During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each NBA team in the upcoming season.
Next up, the Dallas Mavericks. As a franchise the Dallas Mavericks is one of quality. One may remember the days when the Mavericks were winning no more than thirty games per season and propping up the Western Conference. Owner Mark Cuban changed all of that upon acquiring the team. Now the Mavericks are expected to be in the hunt for championships like the upper echelon organizations. The two key factors to a successful Mavericks season are: a) Harrison Barnes must perform at a very high level and b) health of key players.
Two Key Factors to a Successful Dallas Mavericks Season
First Key: Harrison Barnes Must Perform at a Very High Level
The Golden State Warriors jettisoned starting small forward Harrison Barnes in order to make room for the acquisition of Kevin Durant. Barnes became available to whoever he wanted to play for.
Hailing from Ames, Iowa, Barnes always held a view that he’s the best. He was a five-star recruit in high school and attended the University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many would argue that his days there were a disappointment as he failed to reach expectations. That said, Barnes was a lottery pick in 2012. But his performances in the NBA held true to form, inconsistent.
The Mavericks chose to part ways with their small forward Chandler Parsons. Team owner Mark Cuban then offered Barnes the maximum. Barnes gleefully accepted. Basketball prognosticator Nate Duncan famously stated that Steve Kerr brought the best out of Barnes by having him become a role-player. Barnes’ shaky play was blamed for the Warriors end to last season.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) July 7, 2016
In Barnes, the Mavericks have a top notch defensive player. He defends both forward positions and is able to switch onto guards if need be. His numbers last season, though unspectacular, were telling. He shot 38% from beyond the arc. His overall shooting percentage was 47%, not bad at all. He averaged five rebounds a contest. The issue with Barnes is, he simply looks uncoordinated at times. There were instances of him dribbling the ball off of his foot, or carelessly turning it over via travelling violations and steals.
Barnes is as complicated a story as one can envision. He was going to be offered the max deal by someone. This even though not a single basketball pundit has predicted that he’ll even become an All-Star much less a superstar. As this season begins, the Mavericks will need Barnes a lot more than the Warriors ever did. The question remains, “Is he up for the challenge?” The entire Dallas- Fort Worth area dearly hope so.
Second Key: Health of Key players
In recent years the Mavericks have been snake bitten with injuries. It’s worth remembering that the Mavericks neglected to negotiate with the incumbent small forward Chandler Parsons. Parsons, though talented, was plagued with knee problems so the team felt it was best to move on.
Several players had surgery late last season or during the off-season. Dirk Nowitzki is 38 years old and logic dictates his performance will decline. Center Andrew Bogut is expected to miss games because of possible injuries and ineffectiveness. Back to back games will be an issue as the Mavericks will rest certain players in that scenario.
Players like Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea all required off-season surgery. Add that to Wesley Matthews who played last season with the lingering effects of surgery on his torn Achilles from the previous season. Matthews feels much better heading into this season.
Wesley Matthews: ‘I’m a whole different person’ further removed from injury https://t.co/ZBTCLkMKxo
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) August 25, 2016
Williams had sports hernia surgery and is rounding himself into form as the season commences. Harris had two procedures performed on him. He had surgeries on his left great toe as well as his left thumb. Barea had Arthroscopic Knee Surgery on his right knee to repair its meniscus. If one is counting, that’s all three point guards from last season.
Bogut who injured his knee during the NBA finals, escaped the surgeon’s scalpel this time. He even represented his native Australia at the Rio Olympic games. Mathews had an entire off-season to get into basketball shape. He dropped eight pounds. Mathews is svelte, fit and motivated to prove all the naysayers wrong. Given the Western Conference’s nature, the Mavericks must be healthy to be competitive. In Rick Carlisle the Mavericks have arguably a top five coach in the NBA. But even the world’s greatest carpenter is be subdued by substandard wood and unavailable tools.
As the season begins, the Dallas Mavericks has more questions than answers. One of these questions is, ‘What is this team’s ceiling’? That answer can be convoluted. However simply put, if Barnes fails to live up to expectations they will fail. If the team has players missing significant periods through injury, the Mavericks will disappoint. However in the words of Chris Berman, “That’s why they play the game!”