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Planning For Life After Dirk
Notable Players Acquired: Dennis Smith Jr. (draft)
Notable Players Lost:
Dallas finished last season with a 33-49 record, 11th in the Western Conference.
While Dallas didn’t make the playoffs, there were positives for the Mavericks. Their big free-agent signing of Harrison Barnes looked like a smart investment. Barnes averaged 19.2 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from the 3-point line.
The team traded for Nerlens Noel during the season, who was solid in his 22 games with the team, averaging 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry emerged as rotational players.
And then there’s the legend, Dirk Nowitzki. The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer averaged 14.2 points per game while shooting 37.8 percent from deep, up one percent from last season. Nowitzki’s age did show, as the big man played in just 54 games and played just 26.4 minutes per game, his lowest mark since his rookie season in 1998-99.
The Mavericks didn’t make the postseason, but they did find a few pieces to allow them to make their next run, including getting the draft position to select point guard Dennis Smith Jr.
The Big Question
Can Smith Jr. or Barnes emerge as the next Nowitzki? Of course, predicting whether or not someone will be a 13-time All-Star, career 21.4-point scorer, NBA champion and an MVP is a pretty tough thing to do.
For Dallas, it’s about finding the pieces for the next era. And Mark Cuban and company look to be off to a good start with Barnes, Smith Jr. and Noel.
Point guard J.J. Barea played with the Timberwolves from 2011-2014. In those three seasons, Barea appeared in 194 games, starting 14, and averaged 10.1 points and 4.3 assists per game.
Barea spent the first five years of his career with the Mavericks before signing with the Wolves. He’s now entering his fourth season back with Dallas.
It will be tough for Dallas to emerge as a playoff team with how loaded the West has gotten. Non-playoff teams from last season like the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Lakers have all gotten significantly better.
The goal should be for Dallas to make the playoffs, but the bigger goal is to see what pieces will be ones the Mavericks can build around for the future.
As far as the Rookie of the Year Race is concerned, I think Smith has to be the favorite for two reasons. The first is talent. Smith has a burst and enough offensive talent to average 15-18 points per game if given 25-30 minutes. The second reason is because I think Smith will get that opportunity to see the floor a lot in his rookie season. The Mavericks have Barea, Ferrell and Devin Harris on the team as point guards. All are solid players, but none have or had the star potential that Smith has.