The structure of a NBA roster is always fluid, especially when it’s absent a bonafide superstar. The Mavericks are a prime example of just how fast things change as their lone championship arose from a Hodge-Podge of NBA veterans.
Having surpassed the mid-way point of the season the direction of the club is taking shape, and instead of playoff hoops in April, it’s looking more like a fishing trip. Either way, here is your season run down.
The Mavericks began the season with a promising 15-11 record but have fizzled out as the season progressed. December 29th was the last time the team was above .500. It’s been a rough one, to say the least.
Dennis Smith Jr., 12.9 PPG, 4.0 AST, 2.8 REBS, 1.3 STL
The initial season outlook was beyond bright for the 2017-2018 1st Team All Rookie guard. Last season he established himself as a potential go to player as he dominated the ball most possessions. Adding Luka Doncic this year has significantly diminished Dennis’s ability to dominate off the dribble. Having missed 18 of the played 49 games, DSJ put many MFFL’s in an awkward position when the business of the NBA became apparent. The way Smith handled the harsh reality of becoming trade material brought much deserved criticism; however, Smith has been active and engaged of late.
In his three game return, Smith has averaged 16 points, five assists, and 4.6 rebounds, resulting in two Maverick wins. There’s no doubt this season has been surprising for everyone involved, but the NBA world moves on regardless. DSJ will be tasked with dramatically improving his game if he is wanting to remove himself from the trade bait universe. He has to undoubtedly prove he is the point guard of the future.
Smith Jr. has provided countless jaw dropping moments and we have to hope they continue as he participates in his second NBA Slam Dunk Contest in just two weeks.
NOW & LATER
Without question, the most head scratching players of the season have been Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes. In their three seasons together they have established a familiar tandem that can now be fittingly coined “Now & Later” in reference to when they will be moved for more attractive pieces. With the duo making up two of the top three paid players on the team, it’s fair to expect improved production from these positions. This explains why many Maverick fans want more.
Wesley Matthews, 13.3 PPG, 2.4 REBS, 2.4 AST
Wes, the prototypical 3&D player and team Iron Man, always seems to find himself on the wrong end of plays – especially in crunch time. The underwhelming guard has made no significant changes in his on court output aiding in the building scrutiny. In early October, Wesley once again found himself confused and searching for answers. The untimely foul of Lebron James cost the Mavs a dub versus the Lakers and its just been downhill ever since.
Matthews production has dropped but his effort and professionalism have remained stellar and crucial to his value. Despite the constant chatter, Wesley shows up to work ready to display the effort all fans should appreciate. Even though most are hoping to land a better player in his place.
I mean, that’s fair, right?
Harrison Barnes, 17.6 PP, 4.2 REBS, 1.2 AST, 39.5% 3PT FG
Harrison Barnes, on the other hand, has been a model of consistency if the position is that of a role player. His salary, however, suggests All-Star like production that has been missing.
Barnes shows each night that he is a superior talent but time and time again he disappears during clutch moments, only producing 3.9 points in 4th quarter action this season. A prime example of this was Sunday night versus the title contending Raptors. Barnes bricked not one but two crucial free throws with 1:20 remaining in regulation. Granted, the potential makes wouldn’t have guaranteed victory, the buckets proved crucial as the Mavs lost 123 to 120.
Instances such as these validate the narrative that Harrison is at his most salable right now. Considering his professionalism and relative potential as a high level role player his services should be in high demand. Finding a suitor for the underachieving swing man will be difficult as he is due $25 Million with a player option next season.
Luka Doncic, 20.5 PPG, 6.9 REB, 5.4 AST
This season’s clear cut Rookie of the Year is, without question, the team’s most talented player, Luka Doncic.
With each game, the Mavericks MVP is entering one name recognition territory. A surplus of highlights have made Luka one of the many must-see players in the league. He continues creating new ways to amaze the basketball world. Sunday he became just the 7th player in NBA history to record a 35 point triple-double in his rookie season. Take a look at the list below, provided by basketballreference.com:
Finding yourself on any historical list with Michael Jordan is by far a career achievement, especially when you’re a basketball junkie like Doncic. The two time Rookie of the Month continues to mount accolades at a pace only comparable to NBA greats.
It’s never smart to apply unnecessary pressure to such a young player, but due to his previous professional experience it’s logical to assume Luka is built for this. The fact that he has battled for championships in Europe gives most MFFL’s hope regarding the young rookies talent. There are plenty more episodes of Luka “Magic” to come.
It is never easy saying good bye. The memories and trust built between fans and the team is central to a successful product. Without the continued support of the fans the team would never reach it full potential. MFFL’s must understand Dirk has earned the right to leave the game on his own terms. Although witnessing him morph into the teams version of “Rudy” hasn’t been easy, it’s necessary. On a nightly basis, the crowd hysterically cheers the marginal achievements of a player with over 30k career points. It’s down right heartbreaking, but this is what Dirk wants.
Enjoying the opportunity to relish these moments as they are slowly coming to an end has to be a desire of Dirk’s. Fellow Dallas Sports Nation writer, Chris Frasier, outlined the outpouring of support for the big German in his piece properly named “Dirk’s Impromptu Farewell Tour”.
It’s always been easy to root for Dirk. He’s a genuine and hardworking athlete that has worked for every reward given to him but the journey isn’t quite over. Nowitzki, recently accepted a position in the Rising Stars Challenge coaching the World Team All Star Weekend, joining teammate Luka Doncic. This privilege will be followed up by his sixth and final appearance in the Three Point Contest, having won the event in 2006. There is no greater Maverick than the former league MVP and the tour is well deserved. Thanks Dirk!
The peaks and valleys of an NBA season are as unpredictable as a dice role. The Mavericks have exploited this thesis to an almost confusing degree. A fan base once spoiled with championship aspirations has grown tired of losing and is ready to take the next step towards a playoff/ championship future. The draft, trades, and free agent signings will be a part of this club’s rebuilding path, but before getting started, don’t forget to properly salute the past and its many achievements. It’s simply the classy thing to do.
Photo: Glen James/ NBAE via Getty Images *featured Stats: NBA.com BasketballReference.com