Should Mavericks Gamble On Baylor Forwards?

Mar 25, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Baylor Bears forward Perry Jones III (1) is defended by Kentucky Wildcats forward Anthony Davis (23) and Kentucky Wildcats forward Terrence Jones (3) in the first half during the finals of the south region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

Perry Jones and Quincy Miller are risks, but they're risks a team picking at No. 17 wouldn't normally get the chance to make. The final installment of a four-part pre-draft conversation.

A response to yesterday's question about which players the Mavericks should hope fall to them at No. 17.

Great comment on Austin Rivers. I have no idea how he's risen to the likely number 10 pick in this draft. At best he's a taller but less dynamic Dajuan Wagner (whose long-delayed comeback is allegedly picking up steam). Picking him ahead of Lamb or Ross would be inexcusable.

Despite Rivers potentially pushing Ross and Lamb down, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the Mavericks will lose out on the elite 2-guards in the draft absent an unforeseen move up the board. As far as that goes, I'm holding out hope that Dallas can move up. The team would be flat dumb not to be exploring any reasonable options that would get them in a position to add Lamb or Ross.

The most likely target, though one not at all being talked about, is the Hornets' second pick at #10. New Orleans needs talent everywhere, and the Mavs can put together a package of solid talent that would make a 7 slot slide more than palpable. If the reports are true that the team is targeting an undersized, poor shooting 2-guard with tunnel vision (Rivers), Dallas can offer them much more, in addition to the #17 pick. In lieu of Rivers, the Mavs could offer some combination of Brandan Wright, Lamar Odom's expiring contract and Rodrigues Beaubois -- certainly a more talented and diverse package than a marginal college scorer.

However, all signs pointing to that not happening. Even if it doesn't all is not lost. As you mentioned, Royce White, Terrence Jones and the Baylor guys will be available. We've documented White's potential, and Terrence Jones' versatilely and athleticism would be welcomed additions to the ever-aging Mavericks, but the Baylor guys are undoubtedly the most intriguing prospects of the bunch.

Without the ACL injury, Quincy Miller is a lottery pick. Unfortunately, that version of him does not exist, something that was painfully obvious when watching him operate from the perimeter this past year. He is still able to take advantage of size mismatches in the post, but he doesn't have the burst to get by perimeter defenders, even power forwards. However, the ACL can take up to 2 years for full recovery and there's still some hope it will get stronger. If he can regain the burst and work on his jumpshot, he's an all-star 3. If he can't, he will struggle to contribute in a meaningful way at the NBA level.

Perry Jones may have more room to grow that any player in the draft not named Andre Drummond. He's a next level athlete at 6'11" 235 with a jump shot, decent handle and skills. The only thing lacking seems to be an assertiveness to apply that array of skills to the game and take over. But again, his point guard did pound the ball into the floor almost as much as Chris Paul while playing like a 5'8" Russell Westbrook. Combined with Scott Drew's elementary understanding of the game of basketball, his inconsistent performances are almost understandable. Almost.

Part of the issue is Jones III's preference to operate on the perimeter but being forced to play inside. His offensive game inside is limited and he's clearly not comfortable there -- hence the persistent reliance on fadeaway jumpers against players you'd expect to end up with a face full of Perry Jones III. But his athleticism was nevertheless enough to carry him to 20 points against a vaunted Kentucky front line. In that game, he put the great Anthony Davis on his back and rammed him deep into the paint before elevating to score right over the presumed number one pick. But fact is he can play the 3, and given Dirk's presence at the 4, it's something the Mavs could accommodate.

He may not last until 17, but if he's there, Jones is almost as good a pick as Jeremy Lamb. For both guys, there is the fact that Scott Drew is making a convincing case that he has no idea how to coach basketball. While it's the job of scouts to evaluate the player away from their system, both players also lived with a shoot-first point guard with no concept of his limitations -- who Scott Drew gave complete control of the offense to. On defense they were trapped in a zone, so we never got to see them go man up, unfortunate given their match-up against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

The crazy part of the Drew/Barnes thing is that while neither of them seem to have a real understanding of what's going on on the floor, both continue to land top-flight talent. The difference once they get to college is the system they're put in. Barnes runs an isolation heavy offense and man to man defense that really allow his players showcase their ability to create their own shot and defend. Drew is married to the inane 1-3-1 zone and eager to entrust control to a single player who is generally not the guy most equipped to direct the team (after Tweety Carter, anyway).

The result is a system not ideal for off-ball players to showcase their talent, but a great situation to generate questions about a player's motor, assertiveness and consistency. The longer it continues, the more glaring it will become, and the shorter Drew's tenure will be with the Bears. Notwithstanding the obstacles presented by their college choice, both Jones III and Miller have shown enough to merit a first round pick, and the Mavericks are in desperate need of youth and talent on the wings.

Jones III is a star in waiting if he can transition to the 3 at the NBA level. Miller is much more of a question mark with his knee, but he's a healthy knee and a jumper away from being a starting caliber 3. If Jones is there at 17, he's a no-brainer. I'm still not sold on Miller ever regaining NBA athleticism, but he's almost worth the risk.

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