Since winning an NBA title in 2011, the Dallas Mavericks have made the playoffs in four out of five seasons, but have yet to advance past the first round.
The Mavericks are hopeful their offseason acquisitions of Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut will help the franchise progress towards deeper postseason success. The team also re-signed Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Dwight Powell, while bringing in free agents Seth Curry and Quincy Acy.
Both Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia have moved on, with Barnes and Bogut brought in as replacements — upgrades, the Mavericks hope.
With Rick Carlisle on the bench, Dallas is very well coached. The team is stocked with quality veteran players. Provided they stay healthy, the Mavericks should once again make the playoffs. While a second-round appearance is not out of the question, they’re not on the same echelon as teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
FIVE GUYS THINK
The Mavericks made some big changes this offseason – the biggest being the signing of small forward Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $94.4 million contract. I’m generally on board with paying above market value in order to sign a young player who still has significant room to improve. However, even with an inflated salary cap, this is a lot of money for a player with a career 11.1 Player Efficiency Rating and an 8.6 PER for last season. Sure, Barnes’ numbers could jump up now that he won’t be sharing the court with several star players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but even when he was featured more heavily on offense he failed to show that he could be a primary option on another team. Despite the obvious concerns with Barnes, adding him and Andrew Bogut and bringing back Deron Williams gives the Mavericks a lot of experienced veterans to work with. The Mavericks don’t have elite talent, but with Rick Carlisle running the show, they could make some noise in the Western Conference this upcoming season — though it’s unlikely that they’ll be in the mix to win the championship.
2nd Place – Southwest Division
– Jesse Blancarte
Dallas walked away from their extensive offseason efforts with a couple of former Golden State Warriors players to make up for losing out on yet another crop of elite free agents. Harrison Barnes came at a hefty price, but he and Andrew Bogut should help Dallas hold court as one of the West’s toughest outs, just as they were a year ago. Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams are a year older, but there’s still a ton of talent on the team and Rick Carlisle is still the head coach. They’re not winning a ring, but they shouldn’t be a top lottery team, either.
3rd Place – Southwest Division
– Joel Brigham
The Mavericks powered through to another playoff appearance last season, but sooner or later they won’t have the luxury of riding the back of future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas has had a tough time acquiring another superstar talent to usher in the next phase of Mavericks basketball, but did lock in forward Harrison Barnes in free agency to a four-year deal worth nearly $100 million. Barnes has always had the “potential” halo attached to his name, but in Dallas he’ll get a chance to break out of the shadow of being a role player and jump into a more prominent role. We know Dallas is going to be a well-coached and mentally tough bunch, but the franchise is relying on Nowitzki to do much of the heavy lifting, which limits their ceiling.
4th Place – Southwest Division
– Lang Greene
I like what the Mavericks did this summer. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Now, as long as Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t subject us to a season-long retirement the way that Kobe Bryant did, I’ll be happy. As the sun sets on arguably the greatest international player in NBA history, the days of competing for championships in Dallas are over, but that doesn’t mean the future is bleak.
With Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut joining Wesley Matthews, the Mavericks have a semblance of a nucleus. I have known Barnes for a few years and know how tough being demoted in favor of Andre Iguodala was for him a few years ago. His relatively poor showing during the Finals is likely to drive him to want to prove that he belongs and that he has the type of potential that everyone saw in him when he was coming out of North Carolina. As for Bogut, he is truly an impactful player and one of the best passing centers the league has seen. Bogut has had health concerns, but he and Barnes’ true contributions flew under the radar in Oakland. Now, in Dallas, I expect that they will help push the Mavericks back toward the top of the division – just not this season. Even without Tim Duncan, nobody will threaten the Spurs in the Southwest. But after them? There’s no reason to think the Mavs won’t be playing meaningful games well into the Spring.
2nd Place – Southwest Division
– Moke Hamilton
I think the Mavericks find themselves in the same position they’ve been in over the last few years – talented enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to legitimately contend for a championship. I think it was smart of them to grab Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, but there are still a lot of question marks surrounding this team when you look at the injury history of their players, their collective age and how the pieces fit together. I expect Dallas to make the playoffs once again, but I’m not sure they can make any serious noise once they get to the postseason.
3rd Place – Southwest Division
– Alex Kennedy
TOP OF THE LIST
Top Offensive Player: Dirk Nowitzki
Even at 38-years old, Nowitzki is still one of the most talented scorers in the league. He led the Mavericks last season at 18.3 points a game — perennially a clutch seven-footer with a jump shot. Nowitzki doesn’t really need to jump much at all to get his shot off with his crafty, unorthodox footwork and high release. Dallas rewarded Nowitzki with a two-year, $50 million contract (team option on second season), in part to reward him for taking less money in recent years to help the team try and build a contender.
Top Defensive Player: Wesley Matthews
The Mavericks always seem to be greater than the sum of their parts defensively. Nowitzki has never been known as a defender, but Carlisle game plans well against the competition. Matthews is arguably the team’s best one-on-one defender on the perimeter, although he needs to show he’s fully back to form after tearing his Achilles’ tendon two seasons ago. Bogut is also a smart, capable defender when the team is going big. The Bogut-Nowitzki combination may have problems defensively against small-ball lineups.
