The madness of this year’s NBA Trade Deadline saw the Mavericks heavily involved, just not on the actual day of the deadline. Last week they made a franchise-altering move by acquiring Kristaps Porzingis and three others from the New York Knicks and the news of the team sending wing Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings unfortunately leaked in the middle of Wednesday night’s win over the Charlotte Hornets.
When the dust settled after the 2 PM Central time deadline Thursday, the Mavericks had dealt four of their five starters from January 30th’s win over the New York Knicks and also released big men Salah Mejri and Ray Spalding. This team looks very, very different from the way it did just eight or nine days ago, but there is still business to take care of before the team gets a much needed physical and mental relief from the All-Star Break after next Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat.
As easy as it would be for the Mavs to use all of this roster madness as an excuse to punt on this season, a loss by the 8th seed Los Angeles Clippers left Dallas just 3.5 games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot as of Thursday evening.
The Mavs will host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday evening at the American Airlines Center. At 40-13, the Bucks have the best record in the NBA and are led by MVP-candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and former NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer. Milwaukee has won 12 of its last 13 games and defeated Dallas 116-106 at home back on Martin Luther King Day last month.
Both teams working in new pieces after the deadline?
While the Mavericks two big trades both garnered a lot of attention from the national media, the Bucks made a sizable move of their own before Thursday’s trade deadline. Milwaukee sent Jason Smith and Stanley Johnson, someone they just acquired the day before, to the New Orleans Pelicans for forward Nikola Mirotic. A 6-10 versatile big, Mirotic was averaging close to 17 points per game in 32 games so far this season for New Orleans.
The Mavericks also might be looking to work in one or two more of their new players on Friday night. Guard Courtney Lee, who was acquired from New York last Thursday, did not play in Wednesday’s Mavs win over the Hornets purely based off a “coach’s decision” as Rick Carlisle put it after the game. With Harrison Barnes now completely out of the way and a few more days with the team under his belt, perhaps Lee could find some minutes on Friday.
Justin Jackson, acquired from Sacramento in the Barnes deal, may also make his debut for the Mavs on Friday. A 6-8 forward in his second year in the league, Jackson is another wing who will be needed after Dallas traded Barnes and Wesley Matthews in less than a week’s time.
It’s definitely possible that neither Mirotic or Jackson play/will “be available” in Friday’s game. That cannot be confirmed as of Thursday evening, but will be known after both teams complete their media availability at shootaround before noon on Friday.
How do you slow the Bucks down when they’re so good at everything?
A team doesn’t get to a record of 40-13 without being pretty darn good at a lot of different areas. Peeking through team stats on NBA.com. the Bucks sit close to the top of the league in the following categories:
- Overall rebounding (1st)
- Point differential (+10.2 and 1st)
- Blocked shots per game (2nd)
- Defensive rating (1st)
- Offensive rating (4th)
So they’re good at offense, defense and rebounding and they have arguably the best player in the league? Got it.
Dallas wasn’t exactly successful limiting the Greek Freak in the two teams’ first meeting last month. Antetokounmpo had 31 points on 50% shooting and added 15 boards and five assists.
The Bucks take the second most three point shots in the league at 37.6 a night but only hit at the 12th highest percentage. Obviously it is well noted that Antetokounmpo scores a ton in the paint but is a poor three point shooter. Dallas only forced him into only two three point shot attempts back on January 31st and the objective has to be to somehow force more of those. Elsewhere on the roster, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez both shoot above 38% from deep on over 6 attempts per game, so the Mavericks wings will need to stay on top of limiting their impact on the perimeter.
If you’re wondering what starting lineup the Mavs will roll with after dealing Harrison Barnes on Wednesday, Rick Carlisle might be wondering the same thing as you’re reading this. The starters almost certainly won’t be known until about 15 minutes before the opening tip as Carlisle is incredibly tight-lipped before games about his starting lineups when they’re in question.
The Mavericks are still a very good home team this year with a 19-7 record in Dallas, but things will certainly be tough for them on Friday when they host the Bucks.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 from the AAC.
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