Johnathan Motley was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, a second-team All-American and won the Karl Malone Award for power forward of the year last year in his junior season at Baylor.
So it was something of a shock when he didn’t get selected in the NBA Draft on June 22, even after tearing the meniscus in his left knee in Baylor’s season-ending loss to South Carolina in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
“The last month or so, didn’t start off too good,” Motley said. “Not getting drafted, that was a tough night, because I expected to be drafted. I’m just thankful the Mavs gave me a chance after the injury.”
Now the Dallas Mavericks are looking to perform a little more undrafted rookie magic with Motley, after turning both guard Yogi Ferrell and forward Dorian Finney-Smith into regulars last season. Even though Motley is still on the mend, the early returns appear promising.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Mavericks coaching staff had been careful with Motley’s minutes until the fifth game of the Orlando NBA Summer League, when he went off for 18 points and 10 rebounds, including a leaning game-winner from 14 feet with 0.3 seconds left in overtime against Detroit on Thursday.
“I’m not 100 percent yet, but putting up a few numbers gave me a great deal of confidence,” Motley said.
The 6-foot-10 big man from Houston did his best work above the rim while at Baylor, averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in his junior season. He said he’s looking, not only to Ferrell and Finney-Smith on how to break through as an undrafted free agent, but to Dirk Nowitzki on the type of player he eventually wants to become.
“Being able to do a lot of different things on the court,” Motley said. “Being able to switch on pick and rolls, finish at the rim and knock down the open jumper. I think the way Dirk plays outside, maybe one day I can take that kind of role on.”
If that is going to happen, though, it’ll take no small amount of development on his part. Motley needs to extend his jump shot in order for his game to translate into one of the prototypical stretch-4’s NBA teams constantly search for. He hit just over 27 percent of his 3-point attempts last year at Baylor.
The Mavericks signed Motley to a two-way contract earlier this week, which further points to his need for development. Under the two-way deal, Motley will play primarily for the NBA Gatorade League’s Texas Legends.
The NBA allow two-way contracts for the first time this year, for players with no more than four years of NBA experience. These players earn a minor-league paycheck when they play with the G-League affiliate and the NBA minimum daily rate when with the big club. Players who sign a two-way deal cannot be on the team’s NBA roster for more than 45 days of the season.