The Dallas Mavericks opened the 2016-17 season with two wins in their first 15 games. The team was decimated by injuries plus lacked top-level talent. and it looked as though their season was effectively over before it ever really got started.
Fast forward two months, and the Mavericks are still outside of the playoff picture, but they are showing signs of life. Dallas has won seven of their last 10 games, and are coming off of back-to-back victories against the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Mavericks are now 18-30, which in any normal season would effectively disqualify them from having any shot of making the postseason in the Western Conference. However, this season the Western Conference is more top-heavy than it has been in recent seasons, with the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets maintaining just a 21-25 record. That’s right, the Mavericks, who currently have a .375 win percentage, are within striking distance of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Mavericks are making their push with an unlikely assortment of talent. Over their last two games, the Mavericks have featured a starting lineup consisting of Yogi Ferrell, Seth Curry, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki.
Not sure who Yogi Ferrell is? That’s okay, most NBA fans are just hearing about him. He played four years of college ball at the University of Indiana and worked his way up the Hoosiers’ record books in several categories, including becoming the all-time assists leader during his senior season. Unfortunately, Ferrell went undrafted in last year’s draft but signed on with the Brooklyn Nets Summer League team. He would go on to sign with the Nets but was subsequently waived, picked up by the Nets D-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, and would switch between the two clubs throughout November and December. However, on January 28, Ferrell signed a 10-day contract with the Mavericks and, so far, he is making the most of his opportunity.
“When I got the call from my agent I was about to play a D-League game that night,” Ferrell said after putting together a nice performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers. “About five or six hours before, my agent called me and said the Mavericks are going to sign you to a 10-day.
“They flew me right to Dallas immediately.”
Two solid games don’t ensure that Ferrell will get a guaranteed deal or that he will stick in the NBA. But he is making the most of the opportunity in front of him and will certainly have a place in the league if he can maintain his current level of play.
“I am living the dream right now,” Ferrell said. “I am on cloud nine right now.”
Curry has also played well recently for the Mavericks. Against the Cavaliers, Curry contributed 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 10-20 from the field and 4-9 from three-point range. Performances like these from players like Ferrell and Curry are encouraging for a Mavericks team that features several veteran players who could move on as early as next season, plus a superstar player on the brink of retirement in Nowitzki. However, considering the team is in need of top-level young talent, it’s fair to question whether the Mavericks should be looking to fight for a playoff berth rather than bottoming out and trying to reload through the draft.
By Mavericks’ head coach Rick Carlisle’s own admission, Dallas isn’t the most talented team in the league.
“We’re a sh** team, but we’re an underrated sh** team,” Carlisle said on Monday night. “That’s about as accurately as I can put it.”
In signing young players with upside like Curry and taking flyers on potentially overlooked players like Ferrell, the Mavericks are giving themselves a shot to reload their aging roster on the fly without relying solely on the draft. It’s nice to see the Mavericks making a push and fighting their way back into playoff contention. But in a season where there is so much talent at the top of the Western Conference, and with almost no hope of getting anything higher than the eighth seed, it may make more sense in the long run for the Mavericks to position themselves for the upcoming draft. However, with an owner like Mark Cuban, a top-notch head coach like Carlisle and young players like Curry and Ferrell who are trying to establish their respective places in the league, that’s unlikely to happen – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the team or the league.
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