As the Mavs are under a month from training camp, it’s worth looking at some storylines to follow as we get a glimpse at how the season will go for the Mavs.
DeAndre FINALLY to Dallas
It seems as though most Mavs fans have made their peace with DeAndre joining team he scorned just 3 summers ago, but we’ve yet to hear from the man himself other than an emoji of a smiley face with a cowboy hat. As the biggest free agent signing the Mavs have had in recent memory, you can bet that there will be a good deal of attention on Media Day and through camp on DeAndre. There is next to a 0% chance he gets out of answering the question, “What happened?” or “What do you have to say to fans?” As I said, it seems like the die-hard fans understand what he can bring to the team, but the casual fan needs a real reason to forgive a guy they boo’d every time he touched the ball for the past few years.
DeAndre is a fun-loving goof that will win over fans with highlight reel material and an attitude that is going to fit right in with in-game entertainment, but it will go a lot smoother if he handles his re-introduction to Mavs Nation the right way. It’s worth paying attention to not only his response to the question, but how your friends react to his answer as well.
Luka & Dennis: Match Made in Heaven?
The Mavs have made it clear that Luka is the future of this team. And it seems like they would very much like it to be side by side with Dennis, but summer league gave us exactly ZERO minutes of the two together to see how it might work. On paper, their skill sets are rather complimentary with the major hiccup being that they both work best with the ball in their hand. Does it work as it should on paper? If so, HOW does it work? Is Luka the distributor with Dennis playing more off the ball as a slasher? Is Dennis the ball handling point guard and Luka the second option? Is it a time share like James Harden and Chris Paul down in Houston?
With all the hype surrounding Luka and his potential “Rookie of the Year” campaign, you can bet that every step will be analyzed and his ability to adapt his game to not only the NBA but also his back court mate will be under scrutiny. If those two can gel quickly, the Mavs are in for a very fun season, but if it takes them a few months to figure out their roles in relation to each other, it might be a longer one.
Is this Dirk’s Last Season?
Dirk has been asked this question for the past 5 years, so we know he is adept at dodging this question with his stock answers of “We’ll see how my body feels” and “As long as I’m still enjoying playing”, but this year does feel different. For one, Dirk only signed a 1 year deal rather than the one year and team option deal he has signed the past few years. Secondly, it seems more and more likely that Dirk might come off the bench this year, for the first time since his rookie season. These items say Dirk might treat the lines of questioning a little differently this training camp.
Dirk has stated he doesn’t want a Kobe-esque fairwell tour, so I’m sure he won’t come out and say “this is it”, but it’s worth paying attention to his attitude towards the idea changing and whether or not he’s already made up his mind at all.
Barnes’ Role Changes
Harrison Barnes has been as consistent of a player as you can really ask of your leading scorer in his first 2 seasons here. He has thrived in ISO touches, especially around the elbow and in the midrange, but that was almost by necessity. He was the best player on bad teams, so he HAD to work in isolation to get his team every possible bucket. This year, the entire starting lineup is young and fast enough to truly enact the flow offense Carlisle wants to run, which should allow Barnes to use his athleticism that really has been overlooked in his time in Dallas.
The only hiccup to this situation is that Luka can play 1-4 and Barnes slots well at both the 3 and the 4, so there will be a “feeling out” process as the two figure out how best to work in tandem together. The addition of Luka and how Carlisle chooses to maximize the new prized rookie’s skillset will dictate many things in preseason as well as the regular season, not least of which how Barnes will be utilized for the rest of his time here.
End of Bench Spots
This is a normal concern for Mavs training camp as the team regularly invites more players than it has roster spots and the front office has shown they are willing cut fully guaranteed contracts for players who get beaten out in camp. Currently, the Mavs have 20 players under contract (including 2 Two-Way players), but the MAX number of players allowed on a roster is 15 with 2 players on Two-Way contracts. That means that at least 3 players currently signed will either be designated for the G-League Legends OR they will be cut outright.
The smart money will probably see 2nd round draft pick, Ray Spalding, get sent to the G-League to develop his more raw talents before he gets called up next year to join his fellow draftees with more seasoning to his game. That leaves 2 players to be cut to finish out the roster with 3 players to compete for the single slot. I would keep an eye on G-League vet Jalen Jones, Chinese standout Ding Yanyuhang, and Wake-Forest training camp invite Cody Miller-McIntyre as they try to solidify their place on this team.
Training camp starts on Sept 21st, beginning with Mavs Media day to start the speculation and storylines a-brewing. That’s 22 days away. We’re in the home stretch before we get legit basketball back with the Mavs playing their first preseason game under their belt a short 8 days later at home against the Beijing Ducks on Sept 29th. We’re almost there. Go Mavs.