Tag Archives: Dallas Mavericks

2017-2018 Southwest Division Projections

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X-San Antonio Spurs 61-21 (2)

There is consistency and then there is what the San Antonio Spurs have been able to accomplish. Since the Spurs joined the NBA in 1976, only four seasons have gone by where they have not reached the playoffs, and in each of the last 20 campaigns they’ve been postseason bound. Last season saw the Spurs win 61 games in the regular season as another deep run in the playoffs appeared to be in the works. The Spurs would advance to the Western Conference Finals where they were seeking to unseat the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs were able to build a 25-point lead on the Warriors in the third quarter of Game One on the road, however the series would change when small forward Kawhi Leonard was lost for the remainder of the series after he re-aggravated an ankle injury that he initially sustained during the Western Conference Semifinals versus the Houston Rockets. The Spurs would go on to get swept by the Warriors who went on to claim their second NBA Championship in the last three years as we’re only left to ponder what could have been for San Antonio.

Gregg Popovich is set to begin his 21st full season as the head coach of the Spurs and he is not showing any signs of slowing down. When watching the Spurs it is quite clear who is the boss and that is Popovich. With Popovich it is always about the team and not the individual as they are the New England Patriots of the NBA. And Pop’s philosophy means that anyone on the Spurs roster can get 20 points on any given night.

Kawhi Leonard

But Leonard is the engine of this squad as he makes this team go. In each of Leonard’s six seasons with the Spurs, his production has increased. Leonard is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, as well as being a two-time NBA All-Star. And aside from Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James, Leonard is the best two-way player in the game as there are not that many flaws in his game which will keep him in the discussion to be the NBA’s MVP this season.

However as good as Leonard is, he cannot carry the Spurs team by himself. The summer of 2016 saw the Spurs sign power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year deal for $80 million. But in two seasons with the Spurs, Aldridge has underachieved which includes him failing to provide San Antonio with a consistent post presence. Aldridge was able to average 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Spurs, but he has been too inconsistent which has not won him over that many fans in San Antonio. And if Aldridge continues to fail to meet Popovich’s expectations, don’t be surprised to see him traded.

Rudy Gay

Throughout the 11-year NBA career of small forward Rudy Gay, he has continued to put up quality numbers. The Spurs will be the fourth different NBA team that Gay has played for as he has gone on to average 18.4 points per contest. I don’t expect to consistently see Gay in the starting lineup for San Antonio, but what he can provide San Antonio with is a quality veteran scorer off of the bench who will be instant offense, while providing San Antonio with length that can be utilized at each end of the floor.

San Antonio continues to employ a selfish cast of veterans which includes point guard Tony Parker, shooting guard Manu Ginobili, and center Pau Gasol. Parker and Giniboli are legends within the Spurs organization, and although that each player is in the twilight of his respective Hall of Fame career, they know how to use craftiness in order to get the best of players who are least 10 years their junior.

Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge

Like Ginobili and Parker, Gasol will be headed for Springfield when his playing career is over, and at the age of 37 he is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Popovich has been one of the best in regards to keeping his veteran players fresh for the stretch run. Gasol is still a player that can average at least 15 points per game, while also providing the Spurs with 7 or 8 rebounds per game as well the ability to pass and consistently block shots.

The Spurs are a team that could get off to a slow start, but this is a team that typically doesn’t get its stride until March which should once again be the case this season as San Antonio will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Y-Houston Rockets 50-32 (6)

Each of the last five NBA seasons have seen the Houston Rockets reach the playoffs, but they’ve been unable to break through and get back to the NBA Finals since their last championship in 1995. By the time that the Western Conference Semifinals rolled around last spring, the Rockets were decimated by injuries as they would eventually succumb to the San Antonio Spurs. And after the Rockets fell to the Spurs, you had to expect that Houston would make a few tweaks to their roster, but not a mega trade.

Over the summer the Rockets were able to acquire All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. However the acquisition of Paul was a costly one as Houston sent eight players as well as a first-round pick to Los Angeles. But what the Rockets now have is a back court that will help them keep up with the top teams in the Western Conference.

