The Mavericks own the 18th pick in the first round of the NBA draft on Wednesday. They also have the first pick of the second round, 31st overall.
They have a young, rising roster that will continue to be built around Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porzingis, who will play at some point this season after knee surgery last month.
Whether or not they keep their draft picks – reports are persistent that they are willing to move those assets and more for immediate help – it’s clear that the Mavericks will be a team of interest throughout the NBA during the draft on Wednesday and when free agency begins on Friday.
During our draft preview series, we’ve analyzed the point guards, wings and big men. In this installment, we sit down with Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson for a quick question-and-answer session to get his pulse on the draft, among other topics.
Mavs.com: Tell us your general impressions of this draft and what you think about having the 18th and 31st picks overall.
Nelson: No. 18 is definitely a highly coveted pick. And at 31, we feel really good about that one as well. We’re literally in the swing of trying to figure out who goes where, and there’s trade-up and trade-down scenarios. There’s all kind of stuff going on.
Mavs.com: For teams in win-now mode like you, and you’re blessed with Luka and KP, what kind of odds could you put on keeping those picks as opposed to trying to get veteran help?
Nelson: We really like the picks. Whoever we get at 18 is going to be a good young player in a deep draft. And at 31, we have almost the same optimism of that area as we had with (Jalen) Brunson (the 33rd pick in 2018). It’s a rich top of the second round. So a lot of activity on both of those picks. But ultimately, we really like the young core nucleus that we have. Adding two young players to that and be future assets that grow with Luka certainly has its place. As you know, our goal is a championship and if there’s a move that can take us ‘over the top’ into the second round type plateau, then of course we’ll always look at those opportunities.
Mavs.com: How does KP’s situation impact things, if at all?
Nelson: KP is a long term play for us. Obviously, we’re taking a very conservative approach on everything is involved with him. We’re definitely not going to have him at the beginning of the year. We’re just going to make sure we handle that the right way because he’s obviously a big, big part of our future and we’re going to have to do some patchwork stuff, probably.
Mavs.com: Where does that leave you at the center spot?
Nelson: The fact that Dwight (Powell), by all accounts, is going to be ready to go at the beginning of training, is going to be important. And Boban (Marjanović) and what he did in the bubble is a nice solidification of that spot. Maxi obviously played some five minutes and gives us a really cool 3-and-D version at that position and opens things up for Luka. And we have to wait until Thursday (4 p.m.) to see where Willie Cauley-Stein ends up in terms of opting in or not. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on. But based on how we dealt with it in the bubble, we’re excited to get Powell back and Boban has really stepped up and become a nice piece of the bullpen. And Maxi. Plus, then there’s lots of centers out there in free agency that can pinch hit and come in and help us.
Mavs.com: Not to be alarmist, but will KP be back at some point this season?
Nelson: Yes, yes.
Mavs.com: What’s it like having the draft, free agency and training camp coming in bang-bang-bang fashion?
Nelson: It’s exciting to me. We’ve never had it condensed like this within days – you’ve got the draft and free agency and training camp. It’s going to be light speed. But that to me is exciting. In all my years in the NBA, I’ve never experienced anything like this. And entering into it with optimism and excitement. We’re going to come out of this with two really good young building blocks in the draft and hopefully add to that in free agency. And if Luka can take the next good step and we get KP healthy and Timmy (Hardaway Jr.) praying to opt in on Thursday. And then we have Jalen and Curry and Kleber and Powell and Dorian and Delon, J.J. – hey, let’s strap it up and continue the positive momentum that we had in the playoffs last year.
NBA Key Dates
Wednesday: 2020 Draft (6 p.m.).
Thursday: Deadline for players to opt into contracts (4 p.m.).
Friday: Free agency negotiations begin (5 p.m.).
Sunday: Contracts can be signed (12:01 a.m.).
Dec. 1: Training camps open.
Dec. 22: Regular season begins.