On Tuesday at the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery, the Dallas Mavericks’ 24-win campaign netted the franchise the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) May 16, 2018
Although the Mavericks will have to wait and see which of the draft’s top talent is still available after the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies each take a premier talent off the board, a franchise-changing prospect will surely still be available at No. 5 overall.
For the Mavs, that franchise-changer may come in the form of an elite frontcourt prospect, as Dallas is projected to draft former Texas Longhorns center Mohamed Bamba in Sporting News’ latest mock draft.
“Given Dirk Nowitzki is aging and Nerlens Noel doesn’t seem part of Dallas’ long-term future, the Mavericks using their top-five pick to lock down a frontcourt piece wouldn’t be a surprise,” Sporting News’ Chris Stone said. “Bamba is a raw prospect, but his potential as a rim protector and rim runner alongside Dennis Smith Jr. could give Dallas a nice one-two punch.”
“Bamba features a 7-9 wingspan and averaged 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes as a freshman. The offensive game is still a work in progress, though. He’ll need to find a defined role on that end to be successful.”
In a sense, selecting Bamba would be a win-win situation for the Mavericks.
At the least, the Harlem (N.Y.) native would provide Dallas with the rim-protecting presence that the franchise thought it was adding in Nerlens Noel, who has totaled just 46 blocked shots in 52 games since being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers last season. As Stone said, Bamba blocked 4.8 shots per 40 minutes during his lone season with the Longhorns, and more impressively, that effort could have been even higher had Bamba not battled through minor knee and toe injuries down the stretch.
On the other end of the court, Bamba’s offense has been widely regarded as his weakness, but there’s certainly upside to that end, as well.
Although consistency was an issue, Bamba did provide flashes of his shooting touch out to the perimeter, where he connected on 14 looks with the Longhorns. Per 40 minutes, Bamba averaged 17.1 points per game, which isn’t a world-beater effort, but it’s just shy of Joel Embiid’s 19.4 points per 40 at Kansas, which is who Bamba is aiming to mold his offensive game after.
If Dallas does by into Bamba’s upside and selects the 7-foot center with the No. 5 overall pick, it would make Bamba the first Big 12 player selected in the 2018 NBA Draft, as Sporting News projects former Oklahoma sharpshooter Trae Young to be selected one spot later by the Orlando Magic.