DALLAS — With the NBA Draft set for 6 p.m. Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks are debating whether to keep their first-round draft pick or trade it so they can clear more precious salary cap space.That final decision might not be made until draft day, when the Mavericks have the No. 13 overall selection in what promises to be a deep draft.Ryan Blake, the senior director of NBA scouting operations, believes if the Mavericks keep their pick and reach out for point guard help in the draft, they’ll choose between Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum or Miami’s Shane Larkin.Blake said: “If someone like a McCollum is there — and I don’t see him there, but if that falls on their doorstep, I would not hesitate to get him.”Blake compares McCollum to Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who was this season’s NBA rookie of the year.“At Lehigh, [McCollum] had to play the combo guard,“ Blake said. “It was a good team, but he wasn’t surrounded by All-Americans. But he was able to make everybody better.“He was able to separate himself, run the pick-and-roll, find space and hold the dribble — which is important. He has a great handle, he’s a good defender and he shot over 50 percent from behind the [3-point] arc.”McCollum, though, is likely to be long gone by the time the Mavericks select.“He knows how to play,” Blake said. “With that mentality coming in, he can come off the bench as your lead guard right away and then earn those minutes quickly.“Then he can become, not just a go-to guy, but a focal point and maybe somebody to build around. Sort of like a Lillard.”Besides McCollum, Blake believes the Mavericks, or some other team, will be able to draft a steal in Larkin. The 6-foot, 171-pounder averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range this past season for the Hurricanes. He’s the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.“If you’re looking at point guards, Larkin has really grown on me because he’s undersized and he plays bigger,” Blake said. “He tested the best at our combines.“He’s so quick, he’s a very cerebral player. He has a high IQ and he can really separate and score and pass.”Blake also believes Carter-Williams would fit in well with a Mavericks organization that’s high on big point guards.“Michael Carter-Williams, at 6-6, can really see over people and I think he’ll become a better defender,” Blake said. “I hope to see him become a better shooter.”Noel updateSo why isn’t Nerlens Noel a lock to become the No. 1 overall pick Thursday?Injuries. And his physique.Noel broke the left growth plate in his knee in high school. Then, in his only season of college basketball at Kentucky this past season, he tore the left anterior cruciate ligament.While Noel has used his 6-foot-10 height to become a terrific defender and shot-blocker, he weighs less (206 pounds) than a lot of guards in this draft.Also, Noel has yet to develop a dependable offensive move, which could make him a liability on the offensive end of the court.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice