For the second consecutive season the Dallas Mavericks will not be competing for a playoff spot. The Mavs have played 47 games and have come up victorious in just 16 of those contests. They’ve won 34 percent of their games. That is not very good. As we approach all-star break, which is less than a month away, the Mavericks front office and coaching staff will have to answer a variety of difficult questions regarding the future of the franchise. So let’s dig in & try to answer three important questions that could shape how the season ends up for the Mavs.
Will the Mavericks Shut Down Seth Curry for the Remainder of the Season?
Seth Curry has not played a game yet this season due to a left leg injury. Curry was diagnosed with a stress reaction of his left tibia just a week before the season started. Head coach Rick Carlisle hinted that the injury would be a wait and see “week-to-week” type of deal. Yet, here we are fifteen weeks into the season and Curry’s health status is still up in the air.
In mid-December Curry told the Dallas Morning News in regards to his injury, “It’s the same thing. I’m just trying to wait it out and see if it’s going to heal or not. I’ve just got to give it some time. It’s a couple week by couple week situation. It’s a tricky situation.” The tricky situation needs some clarity.
Curry is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Mavericks do have his bird rights meaning they can pay him the most money. You’d love to see how he fits next to Dennis Smith but at this point, I do not see much good in bringing Curry back for two main reasons. One, thanks to his shooting and scoring abilities he certainly can help the Mavericks win games which should not be in their short-term plans the remainder of the season. Dallas sits just 2.5 games back from the Sacramento Kings and the number one overall pick. The Mavericks need to have the most ping-pong balls as possible when the lottery hits in May, playing Curry only hurts those odds. Also, let’s say Curry plays well — not only does he hurt the Mavericks lottery odds, but he also increases the value of his contract. Teams value shooting more than ever in the N.B.A. and Seth is one of the best pure shooters in the league today. You’d have to think that the Mavericks would love to sign Curry on a “team friendly” deal, playing him down the stretch would affect his overall value. Either way, the decision with Curry will be a fascinating one to monitor.
Will Dennis Smith Jr. Be Unleashed?
Although Smith has started every game this season, it seems that Rick Carlisle and his staff have been pretty conservative with his minutes. Smith averages 28.4 minutes per contest for the season. Slowly but surely, it appears the Mavericks are increasing the minute loads for Smith. During the month of January, the Mavs rookie point guard is averaging 30.8 minutes-per-game. The minutes are translating into stats as he is putting up the best statistics of his career thru 9 games this month, averaging 17.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per-game.
Where is Smith doing most of his damage? Per Synergy Sports, 34 percent of his possessions come as the pick-and-roll ball handler. Out of those possessions, Smith ranks in the 42 percentile producing 0.768 points-per-possession. Smith is slightly below average out of the pick-and-roll, but with an increase of minutes he will be provided the opportunity to grow in that department.
Smith has used 19 percent of his possessions in isolation. Out of those possessions, his point-per-possession increases slightly to 0.853 which ranks in the 47th percentile according to Synergy.
Carlisle stressed before the season that the Mavericks need to get out and run. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mavs get out in transition more during the second half of the season. The Mavericks have been one of the worst teams at producing fast break points at 8.9 per-game. If the Mavericks can cause more turnovers and get Smith out on the break, things will be a lot easier for this offense.
With Smith on the court this season, the Mavs have a minus-7.4 net rating. Defense balloons up to 111.4 and their offense rating hovers around 104. When Smith sits the Mavericks are a plus-3.5, with their defense dropping to 102.2 and their offense rising slightly to 105.6. This is expected from a rookie point guard. The more opportunities Smith has on the court, the more opportunities he will have to grow as a player — and the higher likelihood the Mavericks suffer more losses. The Mavs need to unleash their stud rookie guard down the stretch of this season.
Will the Mavericks trade a veteran or two?
The Mavericks value their veteran players in the locker room. Both J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are the perfect mentors for a young point guard like Dennis Smith Jr. But at some point, you have to let your young point guard free. Will the Mavericks try to cut bait on either of their veterans? If you ask Donnie Nelson, the likelihood is slim.
#Mavs GM Donnie Nelson is on record as saying "… we probably overvalue the experience and integrity of our veterans."
This was on a recent "Numbers on the Board" podcast.
— Zack Cunningham (@ZCunninghamNBA) January 22, 2018
Harris is still one of the most productive players the Mavericks have off of the bench. In 730 minutes this season, he has a (plus-6.3) net rating. In the 1,536 minutes in which Harris has sat on the bench, the Mavericks are minus-5.8. With the defense rising to 108.3 and offensive rating dropping to 102.4.
Barea is having arguably his best season in a Mavericks uniform. The Mavericks most successful lineup this season features both Devin Harris and JJ Barea. The team is an absurd plus-17.6 in 212 minutes with the lineup of Barea, Yogi, Harris, Dirk and Dwight Powell.
What direction will the Mavericks go? Will they trade or sit the veterans?The Kings are currently facing the same dilemma. Here’s what their coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee in regards to their situation: “It’s not an easy conversation,” Joerger said. “They’re very professional, they’re competitive. All of them are rotation players on a playoff team. So to ask those guys to step aside at different times is not enjoyable for me. They handled it well, they’ve been pros.” It’s time for some of the vets to step aside and let the young kids grow as players.
The Mavericks will face a number of questions down the stretch of the season, how they respond will certainly help shape the franchise going forward into a critical summer.
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