Now that the Mavs no longer have to act like the Washington Generals, and the worst they can do in the lottery is sixth, it's time to consider their good fortune. Which is a funny epitaph for a 24-win season.
Straight up: If the Mavs should get really lucky with the ping pong balls and end up No. 1, it's a no-brainer. Arizona's center, DeAndre Ayton, is the best pro in the draft, if you believe NBA scouts and the FBI.
Just the same, the Mavs' 12.1 percent chances of going first don't exactly inspire confidence. Doesn't seem like Mark Cuban's kind of karma lately.
The consensus second pick is the Euro, Luka Doncic. Terrific basketball IQ. A kid already excelling at the highest level outside the NBA.
If the Mavs drafted Doncic, they'd get a guy who could facilitate a shift to the new NBA. Not real athletic, though. And the Mavs would still be the Mavs.
What Rick Carlisle needs is a player who might actually change the direction of the franchise, not to mention a few shots. Marvin Bagley III is a polished big man, and Jaren Jackson Jr. – shot blocker and 3-point shooter – has Fran Fraschilla's vote.
But if you ask me – and that's why you're reading this, right? – the Mavs gotta gamble a little here. No safe bets. A team that hasn't demonstrated much acumen for attracting stars needs to develop them. And that means they need the player with the highest ceiling.
They need a player who could kiss the ceiling.
Mo Bamba, come on down.
Now I know what you're thinking: Bamba? Really? Shouldn't they take a guy who's eaten first? Give him a pulley and a flag and you're ready for Memorial Day.
Put aside your skinny jokes and check out a unique skill set. The man has a 7-foot-9 wingspan. When he stands flat-footed and reaches above his head, he comes up only six inches short of the rim. It's like putting J.J. Barea on Yogi Ferrell's shoulders, only without the squealing. Sure, Bamba only weighs 225. He has the frame to add more. Besides, this isn't Shaquille O'Neal's basketball, back when he used Ralph Sampson to floss his teeth. Ask Dwight Howard what it's been like since they pulled the lane out from under him.
And don't bring up any Shawn Bradley analogies, either. Bamba has a high basketball IQ, runs well, can shoot a little, and he redirects more objects in flight than an air traffic controller.
The weaknesses? Didn't show a great motor in high school or college, which is, indeed, troublesome. Could get pushed around a little, even in the new NBA. Also have to worry if he can stay healthy.
But the comparisons with Utah's Rudy Gobert should make you think about the possibilities, especially when you hear what Quin Snyder recently said about his French center.
"It's like building a house," the Jazz coach told reporters. "You have to have a foundation. And he's that foundation for our group.
"When you have that foundation, it allows everybody else to suddenly grow and get better."
The Mavs need someone who can raise the level of play around him simply by his presence. The beauty of a great rim protector is that he not only affects the man in front of him, he erases the mistakes of teammates.
BTW: Have you seen Bamba block shots? He looks like he's in the driveway denying his children's prayers. Hardly leaves his feet. This is a critical trait, because some shot-blockers – Jackson, in particular – tend to get in foul trouble for being so aggressive.
The book on Bamba is that, bottom line, he'd be a terrific defensive center if you can keep him on the floor. You remember those types, right? We were reminded the other night when a visitor interrupted Dirk Nowitzki's exit interview. After Tyson Chandler snapped a couple of candids, he embraced Dirk, who didn't want to let go.
Unlike Chandler, Bamba has an upside on offense, too. His 3-point form ain't bad. And can you imagine Dennis Smith Jr. working the pick and roll with a player of Bamba's reach?
Some scouts think Bamba would be the perfect fit for Carlisle's scheme. He's not a quick fix. He might not have DSJ's rookie impact, but there's nothing wrong with that. Big men are slower to develop. First you've got to find them.
Anyway, consider this my official recommendation. Good at least until my next one. Lotta columns left before the draft, pal.