Brought to you by: Big Shucks
By Joel Montgomery
After all the turmoil that rounded up to indisputably be the most eventful and exciting off-season in NBA history, the dust has finally started to clear as the preseason comes to a close and teams begin their marathon to make it to April. In this highly anticipated upcoming season, while the newly-formed super teams that are slated for deep playoff runs prepare their chemistry and schemes for a shot at the title, teams in the middle and at the bottom of the pack scramble to commence work with their newly rebuilt foundations and assets. The Dallas Mavericks fall into the latter category this upcoming season, but that’s no surprise as owner Mark Cuban himself is even on the record of saying the Mavs are “rebuilding”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing either, as in the stacked Western Conference, it will be impossible to make any noise against all the star power at the top for a while; while on a positive note, Mavericks fans are getting a breath of fresh air for the first time in a long time when it comes to how this team is managed. The front office’s new approach brings in a slate of new, young players to try and lay a new foundation for the franchise moving forward as they prepare for the inevitable retirement of long-time veteran and future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki, which is imminent without question.
Over the course of this off-season, the Mavericks were no stranger to looking for new, high-potential players that can contribute positively to this team. In the NBA draft, they didn’t necessarily get lucky with their lottery pick selection at 9th, but they did wind up getting what many are calling the “steal of the draft” in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. The high-flying rookie has already shown sparks of potential greatness in the summer league and preseason, and while that sample size isn’t enough to make claims too broad for now, it’s still safe to say that Smith Jr. will be an exciting player to watch develop going into this season.
While the team couldn’t come to a long-term agreement with Nerlens Noel, they have him secured on a one-year contract to allow talks on big money wait until next off-season. The high-potential big man acquired from Philadelphia could prove to be a real difference maker for any given team, given that he is able to maintain the physique needed to be viable at his position, I see him being valuable as an asset either on the court or in a future transaction, whatever Dallas’ front office decides after this season.
Dallas also dabbled in the international market by acquiring forward Maxi Kleber from Germany, who has spent the last two years playing for the Bayern Munich basketball club, where he averaged around 9 points and 5 rebounds per game in 37 starts. This may not sound too impressive on paper, but Kleber has already shown early he has NBA potential on the Mavericks, as in the preseason (including a 16 pt performance) already he has shown his ability to further spread the floor with fearless post ups, medium range fadeaways, and a decent 3-ball, a skill extremely valuable for someone at his height of 6’11”. Sounds familiar, huh? With Dirk Nowitzki being the token veteran and leader of the team, I’m looking to him to help Kleber further develop these skills as a dynamic big man. We might be looking at another NBA unicorn on our hands.
The biggest concern for the Mavericks this season actually has nothing to do with the team’s actual season play, but what comes after going into the next off-season. Dallas has seven players in their contract year heading into this season, including Wesley Matthews, Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Salah Mejri, and more. All these guys aren’t making huge money now, but the way money is making its way around to players now around the NBA with the raised salary cap, it will be no surprise that they will be expecting substantial contracts next year. Mark Cuban and the front office has lots of decisions to make when it comes to moving players and money around at the end of this season.
As for what actually transpires during the course of this season play-wise, the chances of the Mavericks contending for a playoff spot look unlikely from the onset, as the Western Conference is so stacked with talented teams that even sniffing an 8-seed will be difficult for Dallas. But as mentioned before, Mark Cuban has been on the record of saying the team is rebuilding after an interview during this past summer league, so not being in that position right now as a fringe playoff team (as the team has been for a few years now already) is okay for a team that’s young and trying to find a new identity past what they’ve been for the past 19 seasons. Fans should, like Cuban and the organization, try to look to the future for any sort of Mavericks’ success while they try to establish a new foundation while the super teams clash at the top tier of the league for a little while.
This NBA season is looking to be really exciting overall, and the Mavericks are right in the mix of it with all the potential roads they can take going forward as a franchise.