Chris Pail

Paul will team with guard James Harden who is coming off of his best season in the NBA as he averaged 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, while his 11.2 assists per contests led the league. Harden was able to accomplish this in his first season as a point guard, bur now the acquisition of Paul will not see him as Houston’s primary ball handler. However regardless if Harden is the Rockets primary ball handler or not, it does not take away from the fact that he is one of the game’s best scorers. For Harden’s eight-year NBA career he has averaged 22.1 points per game, while in five seasons with the Rockets that number is 27.4. Last season Harden scored at least 40 in 11 games and he should continue to flourish by playing alongside Paul in the offense of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.

The Rockets will become the third different NBA team that Paul has played for and at the age of 32, he is still one of the top points guards in the league. Paul has led the NBA in assists on four separate occasions and he has a solid chance of doing so once again this season due to his ability to penetrate the lane as well as playing alongside Harden.

Two key players who were not traded to the Clippers were power forward Ryan Anderson and small forward Trevor Ariza who will once again be important to what the Rockets want to do. D’Antoni’s uptempo offense is all about spacing the floor and finding open shooters which is right up Anderson’s alley. For Anderson’s nine-year NBA career he has made more than 42% of his three-point shots, and that trend should continue now that he is playing alongside both Harden and Paul.

Ariza will once again be important to the Rockets due to his perimeter defense which will be important versus the top wing players that the Western Conference has to offer; especially since Houston was 26th in the NBA in points allowed last season.

With the Rockets losing their depth to acquire Paul, while also missing out on acquiring small forward Carmelo Anthony, as well as D’Antoni’s not being known for defense, they will come up short of being a championship team. The Rockets will be exciting, but the struggles of Paul when he faces Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry will once again be exposed as the furthest that this team will be able to advance in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks 41-41

After being one of the top teams in the Western Conference since 2000, the Dallas Mavericks took a huge step backwards last season as they lost 49 games for the first time since 1998. The Mavericks lost their first five games of the season and they were never able recover in the Western Conference Playoff race. And for Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, will he be able to reverse the fortunes of this franchise heading into a new season?

Dirk Nowitzki

For the Mavs, power forward Dirk Nowitzki has been the face of this franchise for nearly two decades. Hands down Nowitzki is the most prolific player in franchise history, but as he is 39-years of age, he isn’t the player that he once was. However Carlisle has done a solid job in recent years in regards to managing Nowitxki’s minutes which should once again be the case for the upcoming season. And it would not surprise me to see Carlisle utilize Nowitzki off of the bench at some point this season. But as Nowitzki is on the downside of his Hall of Fame career, the Mavs have begun the process of building towards to future.

Last year saw the Mavericks acquire small forward Harrison Barnes from the Golden State Warriors. Barnes was a member of the Warriors team that won the NBA Championship in 2015, but his skills at the offensive end of the floor were never going to be fully recognized as he was playing in the shadow of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. However Barnes’ first season would begin to see his potential recognized as he was able to average 19.2 points which led the club. And the good thing for the Mavericks is that Barnes has the potential to get better.

Barnes gives the Mavs a solid perimeter scorer, while he also knows how to get to the basket. And as Barnes and Carlisle are getting to get more acquainted with one another, the results will only be good for Dallas.

Dennis Smith Jr.

The Mavericks are high on point guard Dennis Smith Jr. who was their first-round choice this year. Throughout the NBA’s Summer League as well as training camp, Smith has shown that he has what it takes to be a solid floor general for Dallas as he has the ability to get his own shot, while also making the people around him better.

Shooting guard Wesley Matthews continues to be a solid perimeter defender, while both center Nerlens Noel who can clean up on the boards as well as being a rim protector and shooting guard Seth Curry who continues to improve as a three-point shooter could each be in the running to be the NBA’s Most Improved Player this season which fits into the Mavericks identity of being underdogs this season. However Curry’s season debut will be delayed after he suffered a stress reaction in his left tibia during the preseason. It will be important for Noel to remain healthy as he is a big part of what Dallas wants to do on defense as they were fourth in the NBA in points allowed last season and he can be an anchor on their back line.

