A response to yesterday's question about the conventional wisdom on the top prospects in the draft.
I agree with you that playoff teams could significantly help themselves in the bottom ten picks of the first round this year. With so many players staying in school because of the lockout, 2012 is really two drafts rolled into one. Let's put it this way: I'm not sure Cory Joseph would be drafted this year and he went No. 29 in 2011. Good job by his people getting him that guaranteed contract.
At No. 17, the Mavericks are in an interesting position right now, as there's very little separation in most mocks between picks 7-18. The biggest name that's been linked to them is Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), but we can eliminate him immediately. Even when healthy, as an undersized 6'9 260 center with no lift in his legs, he's going to be a defensive liability you can't play with Dirk Nowitzki at the same time.
Instead, the two power forwards Dallas should be watching are Terrence Jones (Kentucky) and Royce White (Iowa State). Jones is a 3/4 combo forward in the mold of Josh Smith, while White is a 6'8 270 point forward who plays like a poor man's LeBron. They're big, athletic and skilled, and while they aren't great jump-shooters, they're playmakers who could fit well with the Mavericks older team.
However, the position I'll be watching closest is shooting guard. It's been a need in Dallas since Michael Finley left town, and this is the best crop of 2 guards to enter the league in a very long time. As you mentioned, Bradley Beal has received most of the hype, but the player I'm hoping slips to 17 is Terrence Ross. He's got legitimate All-Star talent; he just slipped under the radar playing on a Washington team hamstrung by poor play from their PG position.
Ross could also slip because of the three other highly touted SG's likely to go early (Beal, Jeremy Lamb, Dion Waiters) as well as Austin Rivers, whose received a fair share of hype for A) playing at Duke B) being Doc Rivers son and C) hitting a step-back 3 over Tyler Zeller. However, he's a shoot-first 6'4 guard without a clear defensive position, and I'm glad Dallas won't have him on the clock.
To me, the fall-back at the position is Will Barton (Memphis). He's crazy skinny (6'6 175) but he's super-long, athletic and he did everything for the Tigers last year -- scoring, passing, defending, rebounding and shooting. He improved his jumper by leaps and bounds from his freshman year, and if he can keep hitting from deep, he's going to be a very good player in the NBA for a long time.
I know, by most of the mocks out there, that Barton would be considered a "reach" at 17, but the draft consensus, as you mentioned, is as much a product of groupthink as opposed to actually evaluating the talent on hand. I was talking to one of the "bigger" names on the sports blogosphere about Barton and he just kind of briskly brushed him as an "AAU player". First off, what does that even mean considering 99% of top American prospects learned the game in the AAU circuit? It's just the kind of thing people say when they don't actually want to take the time to watch the games.
Which brings us the two biggest enigmas in this class -- Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller out of Baylor. Even a few days before the draft, there position is very fluid and no one really knows where they are going. They've both got extremely intriguing combinations of size, athleticism and skill but neither was able to translate their tools into a dominant season for the Bears.
However, I'd submit that was as much a product of Scott Drew's "coaching style" than anything Jones and Miller can or can't do on a basketball court. How would you feel if Dallas picked up either player at 17? And from a local perspective, what does it say about Drew that Rick Barnes could get Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton selected higher in 2011 than their Baylor counterparts in 2012? I can guarantee this is the type of thing that could come up a lot in the living rooms of high school prospects.
Check back tomorrow for a different perspective on Baylor's prospects as we wrap our pre-draft conversation.