Pair of stretch big men could fall to Mavs at No. 9 in NBA Draft

DALLAS — It has become a calling card for the Dallas Mavericks during 19 seasons while 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki established himself as the best shooting big man in NBA history. Now, finding a stretch power forward in the mold of Nowitzki may be a priority for the Mavericks in June’s NBA Draft.

This season, the Mavericks shot 35.5 percent from three-point range as a team, ranking 16th in the league in that department. The Mavs also ranked 30th in the league by producing just 97.9 points an outing and 23rd with an offensive rating of 103.7. That said, the Mavericks may target an offensively-gifted big man in the draft to help relieve the scoring burden on Nowitzki’s and versatile forward Harrison Barnes’ broad shoulders next season. But according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, finding a young big man with the right skillset may be easier said than done.

“There aren’t a lot of high-quality stretch fours in the draft, and so this is an opportunity for us to take a close look,” Carlisle said when grading the position earlier this season.

DraftExpress.com has the Mavericks going in that direction in next month’s draft, targeting Dallas as a potential landing spot for Arizona freshman standout Lauri Markkanen.

The 7-foot Markkanen showed his versatility and all-around skillset during his lone colligate season, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 37 games. The 20-year-old Finland native also showcased his ability to stretch the floor beyond the three-point arc, connecting on 42.3 percent from long range. And after earning All-Pac 12 First Team honors while leading Arizona to the Sweet 16, Markkanen could find himself headed to Dallas with the Mavericks’ top-10 pick.

However, while Markkanen may be an intriguing prospect, HoopsHype.com, NBADraft.net and TheUndefeated.com all have the Mavericks targeting Gonzaga freshman big man Zach Collins instead.

The 7-foot, 230-pound Collins averaged 10.0 points and 5.9 rebounds an outing as Gonzaga sprinted to the national title game and a runner-up finish. He also shot a staggering 47.6 percent from three-point range, demonstrating that he could be a knockdown shooter at the next level. The sites agree that Collins could now benefit from learning from the No. 6 scorer in NBA history, Nowitzki, as he tries to patent his game in a similar fashion. But after spending most of his time on the court as a backup behind Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski, the 19-year-old Collins will likely face a steep learning curve in Year 1.