The Mavericks will miss the playoffs for the second straight season, but there is still a lot to gain from the next 40 plus days of basketball.
Let’s go through 5 storylines that may peak the interest of Mavericks fans.
The return of Nerlens Noel
Rick Carlisle confirmed yesterday that Nerlens Noel will be available to return to the Mavs lineup tonight at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Noel’s last appearance on the court for the Mavericks took place back on November 22nd in which he played just 4 minutes scoring 2 points.
Noel’s season got off to a rocky start before it even started. Back on July 1st the young big man reportedly rebuffed a contract offer from the Mavericks worth around $70 million. After reportedly seeking a maximum contract, the Mavericks pulled their original proposal which would have netted Noel around $17 million annually for four years. In result, Noel switched agents and opted to sign his $4.1 million qualifying offer with the team.
The 23-year old who is now represented by Rich Paul and Klutch Sports will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
So here we are, the Mavericks and Noel have 21 games to try to rectify what has become a very peculiar relationship. Will they get the Tyson Chandler Starter-Kit they once envisioned or the disinterested player who is already counting down the days until he has the opportunity to bolt from Dallas?
The emergence of Doug McDermott
The Mavericks acquired Doug McDermott from the New York Knicks as part of a three-team deal right before the trade deadline ended on February 8th. In obtaining McDermott, the team was forced to deal Devin Harris to Denver, with the Nuggets shipping young point guard Emmanuel Mudiay to the New York Knicks. The Mavericks also received a 2nd round pick in this year’s upcoming draft. The deal so far looks like a home run for all parties.
The Mavs President of Basketball Operations, Donnie Nelson told the media after the deadline passed, “Doug is a young guy that’s got really good upside.”
So far so good for the McDermott since joining the Mavericks. In 6 games with the team, the fourth-year forward is averaging 9.8 points in 22.5 minutes per game while shooting a blistering 54.5 percent from downtown. The 26-year old is living up to his “McBuckets” nickname, hitting 10 of 14 3’s in three games since the All-Star break.
Look for the Mavericks to start to rev McDermott’s minutes up so they can get an extensive look at what he can do in coach Carlisle’s system. McDermott is set to become a restricted free agent this summer — his play with the Mavs down the stretch will help dictate what kind of market he’ll attract come July.
The playing status of Dorian Finney-Smith
Will we see Dorian Finney-Smith on the court this season? The answer remains up in the air. The 24-year old second year wing is currently getting live practice in with the team. Carlisle told the media today, “It’s going to be weeks, a couple more weeks. We’ll see where we are the first or second week of March.”
This is disappointing news for Finney-Smith who has missed the majority of the season due to left knee quadriceps tendinitis. It’s no secret that the Mavericks are desperately searching for talent from the wing. Outside of Harrison Barnes, the Mavericks have very few wings on the roster. To try to combat the lack of depth, the Mavs recently signed 6-foot-7 swingman Scotty Hopson to a 10-day contract.
This season was set to be a crucial season for DFS’ development as a pro. He struggled his rookie year from the perimeter, shooting just 29.3 percent on 191 attempts from 3.
To tank, or not to tank, that is the question.
Ever since Mark Cuban was fined $600k by the league for his “losing is our best option” comments on Dr. J’s House Call Podcast, the Mavericks seem to be at odds with themselves on how they want to approach the final twenty or so games of the season.
The Mavericks weren’t planning on tanking to begin the season, but they knew it would be tough to make the playoffs with a rookie point guard. What got them in the position they are in now is the fact they struggle to close games. They’ve managed just nine wins in 38 “clutch games” — games decided by 5 or fewer points with under 5 minutes remaining in the game. They have a minus-33.5 net rating in clutch games which is absolutely absurd.
Dallas currently sits just 1 1/2 games back from the top lottery odds, but with eight teams bunched so close together, a win here and win there may cost the team 4–5 spots in this year’s draft. If Carlisle continues to ride the coattails of J.J. Barea down the stretch of the season, the Mavericks record in clutch games will improve. Until they start experimenting more and more with lineups involving young, inexperienced players, the team has a legitimate shot at winning 28-30 games which would put them with the 8th or 9th best odds entering May’s NBA Draft Lottery.
Dirk’s 21st Season
The biggest storyline of them all.
Dirk Nowitzki just reiterated that "as of now, the plan is to play next year." But he said how his body feels this summer will be big factor
— Eddie Sefko (@ESefko) February 24, 2018
The season may be lost, but the intrigue still looms.
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