Brought to you by: Big Shucks
By Joel Montgomery
At last, after Tuesday night’s 124-97 loss against the Phoenix Suns (which capped off a 4-game losing streak), the Dallas Mavericks’ regular season has finally drawn to its close. Finishing with a 24-58 record on the year, Dallas ended up in 13th out of 15 in the Western Conference standings, and tying for the 3rd worst overall record in the entire league. While definitely a disappointing position to be in in terms of competitive relevance, the results were expected from as high as the front office who runs this franchise. Long-time Mavs owner Mark Cuban has been documented as early as last year’s offseason referring to an anticipated reboot of the team’s entire foundation.
Even though Dirk Nowitzki reaffirmed prior to Tuesday night’s game that he would be ready to go next season, both Nowitzki and Cuban’s plans seem to be able to fall in line, with a sort of skewed relationship with the decorated veteran in his and the team’s current state. Meaning that obviously Nowitzki isn’t the player he used to be, and he is smart and aware enough as a veteran to understand that his presence could bring about a quandary. The Mavs’ defensive paint presence is practically nonexistent with Nowitzki on the floor, as these days he cannot move as well as he used to for obvious reasons. When he is still the one big man on the team getting the most minutes, it appears that coach Carlisle could have found a way to not only adhere to Cuban’s wishes, but to also get Dirk his minutes even in his waning seasons. Even though Nowitzki’s loyalty to remain on the court is commendable, with his wishes to keep playing being sustainable for Cuban’s tanking philosophy, in the end could it potentially hurt or slow Dallas’ rebuilding process?
Ever since a few years ago when the Philadelphia 76ers coined “The Process” moniker, some franchises across the league that have struggled to remain relevant with the constantly fluctuating current NBA have resorted to tanking and similar practices. The league itself has tried to come up with solutions to the tanking “problem” by giving teams less incentive to deliberately lose games. Their efforts mainly concentrate on tweaking the NBA draft lottery, which itself has many of the contents responsible for franchises wanting to tank in the first place. Even after a change in the odds for bottom tier teams to have a shot at the number 1 overall pick, the Mavericks ended up tying for 3rd best odds at 12.1%. So, at least for now, tanking has bared some tangible results for the team. What will happen in the future though, only time will tell.
Aside from looking forward towards the draft, this season the Mavericks overall did have some positives to take from even a struggle-filled season such as this one. For one, the seasonal debut of last season’s first round pick for Dallas, Dennis Smith Jr, garnered much more excitement and potential than initially thought, even after the great impressions upon first drafting him. Smith finished the season averaging 15 points and 5 assists. As he continues to grow, he’ll hopefully be able to improve his ability to facilitate Dallas’ offense going forward, as well as working on his scoring consistency and landing mechanics when he attacks the rim. All in all, things look exciting in his future.
Furthermore, after this season Harrison Barnes has established himself as the go-to scorer and young leader of the team on both sides of the floor. While his shooting percentage and points per game went slightly down since last season, they remained much improved over his Golden State years, and much of it also has to do with the team’s complete nose dive to the bottom of the power rankings this year. But Barnes remained consistent enough to warrant legitimate conversation for being part of Dallas’ overall blueprint moving forward.
Regarding the team’s questions going in to the offseason, one undetermined fate and overall unresolved situation would be to keep an eye on Nerlens Noel and his future with the organization. A rejection of last season’s big contract offer from the Mavericks on Noel’s end and many wasted opportunities for minutes later, Noel now finds himself with still no set-in-stone NBA future as he now stands in that peculiar limbo of asking for a hefty amount of money with not a lot of recent credibility to show for it. After this last season, I think at this point Noel knows that Rick Carlisle probably wasn’t the coach of a team you’d want to try a stunt like this on.
As franchises like Dallas bring a close to their play for the season and now begin to go over the schematics and building blocks for improvement for the future, the teams at the top of both conferences get ready for the postseason. We’ll continue to give you coverage of the NBA’s happenings and results as we approach the imminent playoffs.
UPCOMING KEY DATES
April 14 – 2018 NBA Playoffs begin
May 15 – NBA Draft Lottery
May 16 – 2018 NBA Draft Combine
May 31 – 2018 NBA Finals begin