BROOKLYN – For Donnie Nelson, this almost feels like an ice cream truck pulled up in front of his house and he has so many wonderful flavors to choose from.
The NBA Draft is Thursday at 6 p.m. CT at the Barclays Center, and it’ll be decision time for Nelson and the Dallas Mavericks as they’ll have a plethora of blue-chip prospects to choose from. However, with all of the choices at their disposal, Nelson is very confident that the Mavs will get their man.
In fact, Nelson — the Mavs’ president of basketball operations — all but guaranteed it. In this draft, variety truly is the spice of life as the Mavs can go big, small or in-between and still walk away with a can’t-miss prospect.
“It’s just exciting,” Nelson said. “We’re looking forward to Thursday.
“It’s some really, really good things in there (in the draft). We feel we’re going to get something really good and we can’t wait until Thursday night.”
A laundry list of the top players in this year’s draft include Arizona center Deandre Ayton, Real Madrid guard Luca Doncic, Duke center Marvin Bagley III, Texas center Mohamed Bamba, Michigan State center Jaren Jackson Jr., Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. , Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Villanova forward Mikal Bridges, Texas A&M center Robert Williams III, Kentucky forward Kevin Knox, Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, Michigan State forward Miles Bridges and Oklahoma point guard Trae Young.
One of those players could possibly find their way onto the Mavs’ roster next season.
Of course, like all executives across the NBA, Nelson wasn’t about to reveal the player the Mavs really want to draft. But since this is widely considered a deep draft, the Mavs – they have the No. 5 overall pick — truly are guaranteed of securing a player who should be in their rotation next fall if he puts in the necessary work.
This will be the highest draft pick the Mavs have had since they chose Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd with the No. 2 overall selection in the 1994 draft. Also, this is just the seventh time in the Mavs’ illustrious history that they’ve had the pleasure of owning a Top 5 draft pick.
“It’s a big draft, obviously, for the Mavs,” future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We haven’t had such a high pick in a long, long time, so we obviously want to make it count.
“We’ve been having draft workouts here basically for three or four weeks, and scouts and Donnie and everybody in the organization have been looking forward and getting prepared for this moment for a long, long time. So it’s going to be interesting.”
Last year the Mavs used the ninth overall draft pick to select North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. As a rookie, Smith developed into a very productive player who averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists and got progressively better and better the more minutes he played.
Combine Smith with forward Harrison Barnes and the No. 5 pick, and the Mavs believe they’ll have three critical cornerstones they hope will get them back in the playoffs as soon as next season.
“If you look at Dennis, he really had a really solid rookie season,” Nelson said. “He would be considered a building block. You’ve got guys like Harrison Barnes, with his maturity and versatility and ability to swing back and forth between the four positions.
“And you’ve got guys like Dwight Powell and some of our young core behind him. We’re looking at adding two really good young pieces in the draft – maybe three — and then kind of continue the youth trend.”
The Mavs also have the 33rd and 54th picks – both in the second round – of Thursday’s draft. For now, though, it’s that precious No. 5 pick that’s drawing all of the attention and is food for thought in barber shops and sports bars, and on talk radio all across the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“We’ve got the number five pick and I believe that we’re going to do a good job of getting somebody good for our franchise and I’m looking forward to it,” Smith said. “I’m fans of a lot of guys in the draft.
“There’s a lot of versatility with the big men in the draft. They’re pretty good defensively, they’re good offensively as well. So, like I said I believe we’ll get somebody that’s good for our team.”
Whoever the Mavs draft with the fifth pick, he’ll come to the Metroplex with very high expectations.
“We’ve got a chance to make a very good selection – whoever that is,” guard Wesley Matthews said. “We’ve got a chance to add to our roster and to build.
“And whoever (the fifth pick) is, as soon as they get here we’re going to put him right in the fire. They’ve got to work, they’ve got to grind and they’ve got to compete.”
Johnathan Motley, who was undrafted out of Baylor last year and ultimately signed a two-way contract with the Mavs, isn’t sure who the Mavs will land with the coveted No. 5 pick.
“It can go a lot of different directions,” Motley said. “I’m going to let them handle that and see who we get.”
Whoever the Mavs draft at five will likely determine the direction the franchise pursue during free agency, which starts July 1.
“After you get your pick, I think then that’s when — for us, because we’re a lottery team — you start to pay more attention to it,” Barnes said. “You start to realize, ‘OK, with this number, what are the picks that are probably going to be in our range?’
“If you have a top five pick you have to have a lot more room. Last year at nine was a little different and we got lucky. We’ll see what happens this year.”
Whatever happens, Mavs Nation is patiently sitting on pins and needles trying to guess – depending on the first four picks ahead of the Mavs – who their favorite team will select. Nelson, for one, said the Mavs have a player in mind, but he’s sworn to secrecy.
“Like I said, this draft is pretty deep,” Nelson said. “So we’re feeling really, really good at five.”