#BlogBoys Vol. 1: Mavs Season Overview, Awards, & Playoff Predictions
Welcome, all! We are the #BlogBoys. Why the #BlogBoys? Well, you can thank Kevin Durant for that. Durant recently did his fair share of ranting about the supposed “blog boys” and how analysts/writers didn’t watch basketball nor know what they were talking about. Now, that may reign true other places but not here at Dallas Sports Fanatic. We’re pleased to bring you content and insight about your favorite local teams that we are proud of, whether Durant is a fan of us or not.
The #BlogBoys will be a round table discussion between a few of our Mavericks staff: Mike DuPont, Reese Konkle, Michael Mulford, and Trevor Rathbun. We will touch on Mavericks specific topics while also speaking on what’s going on league-wide around the NBA. A new edition will be posted every Friday so sit back, grab yourself a cupcake, and welcome to the #BlogBoys!
1. Overall, how do you grade this season for the Mavericks? What are some positive notes you took on specific Mavs players or the future success of this franchise?
DuPont: Dallas has missed the playoffs in back-to-back runs for the first time in 18 years. Despite their shortcomings, the franchise shows signs of trending back in the right direction. Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. consistently demonstrated his ability to facilitate and thrive within an NBA offense, generating excitement from Mavs fans with his quick-twitch athleticism. The season grades out to a C+ based on player development and future assets despite a lack of overall success.
Konkle: Given that they landed top three lottery odds, I would consider it roughly a B+. Obviously, they were a bad team and that is never the goal, but long term it might have done them some good. The biggest positive of what many deemed a lost season was easily Dennis Smith Jr.’s growth and development as a player. Things weren’t always smooth, but they never are with rookie point guards. He continuously showed flashes of why he can be such a special player, but that’s going to take a lot of work and time, so let’s just wait and see.
Mulford: C+. Outside of the obvious of a failed playoff run and only 24 wins, Mark Cuban and the franchise had to face multiple allegations stemming from prior acts of sexual harassment inside the organization, which surely brought a dark cloud over Dallas. On the floor, the Mavericks made progress towards the future of the franchise this season. Throughout the season of MFFL’s recruiting new members for #TeamTank, the youth movement in Dallas was evident, led by DSJ. It’s never fun to root for your team to lose but when making the playoffs isn’t in the cards and the possibility of drafting a top-5 prospect is on the table to add alongside DSJ and HB, I’m all in on that.
Beyond the clear excitement of watching Dennis grow as the future face of the franchise, the development that we’ve seen in Dwight Powell is engaging. I wasn’t a huge fan of Powell’s play but he’s added to his offensive game while stretching his range out to the three-point line and his activity on the boards and on the defensive end is a plus for the team. Also, Dougie McBuckets. I was always a fan but that fandom went to another level after the Mavs acquired him at the deadline, which he shot 52% from three with Dallas. His fit in Carlisle’s system looks to be an ideal fit for both sides and I’d hope resigning Doug would be a top priority this summer.
Rathbun: Although, I was looking through the rosy tint of my fandom shades at the beginning of the season, I quickly came to realize what this year might be after the first few games. It was hard to come to grips with it but I knew there were going to be quite a few more L’s than W’s this year, especially with a rookie point guard running the show. After finishing with a 24-58 record, I have to give the Mavs a grade of C. The product that was put on the floor wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t even close to great either. Add the distractions that came about during the season that included Nerlens Noel (playing time, hot-dog breaks, mysterious injury, and finally failed drug test) and owner Mark Cuban and the business side of the Mavs getting dragged through the mud (rightfully so) for their treatment of women in the workplace; it was a rough season. If I had to describe the Mavs season in GIF form I would chose this one:
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) March 28, 2018
Dennis Smith Jr. joined Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz as rookies who notched a triple double this year. He finished the year with averages of 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per-game. He struggled early in the season with tired legs which attributed to his low-shooting percentage, but towards the end, he was able to will the Mavericks back into games using his speed and quick decision making in the open floor. DSJ looks like a legit pillar to the future of the Mavericks franchise as Rick Carlisle constantly sang praises about him even during rough games (something I didn’t think Rick was capable of) and his diligent work ethic was also mentioned by almost every Maverick during exit interviews.
