The Dallas Mavericks will in all likelihood have the ninth pick in the NBA Draft soon; how strong is the case for drafting Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen?
The NBA Draft Lottery is coming up next week and the draft itself isn’t far behind, and Dallas Mavericks fans are excited about it for the first time in a while. Dallas has infamously squandered many first round picks in recent history; however, they have never had as good a pick as this year and also never needed it so badly.
Many speculate that the Mavs will take a point guard, which is music to MFFLs ears. This draft is very deep at the point guard position with multiple franchise altering players available. However, point guard is also a position which many teams need in the lottery, and there are no guarantees on draft day. If the likes of De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr., or Frank Ntilikina are available, then I wouldn’t attempt to justify Lauri Markkanen as a selection, but should the top PGs go early, there are worse options.
Markkanen has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki often, and the idea makes sense. He is only 20 years old and stands at 7 foot – 225 lbs. The Finnish Sniper is a superb shooter with NBA range and has a good handle and athleticism for his size. He shot 42.3% from deep and averaged 15.6 points per game with the Arizona Wildcats. I personally am not super high on Markkanen as a prospect, although I understand the logic of his appeal. Here are three reasons why drafting him makes sense.
The Rookie and the Vet
As Dirk Nowitzki enters his 20th season at 39 years old, we can only wonder when Nowitzki will meet the inevitable cliff. When healthy, he is still one of the best stretch 4s in the NBA and does wonders for floor spacing, but the key there is when healthy. Dirk missed significant time last season with an achilles injury, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have his minutes see a reduction.
Therein lies the reasoning for drafting Markkanen, who could play heavy minutes at PF allowing Dirk adequate rest. His skill set is similar and he could give a similar lift to the team that Nowitzki provides.
Harrison Barnes Can Return to His Natural Position
For the large majority of last season Harrison Barnes played power forward, giving the Mavericks great floor spacing and letting Barnes attack mismatches with bigger less fleet-footed 4s. Some Mavs fans want him to remain at the small ball 4 position, while I rather think he and the Mavs could benefit from his sliding up to the 3.
Barnes has all the skill required to play small forward and then some, and this would also give him more post up opportunities with smaller defenders. HB admitted during the season that playing against bigs and banging down low for rebounding position tired him significantly during games and wore out his legs, which effected his shooting. If he saw more time at SF next season, then not only would his legs be fresher, but Dallas’ rebounding numbers would likely improve.
Drafting Markkanen would allow for him and Dirk to eat up the large majority of 4 minutes, with Dwight Powell or Barnes filling in for small stretches.
Familiarity and Fit
This is perhaps the best reason for drafting Markkanen. Many teams may speculate how to use Markkanen, given his weak defensive prowess, average rebounding capabilities, yet unicorn like skill-size combination. His unique skill set may scare some teams away while Dallas in contrast has plenty of experience in this arena.
No coach has spent more time game planning for 7 foot shooters than Rick Carlisle, and he knows how to utilize their strengths and hide their weaknesses. Having this type of player would allow for the post-Dirk era to feel the same as these past two decades, even if it’s not quite as successful.
The Dallas Mavericks will likely have many directions in which they could go with their draft pick, and Lauri Markkanen is just one of those options. Whichever route the Mavs decide to take, I’m just glad to be looking forward to the draft this year.