Top Playmaker: Deron Williams
There was a time when Williams was a top assist man in the league. While his numbers have dipped, last season the veteran point guard led Dallas at 5.8 assists a game. J.J. Barea is one of the better backups in the game, second on the 2015-16 Mavericks with 4.1 assists a night. While Raymond Felton departed for the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent, the team has additional depth at guard with Devin Harris and Curry.
Top Clutch Player: Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki will go down as one of the most clutch players of his generation. When the game is on the line, the Mavericks go to the former NBA Most Valuable Player, and he often delivers.
The Unheralded Player: Justin Anderson
The Mavericks have not embraced much of a youth movement over the past few years outside of adding Dwight Powell, but in June of 2015, Dallas drafted Anderson with the 21st overall pick. As a rookie, he averaged just 3.8 points while playing 10.7 minutes a game. Anderson needs to improve his jumper, but has great potential as a perimeter defender. More importantly, the Mavericks need to find pieces to build around once Nowitzki finally retires. The team should make room in the rotation to help make sure Anderson develops as a player.
Top New Addition: Harrison Barnes
Not necessarily the consensus, but for the sake of the Mavericks, who invested almost $95 million in the forward, Barnes needs to be the team’s best new addition. Barnes was a valuable part of the Warriors’ run the past two seasons, but he fell flat in the NBA Finals. Playing with Team USA this past month, Barnes wasn’t even in the regular rotation. The hope is, with a bigger role – and sacrificing fewer opportunities to players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – Barnes will thrive with more responsibility in Dallas. That certainly remains to be seen.
– Eric Pincus
WHO WE LIKE
- Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Enjoy whatever he has left to offer on the court.
- Coach Rick Carlisle
Carlisle gets the most out of his roster. The Mavericks will win a lot of games against younger, more talented on-paper teams, partly because of Carlisle’s gamesmanship from the bench.
- Wesley Matthews
In addition to being a tough, physical defender, Matthews was a regular scorer with the Portland Trail Blazers. In his first year back from injury, he averaged 12.5 points a game for the Mavericks, shooting just 38.8 percent from the field. Expect Matthews to be more efficient this coming season.
- J.J. Barea
When Barea gets going, the Mavericks can be a bear stop. Carlisle seems to trust his reserve point guard, especially late in games. Barea isn’t even six-feet tall, regardless of how he’s listed, but he’s quick, smart and clutch.
– Eric Pincus
SALARY CAP 101
The Mavericks used space under the NBA’s $94.1 million salary cap to invest in Harrison Barnes, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut (via trade) and Dwight Powell, among others. Once over, the team used Dirk Nowitzki’s Bird Rights to pay him $25 million for the coming season. Dallas also used its $2.9 million Room Exception to sign Seth Curry. Now with at least $109.6 million in salary, the Mavericks have 14 guaranteed players with a spot available for Dorian Finney-Smith, Nicolas Brussino, Kyle Collinsworth, Keith Hornsby or Jameel Warney.
Dallas could have as much as $38 million next summer, based on a projected salary cap of $102 million. That presumes the Mavericks take the rookie-scale option on Justin Anderson, and that the team opts out of the second year on Nowitzki’s deal. Both Bogut and Williams will be free agents next summer, while just $1.3 million of Devin Harris’ $4.4 million is guaranteed for 2017-18. The Mavericks do not have the cap room necessary to restructure and extend Bogut’s contract.
– Eric Pincus
Young teams do a lot right over a 48-minute game, but when it comes down to close out a game, they’re often exposed. The Mavericks are that well-coached, veteran team that will win tight contests, simply because they know how to do so. The team will need to adjust to personnel changes, but the projected starting group of Williams, Matthews, Barnes, Nowitzki and Bogut is a very solid five. Barea, Powell and Harris off the bench, along with players like Quincy Acy, Anderson and Curry is a very solid rotation. The Mavericks will put up points this season and collectively, they’ll get enough stops to win more games than not.
– Eric Pincus
The Mavericks continue to be a good enough team — a squad that make the playoffs (thus bypassing the draft lottery) but doesn’t get beyond the first round. The team isn’t especially young or athletic, although players like Barnes and Anderson help that cause to an extent. Even if the team is in a “win now” posture for the close of Nowitzki’s career, they’re not quite strong enough to compete against the best teams in the league.
– Eric Pincus
THE BURNING QUESTION
Is Harrison Barnes more than a role player?
When a team like the Warriors can boast players like Draymond Green, Curry and Thompson, along with veterans like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, a young, evolving player like Barnes can get lost in the shuffle. Barnes was a featured part of the Warriors’ “death” small-ball lineup as they set an NBA record last year with 73 wins. Unfortunately for Golden State, their quest fell short after taking a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Barnes was not good as the Warriors lost those three straight games to close the year. He seemingly lost his confidence and couldn’t hit a wide open shot. Is that how Barnes should be defined? What about his contribution to the championship run a year earlier, along with the record-setting 2015-16 season?
As one of the Mavericks’ best players, perhaps Barnes will step into a featured role — showing all that he held back in Golden State. At $22.1 million for the coming season, Dallas is banking on Barnes flourishing away from Golden State.
– Eric Pincus
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