Draymond Green. Isaiah Thomas. Marc Gasol. Manu Ginobili. Outside of being extremely successful in the NBA, what do all of these players have in common?
They were all hidden gems found in the second round of the NBA draft. That’s what I believe Ray Spalding out of Louisville could be for the Dallas Mavericks.
Spalding, a 6-10 PF/C who is actually 21 despite telling Dennis Smith Jr. he was 20 as a joke, recently agreed to a 4-year rookie deal with the Mavs after being drafted 56th overall in the 2018 NBA draft by Dallas. His play at Louisville and especially at the 2018 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in the last few weeks impressed the Mavs enough to sign him to a full rookie deal. During his last year at Louisville, Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. In Vegas, he averaged 8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.0 steals, which is impressive given that he only played 17.0 minutes per game during Summer League
Fun Fact: Spalding chose 56 as his jersey number during Summer League because he was drafted 56th overall, and he uses that as motivation to prove all the teams that passed up on him wrong.
Spalding has a game that can fit very well in today’s NBA. He’s a big man that can roll well to the basket, finish at the rim through contact, put the ball on the floor, block shots, and knock down open three’s, which is becoming more of a necessity for big men these days. Spalding’s fundamentals seem to be very sound based on what we saw during Summer League.
Here’e a few things that stood out to me in Vegas:
- He has good instincts on the defensive end to be able to anticipate, contest, and block shots.
- He has a sweet shooting stroke that, to me, kind of resembles Joel Embiid’s form (might be getting ahead of myself comparing him to Embiid).
- He’s athletic and skilled enough in the pick and roll to finish tough layups and throw down lobs, which is a huge part of the Mavericks offense.
All of these skills are displayed here in this video by Youtube account “Mavs Fan.”
The Mavs aren’t too deep at their big man positions with Harrison Barnes and Deandre Jordan likely starting at PF and C, respectively. Behind them, the Mavs have Dwight Powell, who had a much improved season in 2018 becoming a reliable lob threat, and Salah Mejri, whose main impacts on the floor are his hustle and shot-blocking. The Mavs also have German forward Maxi Kleber, who showed some minimal flashes of potential last season and, now, Spalding looking to get playing time this season.
Personally, I was ecstatic that the Mavs decided to lock him up for four years, and I hope he ends up earning some quality minutes on the court this upcoming season. I believe that’s a strong possibility, since Spalding is a player that impacts the game in many different ways, which Rick Carlisle loves.
It’ll likely take some time for Spalding to get on the court consistently, though, because of the fact that Powell, Mejri, and Kleber have all played in the Mavs system for at least one season and have all played well at times for Dallas. However, in my opinion, Spalding has the most potential out of all of the backup big men on the roster, and with his young age aligning with Dennis Smith Jr. and first round pick Luka Doncic (who I am extremely excited about), this could be the beginning of a special trio for the Mavericks.