Dallas Mavericks: Last Place in the League

Has Mavericks SF Harrison Barnes finally gotten back on track? Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch
Has Mavericks SF Harrison Barnes finally gotten back on track? Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch
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By Joel Montgomery

The Dallas Mavericks stumbled through the third week of the NBA season with a 4-game losing streak. This puts them at 1-10 for the season, claiming the lone spot for last place in both the Western Conference and the entire league as a whole. The start of this season has not looked good for Dirk Nowitzki’s 20th anniversary. However, there have been some diamonds in the rough continuing to develop positively while the team rides out this ugly period moving forward, with the franchise clearly wanting to look towards the bright future rather than concern the present bleak situation.

On Monday the Mavericks faced the Utah Jazz, where Rodney Hood (25 pts, season-high) and company simply outplayed Dallas in a 104-89 rout. They were able to spread the ball around to their multiple weapons with Ricky Rubio putting up 20 points, and Rudy Gobert being an all-around powerhouse with 17 and 12 boards, also racking up 6 assists and 6 blocks (whew…). Nowitzki was Dallas’ leading scorer, which would be great if this wasn’t 2017, putting up 18 points. Rookie rising star Dennis Smith Jr. was listed as questionable for this game, but ended up playing 17 minutes. In that time he went 1 for 7 with two points. While more experience is always nice, seems keeping him out would’ve been for the better.

Dallas traveled to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Wednesday and were dismantled handily by Blake Griffin and gang. Griffin posted a team high 20 points as the Clips really spread the ball around in a crushing 119-98 victory. While Dennis Smith Jr. struggled from the field going only 6 for 15 in shooting, he was still able to lead the team with 18 points.

On Friday against the Pelicans, the dynamic big duo of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins absolutely exposed the Mavericks’ problems in the paint on both sides of the ball, with Davis putting up 34 points and 13 rebounds, and Cousins with 20 points and 22 rebounds. Dwight Powell was completely outmatched down low and Nerlens Noel was held back by the disadvantage of less experience than New Orleans’ two towering superstars. Salah Mejri had the right idea of attitude and competitiveness going into this matchup by going at it with Cousins more than a few times. Playing only 22 minutes he was 3/4 for 7 points and 13 rebounds, a team high. Giving Mejri more minutes going forward along with Noel for more experience can give the Mavericks more of the paint presence they desperately need on both offense and defense. Harrison Barnes finally shook off his early season rust with a 26 point performance, with Smith Jr. coming behind with 16. While the Mavericks stayed in this game and even held a lead for some portions throughout the course of it, they weren’t able to pull it out with their low offensive output in the 99-94 loss.

Dallas finished the week in Minnesota against the Timberwolves, where the newly envigorated squad with title hopes cruised past the Mavericks in a 112-99 contest. There was never a threat for Minnesota in this game, so much so that they won by 17 despite getting outscored 30-19 in the fourth quarter, with the T-Wolves playing all of such as garbage time. They had a season-high 33 assists in this victory that marked a 4 game winning streak for the team. The stagnant Mavericks failed to cross the 100 point mark yet again with struggling offense. Smith Jr. led the team once again with 18 points along with 5 boards. Barnes put up 17 in 30 minutes, a team high, but had a team-worse plus/minus of -21 in that time. This loss put the Mavericks at 1-10, the team’s worst start since 1993 (where they ended up starting 1-23, let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point).

This skid and ultimately telling week for the immediate future of the Mavericks shows that the team will most likely continue to flounder throughout the course of this season. With the team struggling mightily on offense, it’s rare for one to even cross the 20-point mark. As long as the team as a whole can’t consistenly put up 100 points (Dallas is 28th in scoring with 97.9 per game) in these close games, they’ll never hope to win them. Dirk Nowitzki is 39 years old, and can’t carry the load of clutch plays like he used to when the going gets tough. The team as a whole is going to have to step up to have a hope in these contests.

Even after this 1-10 start, there ARE still some bright spots still on the team including the further development of Dennis Smith Jr. (who’s quickly become one of Dallas’ most consistently reliable scorers) along with impressive plus/minus ratios when compared to teammates even in these big losses. It’s clear he’s bringing with him an energy and electrifying talent that can positively influence the culture of this team moving forward. And while Nerlens Noel was drafted by and played with Philadelphia his 3 seasons prior to this year, he has already made himself at home in Dallas as a potential young star who can really step up as a marquis big man for the Mavericks, something the team has been lacking for a long time.

In the coming week, Dallas faces some of the league’s top talent on paper with some tough road challenges as the NBA’s conference-respective marquis point guards await the Mavericks; along with the King himself coming to American Airlines Center for a weekend bout.

Upcoming Games:
Tue 11/7 @ Wizards
Sat 11/11 vs Cavaliers
Sun 11/12 @ Thunder