre Ayton core would be very intriguing. The Mavericks should put themselves in the best position to draft the Arizona Wildcat in 2018.
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