As time goes on, fans forget the play-by-play aspects of individual games and players that they were once keen on, and instead focus on the current season and players. When this happens, history often gets re-written, causing false narratives to form about previous players and teams.
As I’ve made apparent, I thoroughly enjoy re-evaluating former players and seeing how they would fit with the current team that they once played for. I did this for DeJuan Blair, in case you missed it. With that, I’d like to evaluate this season for history sake, in order to prove if a future article by myself or an outlandish comment about a player was revisionist.
Dallas Mavericks season
The Mavericks went 24-58, but the games were often close. The Mavericks were dead last in close games last year, winning just 20.8% of close games. The Mavericks also ranked 17th in 3 point percentage, 23rd in offensive rating, and 18th in defensive rating. The big move for the year was trading Devin Harris to Denver and receiving Doug McDermott and what turned into the 54th pick- which then turned into Raymond Spalding & Kostas Antetokounmpo.
At the start of the year, one of the narratives was about how many big men were on the training camp and opening day roster. Remember Jeff Withey and Josh McRoberts? Remember the preseason all star Gian Clavell?
Dennis Smith Jr:
The rookie point guard had a lot of growing pains, but was encouraged to fight through them and improve his game by being thrown into the fire from game 1. His very first NBA play was an alley-oop vs Atlanta, which became one of the most entertaining plays throughout the season. His jump shot was an issue, but he showed flashes of being able to pull up and make defenders pay for defending the drive. His quick first step got him nice looks at the basket, but he wasn’t able to finish effectively. Finishing at the rim will be a major breakthrough for his career going forward. Defensively, he had a decent start, but as the season progressed, it proved to be more of a fluke than the norm. His short wingspan hurt him, as well as his mild defensive IQ. Things are looking up for Smith, and he was on the all-rookie team, but his numbers were made by fighting through growing pains and being given many chances in a season that was seen as a tank-job.
The leading player in steals per game for Dallas, Wes Matthews was still an effective 3&D with his highest 3P% as a Maverick. While his defense hasn’t been the same as it was in Portland since joining Dallas after the Achilles injury, he still has been the Mavericks’ defensive anchor for most of his time on the court- something that will greatly help him and DeAndre Jordan in 2018-19. One reason Matthews improved was due to him taking less 2 point attempts, and focusing on less dribbles and more spot up shooting.
One drastic change from the 2016-17 season to the 2017-18 season with Barnes was his isolation plays. In his first season as a Maverick, Barnes would frequently start a faceup on the baseline mid range and either do a quick jumper or work his post game. In 2017-18, Barnes focused more on his 3 point shooting, and less on his mid range/faceup game. He took 2 less 2 point shots per game and 1.5 more 3 point shots per game in the 2018 season than he did in the 2016-17 season. At this point of his career, Barnes is one of the most popular Mavericks, only behind Dirk and DSJ. The question surrounding Barnes for the 2019 season is how much he can sustain his scoring output on a winning team, and if he can be a top 3 player on a winning team.
Dirk is still a legend and people feared that the 2017-18 season would be his last. 2018-19 will likely be so, but no one has been surprised with his production and efficiency over the last few years despite his age, and the same will be said about his 2019 season. The question heading into the season is will he start or will he be the 6th man? I lean towards him being the 6th man and the starting five being Dennis Smith-Wesley Matthews-Luka Doncic-Harrison Barnes-DeAndre Jordan.
Powell took a big step forward in 2018, going from a guy perceived as a bad contract and overpaid to a player that many within the organization and the fans want to keep for a long time. Carlisle went back to drawing up more P&R opportunities for Powell like he had done in 2015-16 and the start of 2016-17, and diverted from attempting to convert him into a stretch 4. Powell started 25 games, many of which came after the all star break. While he likely won’t be a starter with DeAndre Jordan on the roster, it was a major season of growth for Powell, and his contract now looks like good value.