For Dwight Powell, he finished towards the top of the NBA in points scored as the roll man off of pick and roll opportunities. If that doesn’t say anything about the progress this guy has made since he signed that hefty contract that most Mavs fans (including myself) have blasted as terrible, I don’t know what does. His confidence grew and so did his game. He has made his contract look like a bargain towards the latter half of the season and I am honestly excited to see how much more he grows next year.
2. The regular season has commenced so these players (and coaches) need their hardware. Who made your awards ballot?
Westbrook’s MVP case
DuPont: What do you want on your triple-double? Better yet, when was the last time a player averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons? I’ll wait. Though the award will likely go to Harden or LeBron, and rightfully so, Russell Westbrook’s heroics still deserve recognition and I’m here for it. Granted, the talent surrounding Westbrook was much better, and the expectations were higher; could you imagine what direction the Thunder would be trending sans Westbrook, particularly after a deeply underwhelming season from teammate Carmelo Anthony.
Harden’s MVP case
Konkle: LeBron makes an intriguing case every year, but through my lens, winning is a big part of this equation. When it comes to James Harden and the Rockets, they’ve been the best team all year thanks in large part to his offensive dominance from all three-levels of the floor.
LeBron’s MVP case
Mulford: When it comes down to your definition of valuable, the answer seems clear to me. You could argue that LeBron has deserved the MVP since 2007 as that shows just how valuable he is to his team. Look at it like this: take James Harden off the Rockets. They still clearly make the playoffs and are probably a top-4 seed with Chris Paul surrounded by all of those shooters and defenders. Take LeBron off the Cavs and they find themselves smack dab in the middle of the lottery. Of course, Harden has had an exceptional season of 30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game on the league leading 65-17 Rockets but I’m riding with LeBron. While dealing with all the drama that came Cleveland’s way this season, The King averaged 27.5 points, his highest since the last year in his first stint in Cleveland in 2009-2010 while also averaging his highest rebound (8.6) and assist (9.1) averages in his 15-year career.
Rathbun: I want to give it to James Harden because the Rockets are having an amazing season and as much as it hurts my Mavs soul, my pick to win the whole thing. But, LeBron James is in his 15th season and had the most dominating year of basketball in his career. IN HIS 15th SEASON! Who does that? LeBron continues to amaze and perform at the highest level. Time to get the MVP trophy back into his hands.
Mitchell’s ROY case
Konkle: This is probably the toughest pick to make, given the historic seasons of both Mitchell and Ben Simmons, but Mitchell gets the edge from me based off his circumstances. There is no tougher task for an NBA rookie than being asked to close games out. Mitchell stepped into that “closer” role as a rookie, and stole the show as a scorer/playmaker for Utah. Simmons doesn’t have that takeover scoring down the stretch, at least not yet. He’s going to stuff the stat sheet more so than Mitchell, and for some people that’s enough. But being able to will your team over the finish line in close games as a rookie? Thats impressive, and enough to earn my vote.
Rathbun: It isn’t Ben Simmons fault that he is a Rookie+. However, Simmons had a whole year to watch tape and get comfortable with traveling all the time as well as dealing with all the outside stuff that happens during your rookie season. Mitchell is a true rookie who has managed to lift the Utah Jazz from the ashes that Gordon Hayward’s departure left them in to a 5th seed in the Western Conference! He dominated games, made clutch baskets, and looked like a man amongst boys. Oh yeah, he was also the 13th pick in the draft. Awesome stuff from somebody that kind of flew under the radar going into draft night.
Simmons’ ROY case
DuPont: We know there have been players that won the award after sitting out a year (Blake Griffin over John Wall) and giving the award to Simmons is not an indictment against what Mitchell has helped his team accomplish. Simmons’ unique versatility as a primary ball-handler, facilitator and decision-maker has been displayed and well-documented from game one to game 82 for Philadelphia’s offense. The Sixers are watchable again. In the first year of the Simmons experiment, the team set a franchise record for wins with the ROOK averaging a triple-double during the 15-game stretch and they did it largely without Joel Embiid on the floor.
