by Fox Doucette
Man, it’s been a long summer, hasn’t it? As a guy who doesn’t get too deep into the offseason stuff (I wouldn’t do any better on “Who He Play For?” than does Charles Barkley), this has been a bit like a school teacher’s summer, and change in the offseason has been as much a part of my life (new apartment, new girlfriend, new-ish night job I’ve had since April) as it has for 30 teams across the NBA.
With that in mind, we tip off our 30-previews-in-30-weekdays set of NBA previews in the Southwest Division; we’ll have a new division each Wednesday for the next six weeks.
2017 Record: 33-49.
2018 Over/Under: 35.5.
Hearts of Iron
The corpse of Dirk Nowitzki is back for another go-round, signed to a two-year, $10 million “thanks for being here” retirement deal with a team option on the second year in case Dirk doesn’t take the hint.
Dirk posted the worst Offensive Rating (103) since his rookie season, but his Defensive Rating (106), taken in consideration of the league’s overpowering offense last year, shows that he’s still a ball stopper to be feared even at age 39; if nothing else, he might have evolved into one of the league’s most underrated defenders. Nobody’s confusing him for Kawhi Leonard or Draymond Green, but the old German dog still has a bite with his bark.
But man, shooting 43.7 percent, posting a wretched .084 WS/48, and putting up a negative offensive Box Plus/Minus for the first time since 1999? That corpse is getting pretty ripe when the Mavs have the ball. 30,260 career points have taken their toll. Get the Ninth Army across the river, it’s the end of the war.
These Horses Are British Lasagna
The rest of this Dallas team is so much more of the same crap that wasn’t any good last year; besides the deterioration of their German, this is a team that still employs Wesley Matthews, who hasn’t shot over 40 percent from the field since 2015 and who couldn’t guard my dead grandmother one-on-one.
Harrison Barnes is Harrison Barnes, which is to say that he’s a mess (.078 WS/48, even worse than Dirk, with a negative BPM and a barely-above-average 16.3 PER, a 0.1 VORP player not much better than what you could fish out of the midlevel exception pile in free agency) with a max contract. Relative to the size of his contract (a 4-year, $94.4 million deal he signed last year), he might be the worst starter in the league.
The Other Curry Who Is Nowhere Near As Good started 42 games at point guard with this sorry outfit last year, and Seth gonna Seth, shooting…OK, I’m being unfair to the kid, he’s a Curry, of course he’s going to hit 42.5 percent of his threes (good for sixth in the league) and put up an eye-popping .578 eFG%. If he could play a lick of defense, he could be an All-Star. A 1.7 VORP for $3 million? He’s the anti-Barnes, and at 27, he’s just entering his prime.
Yogi Ferrell is your other starter at the 1 spot, and his production has been up-and-down, but if you guessed “he’s still better than Harrison Barnes”, give yourself a cookie. .090 WS/48 and 0.6 VORP in Dallas after coming over from the Nets.
Your center on this motley crew is Nerlens NoACL, who…OK, when he stays healthy, he is a seriously good defender and the best big man Dallas has stuck in the low post since Tyson Chandler. Sure, his offense is rooted more in opportunistic cleanup buckets than in any ability to create with post moves, but he’ll take more points off the board for the other team defensively than his lack of offense will take off the Mavs’ board.
Dennis Smith Jr. comes in via the ninth draft pick; he’s a one-and-done whose shot isn’t quite NBA-ready and whose scoring in college doesn’t seem like it should translate well to the pro level. He’s 6’3”, the classic wrong-sized combo guard who never seems to stick in the Association. Nobody’s expecting much.
Oh, and Josh McRoberts gets to add a seventh jersey to his collection. So…yeah.
So are the Dallas Mavericks any good? Well, they sucked last year, and most of that suck is back to suck this year. Noel is an upgrade; decomposition for Dirk is a downgrade. Wes Matthews will take bad shots. Seth Curry will take good ones. And Harrison Barnes will continue to be one of the worst players in the league. They won 33 games last year. Noel will get hurt—he always gets hurt—and other calamities will doubtless befall this squad. Dirk will miss a lot of games as he ages; he only played 54 last year. They don’t have the talent beyond the very top of their depth chart to make real noise, so they should regress slightly.
Expect about 30 wins. Are the Mavs any good? Busted, busted, busted.