The pick was announced for the Detroit Pistons, but make no mistake, it was the Dallas Mavericks who were smitten by former Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby.
“Let’s just say we got the same exact thing we were looking for,” Donnie Nelson, Mavericks president of basketball operations, said in a press conference Thursday night.
The Mavericks snagged Roby with the 45th pick — breaking Nebraska’s 20-year NBA draft drought — thanks to a draft-night trade with the Pistons. The Mavericks gave up the No. 37 pick for the No. 45 spot and two future second-rounders. That deal cannot be completed in the NBA offices until sometime next week, Nelson said, and therefore the Mavericks can’t talk about Roby explicitly until then.
But they can give heavy nods and winks.
“We’re happy. We’re elated,” Nelson said. “It was a really good night for us. You guys are going to have to connect the dots.”
Roby worked out for the Mavericks recently, and clearly the Mavs liked what they saw.
What Roby is joining is a franchise in rebuild mode.
Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki announced in April his retirement after 21 seasons. The 41-year-old had been a Mavs staple for decades, bringing the city an NBA Finals win over the Miami Heat in 2011, when he was named Finals MVP. He finished his career as the sixth all-time leading scorer in the NBA.
Nowitzki’s replacement will be 23-year-old Kristaps Porzingis — a 7-foot-3 Latvian star who was traded from the New York Knicks to Dallas in January. Porzingis last played in the 2017-18 season, when he averaged 22.7 points and 6.6 rebounds and shot 39.5% from 3-point range. He’s been out with an ACL tear. Paired with Porzingis is Luka Doncic, the 20-year-old who took the NBA by storm last season as a rookie, averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game. Doncic was named to the NBA All-Rookie first team.
The Mavs went 33-49 last season, missing the playoffs.
So where does Roby fit in?
Dallas has a handful of players around Roby’s height and weight, about 6-8 and 215 pounds. Justin Jackson, a four-year player at North Carolina, is 6-8 and 210 pounds. Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6-8, 220-pounder from Florida, is in his third year. Dallas acquired Jackson midway through the season, and he started 11 of the final 29 games. Finney-Smith played in 81 games last season, all with Dallas. Both played about 20 minutes per game.
This is where Roby would theoretically come in. Battling with Jackson and Finney-Smith for playing time, while trying to guard 6-7, 218-pound Doncic at practice. Roby’s been hailed by NBA scouts in recent months for his defensive prowess. If he can shoot consistently, he could make his way onto the floor.
Dallas is looking for a solid rotation and has been for a while. It hasn’t made the NBA playoffs since the 2015-16 season. So on a young, unproven roster, Roby will be given a chance to steal minutes on a team that values a long shooter who can defend, like Jackson and Finney-Smith.
That is, should Roby impress during summer league and make it to the roster for training camp. That starts July 5.