Mulford: Now, I understand and agree with the critics who say Simmons gained an advantage during his redshirt season while being around NBA trainers and watching film and such, but he didn’t touch the floor. Sure, he may have practiced against his teammates but he didn’t see real game action. Mitchell may be the more prolific and more pure scorer but Simmons effects the game in several different facets. Averaging 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists with 12 triple-doubles shows just how distinct his skill-set is at such a young age. You can make cases for either Mitchell or Simmons and there really isn’t a wrong answer but the impact that Simmons makes on the defensive side of the floor, helping lead the Sixers to a 16-game winning streak as the prime playmaker, steers me in that direction. Plus, Mitchell wearing hoodies two-days in a row to prove why Simmons isn’t a “rookie” while contradicting yourself saying “you don’t care about winning the award” is corny to me.
📍Rip City pic.twitter.com/N7BPwPDkak
— x – Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 11, 2018
3. It’s playoff time; who do you have coming out of each conference and ultimately taking home the trophy? Will someone in the East finally dethrone LeBron? Most intriguing match-ups?
DuPont: Golden State is representing the Western Conference until proven otherwise. They may have issues and they don’t appear as untouchable as they’ve looked in the past but ultimately, they’re still top dog until someone knocks them off. Oklahoma City’s opening draw against Utah will be an interesting follow with the winner likely facing Houston barring an epic upset. In the East, the team with LeBron James has played in the last 7 NBA Finals. So, I like Cleveland’s odds. Their series against Toronto should make for compelling storylines as the Raptors enter as the top seed after being swept by Cleveland last year. Philadelphia’s opening series will also be an interesting follow with the Sixers matching up against the Miami Heat. Joel Embiid is currently out but is expected to return before the end of the series. Who wins when Golden State and Cleveland ultimately meet again? The safe bet seems to be Golden State as the Warriors have a wealth of star power.
Konkle: Sorry fellas, but we’re getting Warriors/Cavs part four, and the Dubs are going to do it again. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the journey with some juicy match-ups though. Such as the Rockets/Warriors battling in the West finals. And obviously, there is the wild card that is OKC. They have a tough and exciting first round series with Utah, but I think they are capable of making a run. Defense and star-power can win you playoff games, and they have an abundance of both.
Mulford: This was tough. Though we know what the Warriors can obviously do when healthy, they aren’t healthy at the moment. I’m still going to say Golden State makes it out of the West, barring that Steph’s ankle continues to bother him of course, but this may be their toughest path to the Finals yet. For the East, until someone proves they can dethrone The King, I’m rolling with LeBron. You can put LeBron on almost any roster in the East and I’d roll with that team to come out of the East. Regarding the Cavs competition, I never have and never will be a believer of the Raptors. The Celtics are riddled by injuries and I don’t think the Sixers are quite ready yet, though this team will be contenders for a long time coming.
The most intriguing match-up for me in the first round is Celtics-Bucks and Thunder-Jazz. Without Kyrie, Hayward, and possibly without Marcus Smart as well, Giannis and company have a strong chance to knock off the 2 seed. The Jazz don’t play a pretty style of basketball and mucking up the game could frustrate the Thunder and force Westbrook into more turnovers. I’m fascinated to see Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert battle for six or seven games. Overall, the Warriors-Rockets conference finals match-up seems to be destiny and I can’t wait for that. And yes MFFL’s, I am a huge LeBron fan so though I’m hoping for him to hoist his fourth Larry O’Brien trophy, I have the Warriors ultimately going back-to-back.
Rathbun: The most intriguing match-ups are happening in the first rounds of the Eastern Conference. LeBron James versus Lance Stephenson. Joel Embiid versus arch nemesis Hassan Whiteside. The always underachieving Raptors versus the always underwhelming Wizards. The Greak Freek taking on the mastermind Coach Brad Stevens. In the West, I am most excited for the Blazers-Pelicans series. Two very different teams and different styles that will make for some interesting games. I expect to see a ton of #LillardTime this post season.
Western Conference Champion: Houston Rockets
Eastern Conference Champion: Cleveland Cavaliers
NBA Champion: Houston Rockets
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