While Yogi is now a Sacramento King after initially agreeing to a deal with Dallas, Ferrell should still be well-liked going forward in Dallas, as he turned into a 10-day star to a quality backup on a top 10 bench in the NBA. The expectation for him going forward was to be the JJ Barea replacement- that title now belongs to rookie Jalen Brunson. One area that I often found myself criticizing Ferrell for was his lack of a clutch gene. He and Wesley Matthews both have had terrible reputations with Dallas for missing or taking bad shots in clutch situations. The one that sticks out the most to me was from a game I attended, which was against Philadelphia in October when he drew a shooting foul with less than one second left and needed to hit both free throws to tie. At that point, Yogi had missed one or two free throws in the first 10 days of the season. Instead, he missed the first one, costing the Mavericks the game. However, the most useless substitution occurred in that game seconds after the miss: Salah Mejri checking in for the first time in the game for less than one second of playing time.
With the lovely previous introduction to the Mej, let’s discuss his on-and-off season. Mejri barely got meaningful preseason minutes, leading to speculation that he may get cut and not make the roster. Instead, he had inconsistent playing time to start the year, but then became a very effective backup big in his limited minutes. He played a large role in defeating the Wizards in early November with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks in 25 minutes. Mejri finished with the second best net rating on the team with +20, only behind Dwight Powell (+22). Sadly, both local and national media only ever discussed Mejri when it was about his on-court antics of often being in the middle of confrontations.
Barea had arguably his best year of his career in 2017-18, and became even more of a fan favorite. A unique situation that he had was being a great backup on a bad team, which is usually a recipe for a trade candidate in February. Many fans were split about potentially giving him up and moving towards an even stronger youth movement, but the Mavs have clearly decided to stick with the long time fan favorite.
Dorian Finney-Smith missed most of the season with tendinitis, leading to potential danger in roster security. He was still a solid defender, but must improve on becoming a spot up shooter in order to have a long term career in the NBA.
Maxi was brought in being marketed as ‘the other guy from Dirk’s hometown’, but became much more than that. While the phrase “sneaky athlete” is cliche, Kleber fits the mold. He had quite a few blocks and dunks that displayed surprising athleticism to both the fans and his opponents. One area where he could improve upon is his 3 point shooting. The Mavs occasionally ran pick & pops for him, but his 31% 3 point shooting did him few favors.
McDermott was one of the best shooters I had seen in a Maverick uniform in his 26 games as a Maverick. He came off screens beautifully, and his high basketball IQ combined with sharpshooting were perfectly used by Carlisle, and his game complimented the rest of the roster. McDermott would have been a great fit with Doncic and Smith beside him for a full season.
Without a doubt the most controversial player of the Mavericks’ season, Noel was simply underwhelming. He appeared to be underweight and consistently lost on defense. The game that was the icing on the cake was early on versus Utah when he was constantly out of position and making lazy plays & defying his role defensively. Poor defense combined with the thumb injury and hot dog incident, Noel’s season with Dallas was objectively seen as a massive failure.
Efficiency hasn’t been the theme for Harris’ time with Dallas, but Harris has almost always passed the eye test with Dallas. He shot the three ball well and was able to play and guard 3 positions. His cuts with JJ Barea were arguably the best play the Mavs ran throughout the season. He’s a fan favorite off the court, and is mostly well-liked on the court due to his mentorship, work ethic, and close knit relationship with the organization. The only aspect that was disliked about Harris’ game was playing time that took away from younger players’ minutes at times.
Collinsworth is pretty unknown to many Mavs fans, but the ones that do know him liked his hustle and work ethic. He isn’t flashy in any area, but he made a lot of smart, simple plays. Jump shooting was a glaring weakness for Collinsworth this season.
Other players with limited time as a Maverick
- Aaron Harrison was a poor jump shooter, but was a leading factor in getting a top 5 pick in 2018. He was given plenty of chances to show he belongs in the NBA at the end of the season, which played a role in key losses down the stretch for the Mavericks’ final games.
- Antonius Cleveland was an above average defender whose best play was blocking Kawhi Leonard. He was let go shortly after, causing some disgust in fans.
- Jonathan Motley was the premier two-way player for Dallas in 2017-18. He was playing his first year coming off of a knee injury in college that held him back in the summer. In his 11 NBA games, he displayed a solid faceup game and good rebounding, but wasn’t a strong defender. Motley was traded to the Clippers in July, which upset many fans who expected to see him jump into the rotation consistently in 2019.