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Mavs After NBA Draft: Christian Wood & Jaden Hardy - Moves Up

Amped-up arrivals, All-Star neglect, draft gambles, Texit and surviving a Spartan, all in this week's DFW notebook.

 WHITT’S END: 6.24.22

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …

*Hook ’Em, indeed. Just when we were impressed by the University of Texas landing the Class of 2021’s No. 1 overall college football prospect, it up and snags No. 1 in 2023 as well. Talk about an embarrassment of riches in Austin, the Longhorns’ quarterback depth chart a year from today will be – in some order – Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning. When Texas enters the SEC in 2025, safe to say it will boast the conference’s best quarterback.

Got me to thinking about the most exciting all-time acquisitions among our DFW teams. Not necessarily the best players, but the ones whose arrival sold tickets, amped pulses and skyrocketed expectations.

For the Dallas Cowboys, it’s tricky. The No. 1 overall drafting of Troy Aikman in 1989 was certain to turn the franchise around. But the free-agent signing of Deion Sanders in 1995 created more buzz, because the Cowboys – who had won two of the previous three Super Bowls – were acquiring the best defensive player in the NFL, and one who helped prevent them from winning the title the previous season as a member of the 49ers.

For the Texas Rangers, it’s simple. Well, sort of. I know it’s blasphemous in these parts to not kowtow to Nolan Ryan, but his free-agent signing in 1988 paled in excitement to the inking of Japanese sensation Yu Darvish in 2012. While Ryan brought an intense individual spotlight to a woebegone team (same as Alex Rodriguez in 2000), Darvish was an unknown ace – cherished by every team – added to a squad only a year removed from consecutive World Series trips.

For the Dallas Mavericks, is it a cop-out to levy a three-way tie? The same hype created by the drafting of Luka Doncic in 2018 was present – if not more so – by the arrival of Jason Kidd as the No. 2 overall pick in 1994. The acquisition of Dirk Nowitzki in 1998 generated quite a stir, but more so in curiosity about an unheralded teenager rather than the coming of a star that would lead the team to a title.

*Mavs took the last player left in the green room in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, one loaded with potential … and flaws. 

Jaden Hardy was a McDonald’s High School All-American before playing in the G League, where he was turnover-prone and not at all an efficient shooter (35 percent, including only 27 percent from 3-point range). But he has unique athletic skills that the Mavs sorely lack, namely the ability to create his own shot. For all the good they did in getting to the Western Conference Finals, Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock were merely catch-and-shoot guys unable to make plays off the dribble. 

Will the 6-4 Hardy produce that? 

Likely not next year. Maybe not ever. But he’s worth the gamble of second-round draft picks in 2024 and 2028, given to the Kings in order to jump into the draft at No. 37 overall. More creative scorer than pure shooter, Hardy was a five-star recruit in Nevada seemingly headed to Kentucky or UCLA before COVID and then a decision to skip college. 

Bottom line on the Mavs 2022 draft: Christian Wood and Jaden Hardy, in exchange for Wendell Moore Jr. (26th pick to the Rockets in Wood deal), Boban Marjonic, Sterling Brown, Marquese Chriss, Trey Burke and two picks. 

Mavs saying Hardy was ranked No. 19 on their draft board. I’m good with that.

*Sorry, Rangers, but appears your rally to within shouting distance of .500 isn’t exactly capturing the imagination of Major League Baseball. In the first release of All-Star voting, no Ranger is in the Top 5 at any position. The best three: Corey Seager (seventh at shortstop), Jonah Heim (ninth at catcher) and Marcus Semien (10th at second base). Surely Martin Perez and his league-leading starts and shutouts will get the call.

*I know Amari Cooper’s departure will create an opportunity for other Cowboys’ receiving options, but some “experts” think in 2022 their leading receiver will be … a running back?

*Painful gas prices notwithstanding, the last year is an unequivocal winner when you consider how DFW sports teams fared against hated Philadelphia. How about a cool little 7-1? The Cowboys went 2-0 against the Eagles, Rangers 4-0 against the Phillies and Mavs 1-1 against the Sixers.

*Sometimes the line between survival and success is blurred by sweat. Right, me? After carrying a 65-pound sandbag to the top of AT&T Stadium, I'll never look at the Cowboys home the same again.

*Hot.

*Not.

