After they missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, the mentality of the Dallas Mavericks is slowly evolving. Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle try to make the postseason every year, but that has to change. Cuban has even described the team as “rebuilding.” Failure to lure top free agents has hindered the team’s long-term goals, but as you would expect, Dallas will adjust. Bringing back the core of their team, the Mavericks needed a spark. They believe that spark has come in the shape of Dennis Smith Jr. Here is the 2017-18 Dallas Mavericks season preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Dallas Mavericks Season Preview
What Worked Last Season
Taking care of the ball is paramount to any team being successful. The Mavericks were ranked second in (limiting) turnovers last season, turning the ball over just 11.9 times per game. With savvy vets like J.J. Barea and Devin Harris on the team, Smith will have a great opportunity to learn from smart veteran players.
Another season, another consistent year from Dirk Nowitzki. On March 7, Nowitzki became just the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 regular season points. Despite his age, Nowitzki continues to play a key role, whether it be his first season or his 20th in the league.
In a season which saw the Mavericks do very little well, there was one thing they could be proud of: making the unknown, known. From the emergence of Seth Curry, all the way to Yogi Ferrell, Dallas put names on the map last season. Curry became a legitimate scoring option off the bench and Ferrell even earned Rookie of the Month honors for February. Only an organization as good as the Mavericks can make so much out of so little.
What Needs Improvement
Finishing dead last in scoring, the Mavericks lacked real punch on offense. Dallas never found any balance relying on Harrison Barnes to be the leading scorer. The Mavs will certainly need to improve on that end. Carlisle’s team was also last in defensive rebounding. With an aging Nowitzki not as able to crash the boards, Dallas needed to find rebounding elsewhere. The likes of A.J. Hammons, Salah Mejri, and Dwight Powell all had to step up to fill the void. After those three failed to make much of an impact on the glass, general manager Donnie Nelson went out and made a move. He acquired Nerlens Noel, which helped the cause, but it didn’t lift the Mavericks as planned.
Ranking 27th in opponent shooting percentage, Dallas lacked defensive stoppers last year, and still does. Almost all of the Mavs’ key players are offensively talented but struggle to make an impact on defense. Re-signing Noel is a good first step in improving at that end of the floor. However, if this team wants to return to the playoffs, it needs those defensive specialists. The Shawn Marion types won’t go down as Dallas’s best players of all time, but it’s players like Marion who helped the Mavs win a championship in 2011.
This off-season, the Mavericks re-signed two key big men. Future Hall-of-Famer Nowitzki will play for at least one more year, and Noel returned for another season in Dallas. Free agency was quiet for the Mavericks, with the only notable new face being Jeff Withey. Their headline-making move this past off-season was the selection of Smith, drafted ninth overall. Smith is considered a steal and could be the Damian Lillard of this year’s draft. In need of some high-upside players, Dallas now has a young piece to build around.
Fans in Dallas will have to get used to watching their team on draft lottery night, as they did this past June. Barnes and Nowitzki are a constant scoring threat and should again lead the team this season. But despite a mix of experienced and exciting young talent, this Mavericks roster just lacks the quality necessary to be a playoff team.
Smith has a serious opportunity to win Rookie of the Year, considering the starters around him. The returning core, led by Nowitzki, will be a respectable but unconvincing team this season.
Expect Dallas to play hard but fall short of a playoff spot, which is unrealistic. The Mavericks should replicate last season’s form, when they won 33 games. Dallas will finish with a 35-47 record in 2017-18, good for 11th place in the Western Conference.