Barely enough time to soak in the NBA championship, Donnie Nelson and the Dallas Mavericks are focused on the future this week with three days of draft workouts.
The Mavs will bring in six prospects each day leading into Thursday's NBA Draft. Dallas is slated to pick 26th. Last year the Mavs did not have a first-round pick, but paid $3 million to purchase the 25th pick from the Memphis Grizzlies, selecting combo guard Dominique Jones. As we saw with Jones, the 26th pick likely will have a better chance to make an impact on the D-League Texas Legends than with the defending champs.
So, who can the Mavs expect to fall their way?
Let's cross one player off that list: Kenneth Faried, the touted, 6-foot-8 power forward from Morehead State. He has popped up as an automatic selection if he were to fall that far, but the Mavs don't expect him to land in their lap and he is not expected to be among those working out this week.
Two players that are expected to make their way to the American Airlines Center are 6-10, 225-pound, senior power forward Justin Harper out of Richmond (17.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg last season) and 6-8 sophomore small/power forward Tyler Honeycutt (12.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg) out of UCLA.
Today's group of prospects include a majority of power forwards. Small forwards will make their way to the AAC on Tuesday and shooting guards are slated for workouts on Wednesday. Each day will include a couple of point guards.
Dallas also has an eye on a handful of international players -- who the Mavs survey overseas -- and depending on what happens in free agency (does J.J. Barea stay or go?), Nick Calathes, a 2009 second-round Mavs pick, a big point/shooting guard at 6-5, could be an option. He's been playing in Greece and has another year left on his deal.
As an older team, the Mavs are looking to get younger in several areas. Start with a backup for Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs relied on small forward Shawn Marion to move to the 4 when Nowitzki rested. They'd love to develop a bigger body with offensive upside (Harper and Honeycutt could fit that bill).
Dallas also needs to get younger at the wing. They acquired Corey Brewer late in the season, but he had a hard time getting off the bench. Considering Peja Stojakovic likely won't be back, a niche could open for the springy, 6-9 Brewer (of course, re-signing Caron Butler could move Marion back to the bench, causing a logjam in front of Brewer).
The Mavs' aging backcourt is another area that needs a jolt of youth. Jason Kidd will be entering the last year of his contract (whether it will be his final NBA season at age 39 is another discussion) and Jason Terry will turn 34 in September. Barea's future with the Mavs is up in the air. He could be scooped up in free agency, and Rodrigue Beaubois is clearly not ready to back up Kidd at the point. Even his readiness to start at shooting guard next season is uncertain.
Now, what about a trade?
Never discount that option. The Mavs have the summer of 2012 in their sights when Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams can become free agents. To be a player, Dallas must trim payroll (a new collective bargaining agreement will determine just how much). What if the Mavs can entice a team with a package that includes the 26th pick and backup center Brendan Haywood (owed $34.8 million over next four seasons)?
However, without a salary structure in place for next season, trades could become far more complicated.