Five of the Mavericks first six games this season will be against teams that made that playoffs last season. And the last thing that Dallas needs is another slow start as it would derail their season before it even starts.

Memphis Grizzlies 40-42

Each of the last seven NBA seasons have seen the Memphis Grizzlies qualify for the postseason which is the third longest current playoff streak in the league behind the San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks. But unlike the Spurs who have gone on to win five NBA Championships during their postseason streak, the Grizzlies have only been able to advance to the Western Conference Finals once, while they were eliminated in the first round in each of the last two seasons. David Fizdale led the Grizzlies to a winning record as well as a playoff berth in his first season with Memphis. Fizdale did this with a veteran team that he inherited as it was vital for him to manage the minutes of the Grizzlies as the season progressed. But as Fizdale is set to begin his second season with the Grizzlies, his team will have a different feel to it as they look to make it eight consecutive trips to the postseason.

Power forward Zach Randolph spent the last eight seasons with the Grizzlies and in the process he became one of the best players in franchise history. Randolph averaged 16.8 and 10.2 rebound during his Grizzlies career. Randolph also became the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds, while being third in points. Randolph turned 36-years of age this past July and he decided to join the Sacramento Kings on a two-year deal that is worth $24 million.

Marc Gasol

During Randolph’s time with the Grizzlies, his tag-team partner in the frontcourt has been center Marc Gasol. At the age of 32, Gasol is still one of the best all-around big men in the NBA as he it the total package due his ability to score, pass, facilitate, block shots, rebound, and defend. When Gasol is on the floor, the Grizzlies have the benefit of another point guard, while his blocked shots in the paint tend to lead to fast break opportunities on offense. And with Randolph no longer will the Grizzlies, Gasol will be more important that ever to what Memphis wants to do.

Mike Conley

The summer of 2016 saw point guard Mike Conley Jr. cash in as he and the Grizzlies came to an agreement on a five-year that is worth $153 million. Conley did his part to live up to his inflated contract as he averaged a career-high 20.5 points to go along with 6.3 assists. Conley began to take more ownership on offense for the Grizzlies as he connected on 46% of his field goals which was a career-high, while he shot more than 40% from downtown for just the second time of his NBA career. But whereas that Conley is not considered a top-tier point guard in the NBA, will he be able to elevate his game once more in order to make Memphis a threat in the Western Conference?

In 2010, swingman Tyreke Evans was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year as he was able to do a little bit of everything for the Kings. That season Evans was able to average 20.1 points per game, however he has never been able to match the production that he had as a rookie. Since then Evans has bounced around with several teams, each time he has found himself that did not properly suit his skill set which is him playing in the point forward role. But Evans has an opportunity to do something special with the Grizzlies due to his ability to get to the basket, facilitate, and rebound as he should be able to play off of both Gasol and Conley.

Times have changed in the NBA as scoring is up. The Grizzlies were third in the NBA in points allowed last season in spite of the fact that they surrendered 100 points per game, and they should once again be one of the top defensive teams in the NBA due to the mindset of Fizdale, as well as having players such as Gasol leading the way.

The Grizzlies will be an up and down team this season, but they will continue to be a tough for their opponents.

New Orleans Pelicans 37-45

Five of the last six NBA seasons have resulted in the New Orleans Pelicans failing to make the playoffs. And ever before the start of a new campaign, the Pelicans find themselves at the crossroads.

Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins

Last season saw the Pelicans acquire All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings with part of the compensation seeing New Orleans part with both of their draft picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Cousins’ arrival in New Orleans saw him team with power forward Anthony Davis to give the Pelicans one of the top front courts in the NBA, but their presence wasn’t enough to get to the postseason.

However heading into a new NBA season, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has a tough task ahead of him which includes being able to utilize both Cousins and Davis, while keeping the other players involved.

What the Pelicans have in Davis is the best big man in the NBA as well as a player who will be an MVP candidate this season. There is not anything that Davis cannot do on the basketball court as he is the total package at both ends of the floor. The ability of Davis to score in the paint as well as on the perimeter will now be magnified as he is playing alongside Cousins which means that opponents of the Pelicans can no longer solely focus on trying to stop him.

