It seems like just yesterday when the Jarrod Uthoff led Mavericks defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in the regular season finale back in April. Boy, am I glad those days are over.
Now, we are itching ever-so-closely to the start of a brand spanking new season. It will be the 38th season for the Mavericks as a franchise in Dallas. With the arrival of rookie guard Dennis Smith and the celebration of Dirk’s 20th season within the organization, the 2017-2018 campaign is set to be an exciting one. But before we jump ahead into the regular season, let’s first check up on what the Mavericks have been up to this preseason.
Impact of Seth Curry’s Injury
The Dallas Mavericks announced on Saturday that Seth Curry would be out indefinitely with a stress reaction of his left tibia. Rick Carlisle had previously penciled in Curry to be the starting shooting guard next to rookie point guard, Dennis Smith. Curry will be re-evaluated weekly, so there still remains a slight chance he suits up for the regular season opener next Wednesday, October 18th versus the Atlanta Hawks.
If Curry has to miss any time during the regular season, Carlisle will have some lineup flexibility to fill the void of Curry. During Monday’s matchup against the Magic, Carlisle opted to slide 2nd-year guard, Yogi Ferrell next to Smith. Having Yogi in next to Dennis allows the Mavericks the ability to operate with two point guards on the court. With the Mavericks looking to up the overall pace of the game, it’s imperative for them to have as many playmakers on the court as possible. Yogi fits the bill there. Conversely, with the Smith and Yogi backcourt, the pairing is set to have a lot of issues defensively, especially when Dirk is on the floor as well.
With Smith and Curry in the backcourt together the question then becomes who out of that two guards the shooting guard? As expected from a rookie, Smith’s defense through four preseason games has started below average. Bigger guards are going to want to bring Smith down to the block and try to overpower him. Smith only has a 6-foot-3 wingspan, making it easy for guards to shoot over him. This preseason he has allowed 1 point per possession as the primary defender in post-up situations per, Synergy Sports. He’s only had 4 possessions of this instance, but look for teams to come up with clever weighs to hurt Smith on the block.
With the array of guard options off the bench, Carlisle could point to a veteran like J.J. Barea or Devin Harris if Yogi struggles. Harris specifically, gives the Mavericks both play-making and solid perimeter defense. Carlisle also could bring Nerlens Noel into the lineup and move everyone but Dennis Smith down a position. It seems at this point that option will likely not be explored. Carlisle told the media on media day, “At this point in time Dirk at the 5 position is probably the best scenario for Dirk and for our team.” So look for Dirk to remain at the starting center position and the Mavs fill-in Curry with one of their three-guard options from off the bench.
Either way, the Mavericks will have options on what they want to do personnel-wise with Curry out, but the hope is he won’t have to miss much time at all.
Rookie Point Guard: The Good and The Bad
At just 19-years-old, Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith will be the 2nd youngest player to ever suit up in a Maverick uniform. Despite his age, head coach Rick Carlisle has already handed over the keys to Smith, anointing him the starting point guard position for years to come. Growing pains are natural for all players within the NBA, especially a rookie point guard. It is imperative for Mavericks fans to be extremely patient with Smith.
So far through the first four pre-season games, Smith has 18 points in 15 possessions as the pick-and-roll ball handler which ranks him in the 88th percentile, per Synergy Sports. 30% of his possessions result with him as the pick-and-roll ball handler, with him producing 1.2 points-per-possession. 12 of the 15 possessions came when Smith is the primary pick-and-roll Ball handler and was single covered. He has averaged an astounding 1.5 points per possession which ranks him in the 98% percentile. Smith is already a big problem within the pick-and-roll for opposing defenses. It’s clear that Smith can wreak havoc with a spaced floor and he’ll get every opportunity to show off his skills this season.
He is going to have his issues, especially taking care of the ball. So far this preseason, Smith has averaged 2.25 turnovers per contest which is relatively low for a point guard with the ball in his hands as much as Smith. If we do want to nitpick Smith’s game, let’s take a look at some of the mistakes he’s made so far this preseason.
Look it’s natural to make mistakes, especially for a point guard in the NBA. It appears that Carlisle will give Smith every opportunity available to learn from the mistakes on the court. That is super valuable. The Mavericks want Smith learning something new every time he steps onto the court. He is the future of the franchise and every minute he is out there playing, is a learning experience. Mavericks fans should be super excited to see Smith grow as a player this year. It’s important to note that with all of the highlight dunks, there will be lowlight turnovers and mental mistakes. Patience is a virtue with Junior.
The Mavs Zone Needs Work
Rick Carlisle is known around the league as a warlock thanks to his masterful in-game adjustments. Carlisle is not shy about mixing up his defensive deployments within a game. He’s one of the few coaches that decides to play zone on some occasions.
The Mavericks are the only NBA team in the preseason to implore a zone look. They’ve gone to a zone 3.5% of their defensive possessions per, Synergy. Out of the 13 possessions they’ve run a zone, teams have scored 11 points.
With the preseason upon us, the Mavericks first unit tinkered with the zone against the Bulls last Wednesday night. Let’s just say it needs some work. Check out the clip below of the Mavericks within the zone:
Here is a running game log of the Mavericks zone defense from the 1st quarter of their game against the Chicago Bulls.
9:53: corner three converted by Paul Zipser. Not much communication overall & Dirk was sealed by Robin Lopez. This possession is the clip above.
9:14: the bulls attack the open corner again with Harrison Barnes running Zipser off the three-point line. A missed jump shot from the baseline.
8:29: Justin Holiday gets the ball in the right corner with Dirk sealed again. He misses the 3 point attempt but I do not think the Mavericks want to give up those open corner 3s, one of the easiest shots in Basketball.
7:30: after the Dirk made 3 the Mavs end up defending the corner and proceed to allow an easy driving lane for Holiday to hit a layup.
Carlisle is going to deploy the zone especially with Dirk on the floor. If the Mavericks perform like they did against the Bulls, there is no use into even trying the zone out on a consistent basis. The team must communicate and work together to force errant possessions from their opponents. Preseason is a good time to work on these kinds of things, but if the zone they’ve deployed so far is going to trickle into the regular season, only bad things will come as a result of it.
The regular season starts on October 18th, it’s time for the Mavericks to tighten everything up.
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