2018-19 Season Preview: Dallas Mavericks

NBA.com Global on Oct 15, 2018 02:07 PM
2018-19 Season Preview: Dallas Mavericks
Newly acquired Dallas Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan (6) poses for a photo along with center Dirk Nowitzki (41), forward Harrison Barnes (40), guard Luka Doncic (77) and guard Dennis Smith Jr. (1) during the NBA basketball team's media day in Dallas, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

By Jeff Case, NBA.com

Last season’s 24-58 finish was the Mavericks’ worst since 1997-98, as Dallas fell further back in the Western Conference. Guard Dennis Smith Jr., an All-Rookie second teamer, emerged last season and Harrison Barnes again carried the scoring load. But short of adding first-round pick Luka Doncic and new center DeAndre Jordan (via free agency), Dallas returns essentially the same crew from 2017-18.

ICYMI

After their much-publicized flub on signing Jordan in 2015, the Mavs finally got their man this summer (albeit on a one-year deal) … Undrafted guard Yogi Ferrell seemed set to re-sign with Dallas, then he backed out of his deal and wound up with the Sacramento Kings … Dallas was busy on Draft night, trading for Doncic and also landing Kostas Antetokounmpo (younger brother of the Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Ray Spalding in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers.

THREE POINTS

1. New season, familiar goal for Mavs. Talented youngsters can be found at every position here (again), which means more on-court learning (again). Specialists like Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri and Dorian Finney-Smith must continue to develop their game as Dallas figures out its future.

2. Smith Jr. must take step forward on defense. Scoring wasn’t much of an issue (15.2 ppg), but defense (110.1 Defensive Rating) seemed to be. Smith's athleticism and ability to play passing lanes must be harnessed to help Dallas’ overall defense, which was subpar (No. 18 in Defensive Rating).

3. Jordan should help much of what ails Mavs. He was tied for third in paint touches (791), third in offensive rebounds (329) and fourth in paint scoring (769 points) last season. Dallas was woeful in each of those categories and Jordan’s finishing ability around the rim should help Doncic, Smith Jr. and the Mavs rack up some easy assists.

MAN ON THE SPOT

GM Donnie Nelson oversaw the Mavericks’ roster moves of the 2000s that led to an NBA title in 2011. As Dallas continues to build for the future, will Nelson look to deal veterans such as Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris or J.J. Barea in 2018-19? All of them are in the final year of their contract and all of them could help a contender (or perhaps fetch a future Draft pick for the Mavs in a trade).

STARTING FIVE

Dirk Nowitzki | 12 ppg | 5.7 rpg | 1.6 apg
Needs 223 points to pass Wilt Chamberlain for No. 5 on NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Harrison Barnes | 18.9 ppg | 6.1 rpg | 2 apg
Team’s top scorer made a career-best 119 3-pointers last season.

DeAndre Jordan | 12.0 ppg | 15.2 rpg | 1.5 apg
Rebounding phenom posted his worst blocks average (0.9 bpg) since 2009-10.

Dennis Smith Jr. | 15.2 ppg | 5.2 apg | 3.8 rpg
His 2.7 fast break points per game ranked 2nd among rookies and 21st overall in NBA last season.

Wesley Matthews | 12.7 ppg | 2.7 apg | 3.1 rpg
Shooting numbers rose (40.6 FG pct, 38.1 3-point pct) in 2017-18 after two sub-par seasons.

KEY RESERVES

Luka Doncic | 14.5 ppg | 5.2 rpg | 4.6 apg (Real Madrid)
Playmaking guard must show defensive acumen to push for starting role under coach Rick Carlisle.

Dorian Finney-Smith | 5.9 ppg | 3.6 rpg | 1.2 apg
If healthy, defensive-minded forward could help secure perimeter for Mavs in 2018-19.

Dwight Powell | 8.5 ppg | 5.6 rpg | 1.2 apg
Averaged 10.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.7 apg after All-Star break last season.

BOTTOM LINE

Barnes, Smith Jr. and Nowitzki will carry the offense once again and expectations will be high for Dallas newcomers Doncic and Jordan. Overall, the Mavs have an interesting roster that should take a small step forward in 2018-19. That said, Dallas still plays in the ultra-difficult Western Conference and seems set up for a 30-52 season.

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