Like Davis, Cousins is one of the better big men in the NBA, but he just does not have the perimeter game of that his fellow former Kentucky Wildcat possesses. Cousins is at his best when he plays angry as you can pencil him in for 25 points and 15 rebounds when that is the case. At the conclusion of the 2017-2018 NBA season, Cousins will be a free agent which means that he should have a big season as he is looking to get paid by the Pelicans or another team.

Jrue Holiday

The Pelicans do have a pair of quality ball handlers in veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans will mark the fifth different NBA team that Rondo has suited up for which is a reflection on his attitude. Rondo has led the NBA in assists on four separate occasions, however he been known to clash with his head coaches which has made him expendable. Rondo is 31-years of age and the Pelicans need him to be a leader for this team as opposed to being a combustible element like he has been in the past.

For Holiday, his passing ability should be magnified alongside both Davis and Cousins. Rondo will miss the beginning of the season due to sports hernia surgery. However when Holiday and Rondo are each healthy and with both players projected to be in the Pelicans starting lineup, who will be the primary ball handler for this club?

Veteran guard Tony Allen comes to New Orleans and he can provide the club with some much needed toughness. The upcoming NBA season will mark Allen’s 14th year in the league which has been highlighted by him being a three-time All-Defensive First-team member as well as winning a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. At the age of 35, Allen still has the ability to slow down and frustrate perimeter scorers, and his experience in the NBA should benefit New Orleans.

Last season saw the Pelicans give up 106.4 points per game which was 17th in the NBA. However New Orleans needs to have a change to philosophy in order to maximize the ability of their personnel. With Davis and Cousins in the front court, New Orleans needs to run more half-court sets with their two All-Star big men in the paint as much as possible. And if done properly, Davis and Cousins could have a huge impact for the Pelicans. Defensively the Pelicans need to take more pride being that both Cousins and Davis are shot blockers as well as possessing the ability to clean up on the boards.

However the Pelicans have too many combustible elements on this team, while Gentry is not the right head coach to reign everyone in which means that the upcoming NBA season will be a train wreck on the Bayou.

X-Division Winner

Y-Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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2017 NBA Mock Draft 2.0

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1. Philadelphia 76ers (via Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics)-Markelle Fultz-Freshman-Point Guard-Washington

The 76ers once again have the first overall pick in the NBA Draft and they will get themselves a quality ball handler.

2. Los Angeles Lakers-Lonzo Ball-Freshman-Point Guard-UCLA

It would not shock me to Lakers pass on Lonzo Ball here, but the fact that they brought him in for a second workout means that they’ll more than likely give in and select him.

De’Aaron Fox

3. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers)-De’Aaron Fox-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

The Celtics trade and still get themselves a quality point guard, while also stock piling more future draft picks.

4. Phoenix Suns-Josh Jackson-Freshman-Small Forward-Kansas

The Suns already have a solid young back court of point guard Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Devin Booker, and now they can add another versatile perimeter player in Josh Jackson.

5. Sacramento Kings (via Philadelphia 76ers)-Jayson Tatum-Freshman-Small Forward-Duke

All signs point to small forward Rudy Gay leaving the Kings as a free agent and they can find his replacement right here.

6. Orlando Magic-Jonathan Isaac-Freshman-Small Forward-Florida State

For years the Magic have been without an impact player at the small forward position. Jonathan Isaac won’t be a superstar, but he could be a solid developmental project in Orlando.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves-Lauri Markkanen-Freshman-Power Forward-Arizona

If the Timberwolves don’t trade this selection they will be in a position to select the best athlete available.

8. New York Knicks-Malik Monk-Freshman-Point Guard-Kentucky

Don’t look know but the Knicks could find the perfect player at the point guard position to compliment power forward Kristaps Porzingis.

Dennis Smith Jr.

9. Dallas Mavericks-Dennis Smith Jr.-Freshman-Point Guard-North Carolina State

The Mavericks could go in several directions with one of them being finding a floor general.

10. Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans)-Frank Ntilikina-Point Guard-Belgium

The Kings are building towards the future which means finding a point guard to run their offense.