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*Longhorns never like losing to Aggies, but I’m willing to bet Texas fans are happier about landing Manning than they were sad about their baseball team suffering a season-ending defeat to Texas A&M at this week’s College World Series. In fact, they would’ve made that trade.

*The Rangers are the best at something this season. They lead all of baseball with 59 stolen bases.

*I think we’re underrating the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. Why? These MLB hitters never had an 8-RBI game: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols. These MLB pitchers never had a 13-strikeout game: Lefty Grove, Catfish Hunter, Jack Morris and Tom Glavine. Ohtani accomplished both … on consecutive days.

*I was at the Mavs game April 8 when a 15-year-old girl left American Airlines Center with an unidentified man and was later found in Oklahoma as a victim of sex trafficking. Scary. Horrible. The parents spoke recently and warned parents that “this could happen to anyone, any time.” Well … Tucked in the story was this troubling line. “Kyle and Brooke said their daughter has a history of leaving home without their permission.” 

Um, excuse me?! 

In no way does that justify a girl being abducted. But does kinda harpoon the “this all impossibly happened out of the blue” narrative.

*For my money, best Mavs all-time draft pick was Dirk. No-brainer. Doesn’t really matter the position, if you draft a player that wins a championship, MVP, Finals MVP and stays with your organization for a record 21 seasons, that’s your standard. (And yes, I know about the draft/trade technicality.) 

The worst pick? Samaki Walker in 1996. 

Needing a power presence to supplement The Three Js (Kidd, Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn), the Mavs took the Louisville power forward with the ninth overall pick. Walker played only three years in Dallas, but produced a 10-year career punctuated by starting 63 games on the Lakers’ championship team in ’02. Drafted after Walker: Peja Stojakovic (15th), Steve Nash (14th) and a guy named Kobe Bryant (13th).

*John’s Café, here I come. A restaurant that’s survived 50 years must be cookin’ something right.

*Random prediction: Everson Walls will make the Pro Football Hall of Fame before he makes the Cowboys Ring of Honor. Didn’t say should, said will. Walls, a senior candidate for Canton in 2023, is fifth all-time with 57 NFL interceptions – as an undrafted free agent. He won a Super Bowl and played for four pretty decent coaches: Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. But Jimmy goes into Jerry Jones’ ROH before Everson.

*Movies I won’t see: One about Tiger Woods or Richard Williams. 

Movie I will see: Zac Efron starring in “The Iron Claw”, about the wrestling Von Erich family. Why? Because the Von Erich’s ruled in an era before the Internet and social media shined an educational spotlight onto and into their lives.

*From the Dept. of Second Chances: KaVontae Turpin, a former TCU receiver who has never been on an NFL team in large part because of a domestic violence conviction from 2019, is the Most Valuable Player of the USFL.

*Looking for the perfect gift for a die-hard Cowboys fan? Your search is over.

*I’m the first to criticize baseball for being boring, but what’s happening with all these dugout props ain’t the answer. Watched the CWS this week and saw teams nursing a giant can of Pringles as if it was an infant (Texas A&M), a choreographed peeling and eating of bananas while sporting porn-star mustaches (Notre Dame), and the presentation of a Halloween-esque severed rubber arm to a player who successfully executed a “sacrifice” (Stanford). If you need to fabricate bells and whistles to make your game entertaining, perhaps change the core of your game.

*If you’re a sky freak like me, you’ve looked up pre-dawn this week to see that bright star next to the waning crescent moon. That bee-yoot is Jupiter, and she’s that magnificent despite being 462 million miles from Earth. It’s also, by the way, 11 times larger than us.

*The NBA Draft is important and all, but the last time the Top 5 picks each went on to be All-Stars was … 1970.

*There’s a popular song called “Ferrari” by James Hype and Miggy Dela Rosa and I’m conflicted on whether to be impressed or insulted by the lyrics. The first five lines of the ditty somehow manage to “rhyme” the words: Honest. Body. Ferrari. Morning. Want me. While it’s God-awful songwriting, there’s something creative about making those words sound even somewhat similar.

*This Weekend? Friday let’s play some golf in Dallas. Saturday let’s hang out with Big Brother Big Sister lil’ bro Ja. Sunday let’s shrug at the sun while running and biking around White Rock Lake. As always, don’t be a stranger.