As the NBA draft approaches on June 26, ESPN Dallas will examine the draft through the Dallas Mavericks’ perspective this week.
Mock drafts will be and analyzed as the days count down to the draft. Intrigue will stir as names are linked to teams. For the Mavs, there isn’t a lot to really examine, as the second round really just provides whatever is left, with potential for some gems to slip through the cracks.
While there is intrigue with the unknown within the draft, the Mavs have their own intrigue coming off the heels of last year’s draft.
An injury derailed Larkin’s rookie campaign, as he suffered a broken ankle during the last practice before the Mavs flew to Las Vegas for summer league games. When he was healthy, Larkin was stuck in relative limbo. The Mavs were dealing with the waiting game, as Devin Harris was still on the shelf due to his toe surgery. That means they had to rely on Larkin and fellow rookie Gal Mekel to log heavy backup minutes.
Mekel suffered a knee injury in January, putting him on the shelf for the remainder of the season.
As Harris returned, the Mavs had to keep Larkin in the mix during that stretch because they couldn’t afford to send Larkin to their D-League affiliate in Frisco, Texas, leaving themselves with two pure point guards on the active roster. He was stuck in the middle, but he performed well when he could.
Once Harris made his season debut, Larkin spent most of his time at the end of the bench. He did get assigned to the Texas Legends, for whom he averaged 15.3 points and added 8.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 35.8 minutes per game over four games in Frisco.
Ledo, on the other hand, might as well have had his mail forwarded to Frisco, as he spent the majority of his rookie season there. He was seen as a major project due to the fact he had gone more than a year out of organized basketball because he was declared ineligible at Providence last season. That didn’t dissuade the Mavs from making a healthy commitment to the high-potential project.
The 6-foot-7 swingman earned $60,000 more than the minimum in his first season, and the Mavs guaranteed the first two years of the deal (almost $1.4 million), which is not required for second-round picks. While it is a substantial investment in what essentially amounted to a lottery ticket, this kind of transaction isn’t unheard of.
The Houston Rockets drafted Chandler Parsons with the 38th pick in 2011 and signed him to a four-year deal that guaranteed Houston could keep him with a salary under $1 million in each of those four seasons. In essence, contracts like these give teams control over cheap second-rounders for an unusually long time.
Ledo displayed the ability to shoot with range, get inside the lane and facilitate once he got to the rim. That’s ideally what you want from your combination shooting guard/small forward. The problem is he didn’t show the ability to do those things at a consistently high level in Frisco. On top of that, his relatively thin frame could get swallowed up at the NBA level. These are setbacks right now, but time is still clearly on his side, as he’ll be only 22 when the 2014-15 season begins.
Larkin and Ledo will move into their second season with a better understanding of what they need to do to improve as players. That’s about where the line of better understanding ends. The Mavs will once again likely go through an overhaul of their roster, creating doubt in regard to what roles either guard will have going forward.
Speed kills, and Larkin has that in spades. He can definitely change the tempo for Dallas, but he’ll continue to be limited in playing time if the Mavs plan on re-signing Harris.
Ledo has youth, athleticism and could fit a spark-plug role off the bench like Harris did last season if things go right, but there are still plenty of players ahead of him on the depth chart. While Shawn Marion and Vince Carter are free agents, Dallas still has players such as Jae Crowder and Wayne Ellington ahead of him. If they don’t bring back the forwards, they will surely be replaced, thus creating more of a logjam for Ledo.
As fresh faces are potentially added to the mix on draft night — coming with roles of uncertainty — they’ll be joining the two from last year’s draft, who are trying to find roles of their own. It remains to be seen if the future for Larkin and Ledo will become the present with opportunity.