In a topsy-turvy day directed at clearing salary cap space in hopes of landing one or more of the league’s top free agents this summer, the Dallas Mavericks made two major trades in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft and wound up with polished point guard Shane Larkin.
Earlier in the night, the Mavs used the 13th pick to draft Gonzaga power forward Kelly Olynyk and then traded him to the Boston Celtics for the No. 16 selection and two future second-round picks. The Celtics then drafted Brazil center Lucas Nogueira, who invariably became property of the Mavs.
But Nogueira quickly became trade bait as the Mavs shipped his rights, second-round point guard Jared Cunningham and their second-round pick (No. 44) to Atlanta for the No. 18 pick, which the Hawks used to draft Larkin.
It remains to be seen whether the Mavs keep Larkin, who played two seasons for the Miami Hurricanes and is the son of former pro baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin.
This past season Shane Larkin (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) led the Hurricanes to the NCAA Sweet 16. A first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference and second-team All-American pick, Larkin averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists per game.
What’s more, Larkin was heralded as the best point guard at the Chicago combines.
“If you’re looking at point guards, Larkin has really grown on me because he’s undersized and he plays bigger,” said Ryan Blake, the senior director of NBA scouting operations. “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.”
Larkin joins a Mavs squad that was in desperate need of a solid point guard after it went through a series of inconsistent playmakers this past season that included Darren Collison, Derek Fisher, Mikes James, Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois.
The addition of Larkin could pay dividends for the Mavs, who missed the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2000.
“One year out of the playoffs to me is already one year too many,” said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who won a championship with the Mavs in 2011. “It’s been a tough two years right after we won it. Being patient in sports is tough, especially at my age. I just turned 35 and I’d love to compete at the highest level for the last couple of years.”
Before trading for Larkin, the Mavs had their hands on Nogueira, a 7-foot, 240-pounder from Brazil. Nogueira, 20, has a 7-foot-6 wingspan and could have filled the need the Mavs had for a rim protector had they kept him.
Nowitzki, meanwhile, just wanted the Mavs to secure someone who could help them get back in the playoffs and back in the championship picture. For the first time, Nowitzki was even stationed in the Mavs’ war room during the draft.
“It’s not like I watch enough college to really make educated decisions here,” Nowitzki said. “Our scouts and obviously our coaches have been preparing for this day since after the season. I didn’t watch enough college basketball to really have an insight on some of these guys. I only know a few players honestly. I watched March Madness, but that’s about as far as my college hoops and my insights go.”
If they keep this pick, the Mavs are just hoping Larkin is the long-lost point guard they’ve been searching for since Jason Kidd bolted for the New York Knicks last summer during free agency.