Over the course of a normal NBA season there are any number of storylines surrounding a team. Two years ago who would’ve thought that Rajon Rondo1 would end up on the Mavs and simultaneously derail their season? Or in 2011, who would’ve thought…? 2
Every year there are both obvious storylines (Dirk is getting old3) and underlying storylines (Contract year for Deron Williams & Andrew Bogut). Before the season gets under way there are several obvious & underlying storylines to consider.
Obvious: Can Harrison Barnes live up to his contract?
If we can say anything about Harrison Barnes it’s that he’s at least a little gutsy because a year ago he turned down a four year $64 million contract extension. That decision turned into a $30 million gamble that paid off 4 big time. Now there’s only 14 players in the NBA that make more money per year than Harrison Barnes. 5
Barnes is directly replacing Chandler Parsons 6 who signed the exact same deal this summer in Memphis. So the story with Barnes should be whether he’s any improvement on Parsons, but it doesn’t really work like that.7
Underlying: Is this the best roster Dirk Nowitzki‘s had since 2011?
If Barnes does turn out to be an upgrade on Parsons8, along with a few other key additions, this team will improve on last season. This version of the Mavericks isn’t poised to be better than the Mavs’ 2011 squad, Dirk’s decline alone settle’s that debate, but the players around him could be even better.
Before the 2010-11 season Tyson Chandler hadn’t made an All-Defensive Team yet, or won Defensive Player of the Year, Andrew Bogut is already an established All-NBA and All-Defensive Team member and a definite upgrade offensively. Deron Williams isn’t an upgrade over Jason Kidd offensively but he’s six years younger than Kidd was and almost doubled his scoring average.9 Harrison Barnes and Wes Matthews combined are arguably a better duo than Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson10. Then just look at the bench units:
The current unit is definitely deeper, but doesn’t have a player as good as JET was that season. Collectively this team could do something especially if Everything Goes Right.
Obvious: How ‘back’ 11 is Wes Matthews?
One of the first questions Wes Matthews received on Media Day was “How do you feel physically?” it’s a question he was noticeably tired of hearing. He quickly responded with a matter-of-factly, “I feel great.” Then went on to say how he was able to “be [himself] this summer” and prepare to “go 100% on both ends of the floor like [he always does].”
During Summer League Mark Cuban said on NBA TV that Wes “couldn’t even dunk until March” and there’s been a lot of time between then and now. Wes was disappointed that Mavs fans didn’t get to see who he really was as a player last season but he wants to prove that he’s a guy that “loves what he does, lives in the gym, and is always trying to get better.”
That hard work has high standards for himself this season as Cuban told the Ben & Skin show Tuesday that he had been texting Cuban all summer, “All-Star Cube, All-Star Cube.12” Then Wes said at Media Day that he’s “more explosive” then he was in Portland and ended practice on Thursday trying to prove that:
— Dallas Sports Fanatic (@Dallas_Fanatic) September 29, 2016
Underlying: How far can the Mavs go with D-Will starting?
Looking over the landscape of the Western Conference if a team doesn’t have an All-Star caliber point guard they’re going to have a rough go at it. Every night Western Conference PGs have to gear up to face: Curry, Westbrook, Lillard, Paul, Conley, etc. During Media Day on Monday Dirk said that at times D-Will was the Mavs best player. He could be in the running for that hypothetical title at times this season as well, Deron credited the coaching staff for the majority of his success last season, but he’s also in the most stable environment he has been in since Utah:
“This is the first situation I’ve been in in about 5 years, since my time in Utah that’s definitely a plus for me as a point guard. Having some chemistry with the coaches, coaching staff, seven, eight, nine of the players, definitely speeds up the process a lot.” Deron said as his legs churned on the stationary bike on Thursday after practice. “I think we’re spending a lot less teaching this camp just because a lot of us are familiar with what coach wants and we’ve kind of picked up from where we left off last year.”
If Deron Williams is, at times, the Mavs best player then how far can this team go? Last season the Mavs were 31-34 when Deron Williams took the court. If the chemistry and continuity of this team does play a big factor like D-Will says it will, then that first number should go up, but that’s why ‘you play the games.’
Obvious: What percentage of Steph can Seth Curry bring to Dallas?
It’s understandable. Seeing Seth Curry take the court and score 15/21 points during a scrimmage and just having that #30 jersey that says “Curry” on the back is exciting. After Damian Lillard, Seth is the closest mirror the NBA has to his two-time MVP brother Steph Curry.13 The highlights don’t necessarily speak for themselves but until the season starts we can just imagine that they do.
Underlying: Where will Seth Curry get minutes?
This isn’t as much underlying as it is “Everyone Comments This Under Every Picture/Video/Post We Make About Seth Curry.” This is a real thing. Seth has the handles of a point guard and the shooting stroke of a shooting guard. Sounds familiar. Defensively he’s going to have a hard time finding a good matchup, but with Wes Matthews, Justin Anderson, Harrison Barnes, even Devin Harris this team should be able to hide him.
It’s easy to look at Deron, Wes, Devin, and JJ and wonder where Curry fits in. Those four combined for about 80 minutes at guard per game14 last season and Justin Anderson only played about 2 minutes at guard, and there’s roughly 96 minutes available per game (if everyone is healthy). That leaves about 14 minutes per game that we’ll called the Raymond Felton Void15. That number will fluctuate as the season goes on but for anyone concerned that Curry won’t be able to crack the rotation, there’s at least 14 minutes of hope available.
- Am I allowed to even mention him here?
- Enter Disney-commerical-like-magic-and-parading
- *tears* we know… don’t remind us
- SPNG: Shoot Puns, Not Guns
- That sentence should speak for itself
- The Beautiful One
- But it should
- He’s going to be an upgrade in “Games Played” that’s for sure
- So…there’s something
- If Caron Butler had stayed healthy this may be tougher to decide
- That’s the 1/2 Underlying Storyline
- Unless physical traits facotr in, then Seth is for sure the closest
- According to Basketball-Reference and obviously these guys missed games last season so this number isn’t exact
- There’s a Fat Raymond Felton joke in there somewhere
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