DALLAS — There was a revolving door for the Dallas Mavericks at point guard this season after injuries and roster turnover left the team depleted in the backcourt. Now, the Mavericks might choose to address their need for consistency at that position with the No. 9 pick in June’s NBA Draft.
Overcoming a 4-17 start to the season to finish with a 33-49 record, the Mavericks saw an emergence of their young guards by the end of the grueling 82-game schedule. Waiving three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams on Feb. 23, the Mavs handed the primary ball-handling duties to first-year floor general Yogi Ferrell and combo guard Seth Curry to close the season. The Mavs also overcame injuries during the season to veteran guards J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. But after finishing the season ranked 30th by producing 97.9 points an outing and 27th while dishing 20.8 assists a game as a team, the Mavericks may look at upgrading at the point guard position with their top-10 draft pick.
“Well, we’ve got to get better at point (guard). There’s no question,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban matter-of-factly said near the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. “You know, if we can’t do it in the draft, we’ll look at free agency and see what we can do. … We’ve got to get that one pass-first point guard. That’s what we don’t have. And just playing time and consistency will help, too.”
After ranking 23rd with an offensive rating of 103.7, the Mavericks could certainly benefit from an offseason addition to the backcourt. Five point guards are expected to be taken in the top 10 picks of the upcoming draft. Along those lines, several mock drafts around the internet have the Mavs adding a player capable of sliding into the rotation in the backcourt and contributing right away.
According to BleacherReport.com, the Mavericks could add North Carolina State freshman standout Dennis Smith Jr. if he falls their way in the draft. The site adds that the Mavs will immediately benefit from Smith’s explosive athleticism and ability to fill up the stat sheet.
The 6-foot-3 Smith averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists during his freshman campaign, clocking 34.8 minutes an outing. He also connected on 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from three-point range while operating predominantly with the ball in his hands. That said, Smith could see the same effectiveness in coach Rick Carlisle’s system alongside the likes of 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, leading scorer Harrison Barnes and outside shooters like Curry and Wesley Matthews.
The 18-year-old Ntilikina is just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent, showcasing his potential while averaging 5.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 18.2 minutes an outing in 32 games this season for Strasbourg in the LNB Pro A. The Brussels, Belgium native also connected on 43.1 percent from three-point range, showcasing an ability to stretch the floor. He’s seen as a blossoming two-way player as well, possessing a 6-foot-5 frame, 7-foot wingspan, lateral quickness and versatility on defense. But with his ball-handling skills still developing, Ntilikina could fall to the Mavericks at the No. 9 pick to help fill a need at the point. And although Ntilikina is viewed as a project, the Mavericks could thrive for seasons to come with him in the fold.
“I mean, it’s not quite as much stress,” Cuban said while speaking of what the Mavs might do in next month’s draft. “We can maybe go a little bit more for a project, but we’ll see. Every year they say it’s a great draft, and it never turns out to be as great a draft as they say.”