With the future of the franchise on the line NBA teams use the draft to evaluate both short and long term needs. These draft picks help compliment current players and give fans insight into the organization's plans for the future. Here are some ideas as to what the Texas teams might do in Thursday's draft.
Dallas Mavericks. Draft 9th overall
Mavs need to build around Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes. Their top priority should be a point guard and there are a lot of point guards in the draft. Here are a couple point guards likely to be available at #9:
Dennis Smith (NC State, ACC)
Strengths: Scorer, athleticism and frame, play making ability.
Dennis Smith reminds me of Kyle Lowry, but with explosive athletic ability. He has a near 50 inch vertical, a quick first step and has already filled out his frame make Smith a highlight reel player. He has a score first mentality. Very dangerous in the open floor, able to shift gears around defenders and getting to the basket. In the half court setting he can play the pick and roll well while showing the ability to knock down the 3 or get to the rim and draw contact to go to the line.
Weaknesses: Length, polish as a point guard, consistency
Smith needs to work on his overall feel for the game. His instincts as a point guard and making "the right play" in certain situations. He suffers from tunnel vision sometimes, settles for floaters or other tough shots instead of staying to his strengths of getting to the line and using his athletic ability. Defensively Smith needs to work on all around consistency and focus. His average wingspan at 6'3" brings the question of his ability to guard other positions.
Frank Ntilikina (Strasbourg, Pro-A France)
Strengths: Length, upside, defense, size
Ntilikina is an 18 year old playing in the french league. He did not play much for his professional team, but he showed out at U18 tournaments against his peers, putting him in consideration for being a top 10 pick. Ntilikina probably raised scouts eye brows the first time they saw him. Listed at 6'5" Ntilikina has a solid frame and a reported 7' wingspan. While his length isn't official, you can see his arms are long. Frank is not even 19 yet, but has a pro body NBA strength and conditioning coaches can work with. The combination of physical tools and his young age make Ntilikina a good project to take on.
Weakness: Experience, NBA ready?
Ntilikina is very much a work in progress. He looks the part, but can he play right away at the NBA level? While Ntilkina brings unique physical tools he might not be as talented as a basketball player in the way teams would expect a top 10 pick to be. Given the amount of point guards in the draft it is possible that someone as raw and unknown as Ntilikina could slide out of the lottery.
San Antonio Spurs. Draft 29th overall
The Spurs tend to draft at the back end of the first round and are known for "steals" or "Never heard of him" types of players. There doesn't appear to be a middle ground in the Spurs draft picks. The trick to the steal is to simply go after the best talent available. The secret to the "Never heard of him" guy is that the Spurs tend to let that draft pick stay overseas to develop. After all, Europe is the highest level of minor leagues for basketball and demand raw talent to develop fundamental skills and IQ for the game. Perfect for the Spurs in some cases. There is no telling who might be left in the draft pool at 29, but it is likely the Spurs draft a big man. The wings projected to be available after 20 might not be fits for the Spurs. There will be a lot of quality talent in the second half of the first round for big men though. Here are a couple options for the Spurs at 29:
Anzejs Pasecniks (Grand Canaria, ACB-Spain)
Strengths: Size, mobility, experience
Pasecniks is part of the Latvian take over. At 7'3" Pasecniks possesses unique size and mobility. He moves very well, making him a lob target when he can find space to gather around the rim. He is a pick and roll player with good hands and the IQ to react to the defense. His combination of size and mobility also make him a good rebounder with potential to protect the rim. He had a very solid season with Spanish ACB team Grand Canaria, quietly sneaking his way higher in mock drafts.
Weakness: NBA defense, shooting
While Pasecniks is solid on the offensive side of the pick and roll, he might not quite be ready for the NBA's pick and roll on the defensive side of the ball. While he does move well for his size there remains questions on his ability to defend a more athletic pick and roll combination. He might struggle with the stretch fours of the NBA with the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive past him. Pasecniks is also not a shooter. The 3-point shot is not in his arsenal, despite shooting 58% from behind the 3-point line he is very selective with his opportunities.
Isaiah Hartenstein (Zalgiris, Lithuania)
Strengths: Size, rebounding, defensive instincts, agility for size
Hartenstein is a classic defensive big man. He can move well and has size to play the 5 in the NBA at 7' 250 lbs. He has strong instincts on the defensive side of the ball doing everything you want a big man to do on that end statistically. He can block shots, grab rebounds and come up with loose balls. He might not be able to be an effective defender switching on pick and rolls, but he can play drives to the basket fairly well.
Weaknesses: Half court offense
Outside of offensive rebounding and running the floor Hartenstein has limited offensive skills. He needs to work on his all around offense. His shooting form is in need of a drastic improvement and his touch at the NBA level will take him to develop. He is a solid athlete, but not particularly explosive.
Houston Rockets. Draft 43rd and 45th overall
The Rockets do not have their first round pick this year because of the Lou Williams trade so the Lakers will draft 28th. This works out okay for the Rockets because there should still be some solid role player potential players available around 43 and 45. If anything maybe they can package those two picks for a pick in the 30s. It's hard to speculate who will be left in the draft pool in the 40s, but the Rockets would probably draft the best available in their minds. The Rockets might want a scoring point guard that has 3-point shooting potential, a 3 and D wing or an athletic big man.
Devin Robinson (Florida, ACC)
Strengths: Possibly best athlete in the draft, NBA size, shooting, defensive minded
Devin Robinson is a physical specimen. He's 6'8" with a 7' wingspan. He maxed his vertical at the combine with a 41.5" leap and impressed in the movement drills too. He shot 39% from three in his junior year last season at Florida. He has the size and offensive skill to play small ball four and would fit perfectly on the perimeter to space the floor for James Harden while also having plenty of opportunities to show off his athletic ability in transition.
Weaknesses: Creating own offense, frail frame for age
Robinson isn't an isolation player and you probably can't count on him to score if you give him the ball on the wing at the NBA level. He has a solid frame, but he is light at 190 pounds, limiting his ability to play the four in some match ups. Regardless, Robinson is a true 3 and D. He is projected to be available in the 40s and someone is going to get a steal. Houston would be perfect for him, but don't count out OKC reaching for him seeing as how Billy Donovan recruited him.