August 20, 2022

NBA Draft, June 23.

Here’s your chance to get to know the best prospects. Today we look at the great men.

Strange as it may seem, the Mavericks have a first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 draft.

It seems for a few years that all their asset projects have been returned, mainly in the 2019 trade for Kristaps Porzingis. And they were.

But it’s an even number year and while last year’s pick went to the Knicks and next year’s pick (most likely) will end up in the hands of New York, the Mavericks are lucky to have the 26e overall pick in the first round of this year.

It’s a roll of the dice, that’s for sure. The draft is two weeks away from Thursday and he’s got some good talent, although when you’re picking this far there’s a better chance than if you’re in the top 10 where only a few teams have the ability to sabotage your strategy draft picking the player you thought was there for you.

For example, the Mavericks have a clear need in the middle. They lacked size and rebound, deficiencies that were exploited in the playoffs. They need a more traditional big man who can augment their small lineups which were usually quite effective.

However, as general manager Nico Harrison said when asked if he could find a big impact man in the draft or if he should go through free agency: “There are definitely (some big strong men) in the draft. But when you look at our position where we are, we don’t control who we hire. There are 25 people ahead of us. And so, we will have done our homework. But we do not control. Maybe this (player) is 24, you know? So when you’re 26, I don’t think you control your own destiny.

With the 26e choosing, going with the best player available is usually a smart game. But if all things are equal, the Mavericks would likely lean toward a big man.

Knowing that, we’ll begin our draft streak with a breakdown of the top big men who will be in the draft on June 23. We’ll follow that up with a look at swingmen and point guards next week, then break down who might be available to the Mavericks when they pick.

First, the top 10 great men:

Jabari Smith, 6-10, freshman at Auburn.

It’s entirely possible that the top three picks in this draft are big men. At least, big in today’s NBA sense. At 220 pounds, he still qualifies as a big man these days. To get a sense of his NBA readiness, watch his five March games at Auburn, when the stakes were highest. He averaged 19 points and 10.8 rebounds in those five games. These are numbers that would make any team happy and their play should translate well to the next level. He would make Orlando and coach Jamahl Mosley very happy. Think John Collins or Rashard Lewis, depending on some mo

Chet Holmgren, 7-0, Gonzaga rookie.

It ticks a lot of boxes. Even as lean as he is, he finds his way to be a great rebounder and with a 7-6 wingspan he is a phenomenal shot blocker, or as he is called these days, a rim protector. Anyone dominating a freshman like him (14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks) has the ability to step up and contribute in a big way. If his shot can stretch to NBA distance without slipping too much, he’s going to be a filler — and a great fit at OKC.

Paolo Banchero, 6-10, freshman Duke.

Son of former NBA player Rhonda Smith-Banchero, he is a rare combination of size and offensive skill. He’s not necessarily a standout shooter, which will likely keep him from making the top two. But he was truly consistent for the Blue Devils, scoring 16 or more points in 10 of their last 11 games and also averaging 3.6 assists per game in the NCAA Tournament. Too many advantages to get too picky about certain holes in his game.

Jalen Duren, 6-11, freshman at Memphis.

He has a lot of untapped potential and was pretty good in his freshman year in college, averaging 12 points and 8.1 rebounds, as well as 2.1 blocks. He certainly has the physical tools to intervene directly at the NBA level. To show how much he can still improve, he won’t be 19 until after matchday one of the 2022-23 season. A strike against him is that he doesn’t think he’s a long-range shooter.

Keegan Murray, 6-8, sophomore from Iowa.

Averaged better than 23 points last season, but he’s not broke defensively. In fact, his length and defensive awareness are perhaps even better lures to NBA talent scouts than his considerable offensive ability. It is effective for this purpose. And his 3-point shot is more than honorable. He’s clearly below Banchero, Holmgren and Smith, but he’ll be 22 at the start of next season and may be more ready for the NBA from a maturity standpoint than the rest.

Jeremy Sochan, 6-9, freshman at Baylor.

He was the Bears’ sixth man, but he still put up numbers with a high drive and a tendency to go big when the stakes rose. In the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament games he appeared in, he averaged 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, including 15 points and 11 rebounds against North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Mark Williams, 7-2, sophomore Duke.

He should be a low post force at both ends of the NBA. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a national block leader. Also has a good flair for offensive rebounds and contributing second chance points for himself or teammates. Made over 72% of his shots as a sophomore. His sister went to Duke, was the WNBA’s fourth overall pick in 2015, and is a standout in this league.

Ismael Kamagate, 7-0, France.

We go into players who could be there if the Mavericks keep their 26e overall choice. The previous seven numbers were dropped from the board in the mid-20s. Kamagate projects as a traditional low post player. He’s not a 3-point pitcher. He has the girth of the NBA and is aggressive around the rim with good jumps. He’s not a particularly strong rebounder so far in his career, and he’ll be closing in on 22 when the NBA season opens. It could still take time to blossom.

EJ Liddell, 6-7, Ohio State junior.

At around 240 pounds, he will be an undersized power forward, at least in terms of size. But he has definitely improved his 3-point shooting in his three years in college and he has Draymond Green in him in that he is a competitive defender and also a better ball handler. And he’s always been there as he’s scored in double digits in the last 43 games he’s played for the Buckeyes.

Walker Kessler, 7-1, second-year Auburn.

Stepped up as a sophomore after being traded from North Carolina to the talent-laden Auburn team. He averaged 4.6 blocks to go along with 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. He’s athletic enough to land a pair of triple-doubles last season, the only middle schooler to have more than one. Included was a 12-point, 12-block, 11-rebound effort against Texas A&M. His father, the late Alec Kessler, was a first-round pick in 1990.

Also in the mix: Jaylin Williams, Arkansas; Christian Koloko, Ariz.; Dominick Barlow, Elite Overtime League; John Butler, Florida State, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Twitter: @ESefko