Dallas Mavericks: Meyers Leonard
The Mavs initially picked Tyler Zeller (center, North Carolina) with the 17th overall pick, but quickly traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the 24th, 33rd and 34th picks in the draft.
One of the Mavs' targets, Arnett Moultrie (forward, Mississippi State) was on the board, but Dallas went with the combo guard. ESPN.com Insider Chad Ford wrote in his June 25 scouting report that Cunningham could be the best sleeper in this year's draft.
Here's a quick look at Cunningham's resume:
Cunningham led the Pac-12 in steals as a junior and sophomore. ... He was an All-Pac-12 First team selection as a junior and All-Pac-12 second team as a sophomore. ... He was a two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive and All-Tournament Team selection. ... He concluded his career 13th all-time in scoring (1,271), second in steals (219), third in free throws made (427) and fifth in free throws attempted (566) at Oregon State. ... He averaged 17.9 points as a junior, the second-best in the Pac-12. ... He ranked ninth nationally in steals. ... He tied Gary Payton and Lester Conner for for the second-most steals in a single season (91) in Oregon State history.
Cunningham is ranked 32nd in Chad Ford's top 100. Click here to read Ford's analysis (insider).
The Mavs had a few potential players go off the board before they could pick at 17th. Terrence Ross (guard, Washington) was drafted eighth overall by the Toronto Raptors, Meyers Leonard (center, Illinois) 11th overall by the Portland Trailblazers, Kendall Marshall (guard, North Carolina) 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns and Royce White (forward, Iowa State) 16th overall by the Houston Rockets.
After making the trade with Cleveland, the Mavs missed out on Terrence Jones (forward, Kentucky, picked 18th by Houston), Andrew Nicholson (forward, St. Bonaventure, picked 19th by Orlando) and Fab Melo (center, Syracuse, picked 22nd by Boston).
The Mavs left Perry Jones III (forward, Baylor) and Quincy Miller (forward, Baylor) on the board.
So maybe the back-to- back first-round selections of centers Bill Wennington and Uwe Blab didn't go as planned way back in 1985.
Long before Mark Cuban arrived on the scene, the Mavs' draft history -- any history -- with centers has been mostly forgettable. As the summer begins to heat up with the draft next week and free agency opening days later, Dallas' center position is up in the air and potentially in dire need of reinforcement.
With Tyson Chandler long gone, Brendan Haywood an amnesty candidate (particularly if Deron Williams signs) and Ian Mahinmi heading to free agency, adding size in the middle will be critical to any chance to contend next season. Not that a rookie will put this team over the top, but an athletic big man that can provide rim protection and even score a bit around the basket couldn't hurt the cause.
Here's a look at our next draft prospect:
School: Illinois (2 years)
2011-12 stats: 13.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Why he would fit: One the Mavs' top needs is size in the paint to protect the rim -- as the Oklahoma City Thunder greatly exposed in the first round -- and rebound. Leonard, unlike some big men drafted by Dallas over the years, is not a lead-foot and he could prove to be a strong complement alongside Dirk Nowitzki, not unlike Chandler.
Why he wouldn't fit: He could well be snapped up earlier in the draft. Buzz is surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 12 pick after they traded Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors.
Chad Ford's thumbs up, thumbs down: Up -- Long, athletic big man ... Runs the floor well ... Quick for a big guy ... Solid scorer around the basket ... Very good defensive presence in the post ... Good rebounder and shot blocker. Down -- A raw offensive player ... Needs more focus and concentration ... Needs to add strength.
Coop's comment: Not sure if he’s going to be available to Dallas at 17 as he seems to have made the biggest move post-combine. There’s a lot of Tyson Chandler in his game. He’s a legit 7-1 that can run the floor, has a nice touch and is a very good roller in the pick-and-roll game. Obviously he’s raw, much more so than Tyler Zeller, but if you’re willing to wait on him, he might wind up being the better of the two.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky
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