In less than 48 hours, the Dallas Mavericks will embark on the most important draft in the last 10 years. Armed with the fifth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Mavericks are in position to grab another young cornerstone of the future on Thursday night.

At the helm heading into Thursday night is none other than the general manager, Donnie Nelson. By his side will be one of his closest friends and scouting guru Tony Ronzone. Officially, he holds the title of director of player personnel for the Mavericks.

They both took time to chat with ahead of the draft on Thursday.

On the main difference in scouting internationally compared domestically in 2018…

Tony Ronzone
Nelson: It is hard to hide (international prospects) anymore. Everyone has access to internet. Anyone with a phone is a reporter. It is not like the old days where you find a sleeper in Romania. You could kind of keep things out of the mainstream.

Ronzone: The only advantage is Donnie and I’s relationships around the world. Because we have done it for so long, certain relationships come into play. Sometimes I feel like we have the advantage because they trust us. Dealing with international people, trust is a big factor. I think that is a big factor here in Dallas is the trust factor around the world.

Nelson: We are not the only team in the NBA with a good track record with international players. But if you look at the success rate and the comfort from the coaching staff to the sports staff to the community here, it is as culturally diverse as it gets.

On scouting younger international prospects and their ability to translate to the NBA…

Nelson: Younger you are, the harder it is. Guys that are young, the more their body can change, the more variables there are. Also, the more upside there is. There is always going to be concern about translation to playing overseas to playing against the best athletes on planet earth. You are either confident in your (scouting) ability or not. Nobody bats 1.000. Projecting talent whether it is on this side of the pond or the other. There are some guys that are good at it and some are not.

On scouting big men coming into today’s NBA…

Ronzone: The game has changed because of the way the league is played. You have to have five guys who can switch on pick-and-rolls. You have to have 5s that can switch with 4s and 2s, even 5s that can guard 1s. Bigs that have those quicker feet and mobility, guys that have second and third jumps. Most bigs now are influenced by Dirk with the face-up game. Every kid that is big wants to be like Dirk and facing up. I think Dirk changed the game… Bigs have to be able to shoot the 3-ball.

Nelson: Threes are becoming 4s and 4s are becoming 5s. The game is becoming smaller and more versatile which is good because it means there is more skill injected into the game. I think when we drafted Dirk back in the day, here was a guy at the 4 position that could shoot 3s and stretch defenses in an era in the league where the 4s in the league were enforcers like Charles Oakley. I think it is a good thing that skill has been injected.

Nelson continued on talking about the center position in today’s NBA: I think if you look at the center position you really need to have a bullpen. You need to have your pogo stick shot-blocker. You need to have your stretch guy. Somebody that can slap up against the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns or one of these bulk center guys. It is almost like on any given night, depending what the matchups are, you kind of need to have three, four, or five looks at the center spot.

On if teams are trying to replicate team building similar to the style of Golden State…

Nelson: I think it is a function of the 3-point line more than anything. If you look at odds-making, a third more of anything, I don’t care if you are doing a real estate deal or playing poker in Vegas, if you are talking about a third more, that is a big jump. How Golden State has beaten everyone to the punch is they have three of the all-time great 3-point shooters in the history of the game. It’s like a Greyhound racing against a German Shepherd. We better invest in Greyhounds.

On the balance between drafting the best player available compared to system fit…

Nelson: I have always been best player. The way I was brought up was you find out what the skillsets of your best players are and then you construct the offense around them. Anyone who is about ‘fitting into your system’ when it comes to the uber-talented guys, I think that is short-sighted.

On the difference between this draft compared to past drafts…

Every draft is a snowflake. They are all cut differently with a different emphasis. They are similar in that there is lots of conversations and discussions. I think we have gathered more than the average draft. We really want to be thorough. The importance of this draft is not lost on us. I think more than ever myself, Mike, and other front office staff has seen a ton of games. I have been overseas more than I care to admit, making sure we cover every rock. Seen a ton of collegiate games as well. We are over-prepared if there is such as thing.

On the word they would give to describe the feeling heading into Thursday night…

Nelson: Exciting.

Ronzone: Fired up.

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