Positions of need entering draft: small forward

Mavs.com’s Earl K. Sneed takes a look at different directions the Mavs might look to go in leading up to Thursday’s draft.

DALLAS — It was a position of strength over the past few seasons for the Dallas Mavericks. However, with veteran leaders Shawn Marion and Vince Carter set to enter free agency on July 1, the Mavericks head into the offseason with questions at small forward.

Led by Marion’s versatility and defensive prowess in the starting unit, the Mavs showcased plenty of depth at the 3 this season as Carter supplied instant scoring off the bench and second-year standout Jae Crowder emerged as a two-way player. But, with it unclear whether Marion or Carter will return to the team next season, the Mavericks’ brass may look to add a young contributor into the fold via Thursday’s draft.

“We’ll be looking at the draft,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said during his exit interview last month while turning his attention from the 2013-14 season. “I know we don’t have our first-round pick, but we have an early second. That’s an important pick for us and it’s a deep draft, so we’re going to do our homework on that.”

Hoping to re-sign both the 37-year-old Carter and 36-year-old Marion, the Mavericks will attempt to retain the veterans’ services when the two hit the open market. First, the Mavs’ front office may also look to go in a different direction by adding a young forward capable of stepping in and contributing immediately.

Surrendering their first-round pick, the No. 21 selection overall, to Oklahoma City via a top-20 conditional protection in the Lamar Odom trade with the Los Angeles Lakers back in December of 2011, the Mavs will now try to make a splash with two picks in the second round. That puts more importance on landing at least one player that can step in on Day 1 of training camp with the 34th pick overall and 51st selection, assuming the Mavericks stand pat and don’t make a move into the first round.

“I don’t know of any young guys outside of the lottery that are going to be impact players, but it is a deep draft,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said in regard to the second round. “You know, the difference between the early 20s and the 40s, I think most NBA guys have that kind of being the same pool of players. So, we’re fairly well-positioned with the [34th] pick. It’s almost like it’s got first-round potential, and then of course we’ve got our later second-round pick. And so we’ll be aggressive as always, whether it’s free agency or the draft, to put the best possible product on the floor next year.”