These days in the media, the teams that get the most love and attention are the ones who are winning. What the media forgets about is that those of us whose teams are losing are still people too! Our hearts are getting ripped out on a nightly basis as our teams struggle and crawl from city to city and our hope continues to wane.
In this column you will find opposite of the norm as we here at The BarnBurner seek to highlight teams that are struggling and limping along, but whose fans are there through thick and thin. This week, we will turn our head towards Dallas, TX and check out the former NBA champions: The Dallas Mavericks.
Team Profile: Dallas Mavericks
Currently the Mavs have the lowest payroll in the NBA at just north of $85mm. The most disagreeable contract on the team is is Harrison Barnes (18p/6p/2a) who is making between 23 and 25.1mm per year through 2020, with that final season being a player option. His contract is probably heavier than the team would like, as he is getting paid to be a first option, but can only be that on an overall underwhelming team (case in point). Of the 9 guys on contract for next year, 4 of them, including franchise pillar Dirk Nowitzki, are team options. This means a potentially large amount of cap space should they chose not to pick up the available options.
Ever since future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki, was drafted in the Summer of 1998 by the Milwaukee Bucks and subsequently traded to the Mavs for Robert Tayor, the Mavericks have made the playoffs a grand total of 15 times. Over half of those appearances ended in first round exits. However, they did see some success with several deep runs and of course tasted victory in the 2011 NBA finals against the big 3 of Miami’s James, Wade, and Bosh. No moment in Dallas Mavericks history is more nostalgic than this game winning shot by Dirk in game 2 of the 2011 NBA finals.
That time seems so long ago. Now the NBA landscape is much different. Since 2011, only 3 teams have won titles, with half of those going to the team that is fortunate enough to have LeBron James on its roster. The likelihood of seeing a quad-peat of contenders in the Finals remains high as we continue to hurtle toward the post season.
Now the first question is: where does Dallas go from here? Dirk can’t carry the team on his soon-to-be 40 year old back. While he is still outperforming many young guns in the league (who are earning significantly more than he is), his prime is clearly past and a new wave of stars are beginning to emerge on the scene.
Looking at Dallas’ current roster you see an experienced mentor and reminder of what used to be (Dirk), a solid second option (Barnes), a decent NBA backup general on an expiring contract (Yogi), and a couple of exciting young guns (Powell/Smith Jr). Oh yeah, Nerlens Noel is also on the team, even though the situation between him and coach Rick Carlisle is an interesting one. Dallas, is this core roster going to take you where you want to go?
— 2018 NBA All-Star (@NBAAllStar) February 18, 2018
Early in the season, owner Mark Cuban claimed that the team was not going to pursue the goal of tanking. Despite these claims, it is pretty obvious that the team has mailed it in for the season. As of this week, Mark is now on board with tanking and expressed this sentiment in a recent interview with Dr. J on his podcast. I applaud his transparency with his players and now the fans, even though it is going to cost him in the form of a fine from NBA chairman Adam Silver. With injuries and other obstacles, this season has been dismal with only a few bright spots. The way the Mavericks are positioning themselves for the draft, could the timing be right for a rebuild?
With Mark Cuban active at the helm, who knows what could happen. His involvement and desire for the team to succeed is obvious and is a large positive for the franchise. I wouldn’t expect an immediate return to relevance for the Mavs, but give it 2-3 years and Dallas could be back in the playoff hunt. For the teams in the lottery this season, their overall outlook for the future is much brighter than fellow basement dwellers like Atlanta and Orlando.
Player Spotlight: Dwight Powell
Dwight Powell was born July 20, 1991 in Toronto, Canada. When he was younger, his parents separated and his mother moved to Boston to pursue a career as a bank executive. When he was 16, he began attending IMG Academy in Florida to help nurture his athletic and academic careers. Coming out of high school, Dwight was highly recruited by Harvard, Georgia Tech, and Stanford and was ranked #25 overall in the nation by rivals.com.
In 2012 while Dwight was a junior in college, his mother, Jacqueline Weir, suddenly passed away from an aggressive form of breast cancer. She had not let him know just how sick she had been with the fear that it would distract him from basketball and school. After the funeral, Dwight went back to playing basketball, and he did it well. His last two seasons at Stanford, he averaged over 14 points and 7 rebounds per game. He showed many signs of being a consistent contributor and that helped to increase his draft-ability.
In June of 2014, Powell was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 45th pick. The next day he was traded in a multi player deal to Cleveland where he subsequently signed a contract and then was traded again to the Boston Celtics a few months later. After several stints in the G-League with the Maine Red Claws, Powell was then traded again, this time to the Mavericks that sent him and Rajon Rondo to Dallas. After a year and a half of traveling between the G-League and the NBA, he finally signed a 37 million dollar contract with the Mavericks that will take him through the 2018-2019 season with a player option for the 2019-2020 season. As far as draft picks go, he has been one of the more successful picked in that 45th slot over the past 18 years. Other notable players picked 45th that are still in the league include Memphis Grizzlies’ rookie Dillon Brooks, Miami Heat All-Star Goran Dragic, and LA Clippers certified bucket-getter Lou Williams.
Powell is a young athletic player who has the built-in hustle factor and has taken an unfortunate situation in Dallas and made the best of it. Of course you don’t have to take my word for it.
The 6 game stretch now for Dwight Powell (w/ 5 starts – as many as his whole career prior to the last 2 wks) is 14.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 67% FG
— Mark Followill (@MFollowill) February 12, 2018
Outlook for Remainder of Season
Right now Dallas sits third from the bottom of the league, trailing the Suns and Hawks in reverse standings. Returning from the All-Star break, the Mavericks have the (bad in this situation) luck to have the 24th easiest schedule. Some key tanking match ups ahead for them include Phoenix, Orlando, Sacramento and Memphis.
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