DALLAS -- With an eye on collecting young talent, the Dallas Mavericks craftily turned one pick and seldom-used guard Kelenna Azubuike into three players during Thursday's NBA Draft.
The Mavericks used the No. 17th pick to draft North Carolina center Tyler Zeller. Then, a few minutes later the Mavs traded Zeller's draft rights and Azubuike to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 24th, 33rd and 34th picks.
With those draft choices, the Mavs turned around and selected Oregon State shooting guard Jared Cunningham, Florida State center Bernard James and Marquette small forward Jae Crowder.
Dallas also used the 55th pick in the draft to select Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom, but traded his draft rights to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash.
The 6-foot-4, 294-pound Cunningham played his college basketball for coach Craig Robinson, who is the brother-in-law of President Barack Obama. Cunningham, who averaged 17.9 points and shot 45 percent from the field last season for the Beavers, was compared by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle to Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook.
"That's a lot to put on a guy," Carlisle said. "He's good now and he's got a chance to get better and better and better, and we're excited about it.
"He's a 6-4 playmaking guard, excellent defender, premier-type athletic and a playmaker; a guy we feel that can make plays at both ends of the floor."
In short, the Mavs believe Cunningham's upside is tremendous,
"The way the game is being played now ...you've got to have dynamic playmakers," Carlisle said. "Cunningham was a guy that everybody in the league knew about. He's a name that isn't a household name around here. We feel he's good and has a chance to be exceptionally good. He does work extremely hard and he loves to play."
James, meanwhile, received rousing chants of "USA!, USA!, USA!" from the crowd at the draft -- as if to pay homage to the time he served in the United States Air Force. James, 27, served three tours of duty for a total of six years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar.
After returning from the war, James (6-10, 240) played two seasons at Florida State and led the Seminoles to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances. He also averaged 10.8 points and 8.1 rebounds this past season while guiding Florida State to its first ACC championship.
"I got a chance to talk to him on the phone and he seems like a terrific kid," Carlisle said. "We feel he's a guy that can protect the paint."
Jae Crowder comes to the Mavericks after being named the Big East player of the year. The 6-6, 225-pounder averaged 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds this past season, and also shot 49.8 percent from the field.
Crowder, who turns 22 on July 6, also was the Junior College player of the year in the 2009-10 season when he played for Howard College.
Dallas' picks completed a whirlwind day for the Mavericks, who also have a major three-team trade on the table that they hope will be consummated. A deal is on the table that will send forward Lamar Odom to the Los Angeles Clippers, with the Clips shipping point guard Mo Williams to the Utah Jazz.
The Mavericks, in turn, would get an $8.5 million trade exception from the Jazz. However, Williams hasn't informed the Clippers if he will opt out of his contract, and he has until Saturday to make that decision.
As far as the draft goes, the Mavericks believe they got the quality pieces they wanted.
"It's exciting," general manager Donnie Nelson said. "It's going to be a really exciting summer league for us. We're looking forward to getting these guys to Dallas as soon as possible."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760