Age is a virtue for Mavs' draft prospects

Potential won’t help the Mavericks accomplish their mission of pulling off an instant rebuilding job.

They need their lottery pick to be prepared to be a significant contributor immediately. That makes age a virtue for Mavs draft prospects.

In the warped modern-day NBA culture, a player who spends three or four years in college is often looked at cross ways. Why wasn’t this guy good enough to be one-and-done or at least two-and-through?

That isn’t how the Mavs’ front office is approaching this draft, though. They don’t want to use the 13th overall pick, assuming they don’t luck out in the lottery, on a project to develop during Dirk Nowitzki’s golden years. They need a player who can be plugged into the rotation right away.

“There’s more known to taking a guy that’s a little bit older,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said on a recent appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Galloway and Company,” pointing to second-round pick Jae Crowder’s success as a rookie after spending four years in college. “If you had your druthers, rather than take a younger guy that’s going to take more time to develop, taking seniors or taking guys that are a little bit older certainly has its place.”

That could make a pair of prospects particularly intriguing for the Mavs: Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum and Louisville center Gorgui Dieng.

McCollum, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior, is a scorer with the ability to penetrate who developed into a good long-distance shooter during his college career. The question is whether he can make the transition from college shooting guard to NBA point guard that Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook pulled off so successfully, not to say he’s that caliber of player.

If he’s solely a shooting guard, McCollum could still fit well with the Mavs, particularly if O.J. Mayo doesn’t return to Dallas. The Mavs had a lot of success over the years with Jason Terry playing the 2 and running the pick-and-pop with Nowitzki. McCollum’s skill set is certainly suited to take advantage of the attention paid to Nowitzki on those plays.

Another thing to like about the 21-year-old McCollum: He’s shown that he’s not intimidated by big stages. He lit up Duke for 30 points, six rebounds and six assists in an NCAA tourney upset last year.

Dieng is also a proven big-game performer, as evidenced by his eight-point, eight-rebound, six-assist, three-block outing in Louisville’s win over Michigan in the national championship game.

The biggest knocks on Dieng: He’s already 23 years old and isn’t much of a threat to score.

However, the 6-foot-11, 235-pound Dieng does have attributes that have proven to work next to Dirk. He’s a long, athletic, intelligent defensive-minded big man with excellent intangibles, much like Tyson Chandler. His Joakim Noah-esque passing skills are a bonus.

McCollum and Dieng don’t project to be NBA stars. But they do appear ready to be quality role players right away, and they just happen to play positions that are major needs for the Mavs.