Last night, the Dallas Mavericks wound up with an 8th man and two d-league players after twice passing on a home-grown lottery talent with all-star potential.
After Perry Jones III's free fall through the first round delivered him to the Mavs at 17, they traded the pick for 3 picks at 24, 33 and 34 -- not a bad collection. At the time, there were 4 guys who were mid-first round talents they could get with the picks: Perry Jones, Doron Lamb, Festus Ezeli and Quincy Miller (in that order). They wound up with Jared Cunningham (a taller Roddy B that rose late in the draft process but who could have been had at 34), a late-second to undrafted center in Bernard James and a 6'4" power forward with no athleticism in Jae Crowder. To top it all off, the best player a Dallas pick was used on (Darius Johnson-Odom) went to another team at 55. It was an unacceptable and disgraceful display of talent evaluation; people get put in homes for less egregious failures in judgment.
I don't want to linger on how much was lost when the Mavs' brain trust decided an undersized 2-guard with no shot was a superior option to a T-Mac level athlete with inside-outside skills, but I will do so briefly. Perry Jones is a potential all-star 3 if he can tighten his handle. A monster athlete with a shot, he can get to the rim and finish there as well as shoot it from outside. He's too quick for guys his size and too big for guys as quick as him. He's a match-up nightmare with as much talent as anyone in the draft outside of Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis.
To be fair, Cunningham is a rotation player at the next level. Will he ever be a starter? It's actually possible. But to take him at 24 when he'd certainly have been available at 33 is unforgivable -- especially with a rare talent like Jones on the board, not to mention the other potential starting caliber players still available.
Now, on to the players the Mavericks actually selected. Cunningham is not total garbage, and is therefore the one redeeming asset the Mavericks will take from the draft. He has incredible speed, attacks the basket well and has the potential to play lock-down defense. On the downside, he's not a great shooter or decision-maker when the basketball is in his hands. Nevertheless, there is potential to grow there.
Next was Bernard James, aka that guy who flunked out of high school before joining the armed forces and getting his life together; or the 27-year old 70th or so best player in the draft. I actually liked this guy more than most "gurus" coming out, but I liked him to make a team, not contribute. Don't get me wrong, I'm like everyone else and I love a good story. But not when that story will develop in the D-league and gets an under talented player labeled a "character guy" who goes 30 spots to high than he should to my hometown team. He's a good athlete and is fairly long, but there's no offense there. He's Ian Mahinmi really, and while that's not that bad, it would be an understatement to say we could have done better.
Finally we drafted Jae Crowder -- the Predator's shorter, unathletic younger brother. When trying to draw the interest of the best point guard in basketball and appease your all-world power forward, it's probably best not to flaunt your ignorance by drafting a 6'4" power forward with as little lift as Jared Sullinger. I couldn't hate this pick more. This guy will play less than 50 NBA games (generous). You know what positive things analysts conjured up to say about this guy? He plays really hard. Wow. That got 6'8" Eduardo Najera a solid 4 and 4 a game -- and that's because he could NBA rebound. Jae Crowder cannot do anything at an NBA level. Not a thing. If I were advising him, I'd suggest running a few 40s and trying his luck as a tight end. In all seriousness, he probably doesn't even shoot well enough to play in high-level Euro leagues. He's a point forward with no athleticism, an average set/jump shot and a shaky handle. But he is really swole, so that's cool ...
Looking at the picks, I can't find any sort of rationale for what Dallas did. There were elite scorers who were dead-eye shooters (Doron Lamb), gifted athletes with skill (Perry Jones), and quality two-way big men (Ezeli). In the end they got none of those things. They got a rotation player and two guys who will spend the bulk of their careers toiling in the minor leagues hoping for an opportunity to make a Brian Cardinal impact on the big squad.
The bottom line is the Mavericks entered the night with a real opportunity to upgrade their talent level. They failed to do so. Miserably. The consequences are both immediate and far-reaching. The team didn't help their present or their future. Perhaps more importantly, they didn't avail themselves to any free agent looking to see if the Mavericks could accumulate the talent needed to compete in a meaningful way. If you're a Mavs fan, it was a major blown opportunity and perhaps a night to remember as the franchise embarks on a new chapter.