11. Charlotte Hornets-Luke Kennard-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Duke

The Hornets could go in several directions with this pick, but they need to find more perimeter scoring if they want to be a consistent playoff team.

12. Detroit Pistons-Terrance Ferguson-Shooting Guard-United States

If all the top point guards are gone, I would not be surprised to see the Pistons trade down. But at the same time Terrance Ferguson could fill a need in the Pistons back court if shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope elects to leave in free agency.

13. Denver Nuggets-Zach Collins-Freshman-Center-Gonzaga

The Nuggets are continuing to stock pile depth in their front court as they seek to make a playoff push next season.

Harry Giles

14. Miami Heat-Harry Giles-Freshman-Power Forward-Duke

The Heat were on the cusp of making the playoffs this past season. And with the selection of Harry Giles, along with what could be a busy summer for them in free agency, Miami could once again be a force in the Eastern Conference.

15. Portland Trail Blazers-Justin Patton-Freshman-Center-Creighton

If the Trail Blazers decide to retain this selection they could find a developmental project for their front court.

Justin Jackson

16. Chicago Bulls-Justin Jackson-Junior-Small Forward-North Carolina

The Bulls already have Jimmy Butler at small forward, but they could get some depth behind him, while also finding a player who fits perfectly into the system of head coach Fred Hoiberg.

17. Milwaukee Bucks-Jarrett Allen-Freshman-Center-Texas

The Bucks are already one of the most athletic teams in the NBA, and they can get better here with a player in Jarrett Allen who can clean up on the glass, while also blocking every shot in sight.

18. Indiana Pacers-Donovan Mitchell-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Louisville

In a last ditch effort to possibly keep small forward Paul George happy, the Pacers must hit on this selection.

19. Atlanta Hawks-John Collins-Sophomore-Power Forward-Wake Forest

There is a chance that power forward Paul Millsap will leave the Hawks this summer which means that it’s more than likely time for them to start over at that position.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (via Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers)-Ike Anigbogu-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

For the Trail Blazers it’s all about finding players in their front court that can compliment point guard Damian Lillard.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder-Tyler Dorsey-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Oregon

I would not be surprised to see the Thunder either trade down, or attempt to get more picks for next year.

T.J. Leaf

22. Brooklyn Nets (via Washington Wizards)-T.J. Leaf-Freshman-Power Forward-UCLA

With the Nets not having a first-round pick next year, they need to hit a home run with this selection.

23. Toronto Raptors (via Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks)-Caleb Swanigan-Sophomore-Power Forward-Purdue

If the Raptors are going to be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference, they will need more offensive production from their front court.

24. Utah Jazz-OB Anunoby-Sophomore-Small Forward-Indiana

This could be an interesting selection for the Jazz as all of their hopes will rest on whether or not that small forward Gordon Hayward will re-sign with them.

25. Orlando Magic (via Toronto Raptors)-Jonathan Motley-Junior-Power Forward-Baylor

Aside from Aaron Gordon, the Magic currently don’t have any power forwards on their roster which would give Jonathan Motley the opportunity to come in and be an immediate contributor.

26. Portland Trail Blazers (via Cleveland Cavaliers)-Bam Adebayo-Freshman-Center-Kentucky

With a trio of first-round picks I expect the Blazers to trade at one of them, but if they draft Bam Adebayo, I see him staying in the Pacific Northwest.

Tyler Lydon

27. Brooklyn Nets (via Boston Celtics)-Tyler Lydon-Sophomore-Small Forward-Syracuse

Tyler Lydon could provide the Nets with some quality perimeter shooting that they lacked last season.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (via Houston Rockets)-Josh Hart-Senior-Small Forward-Villanova

Josh Hart might possess a second round grade, but he has plenty of intangibles which includes knowing how to win.

29. San Antonio Spurs-Ivan Rabb-Sophomore-Power Forward-California

If Ivan Rabb left school last year he could have been a top-five pick. However Rabb’s loss could be the Spurs gain.

30. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors)-Dwayne Bacon-Sophomore-Shooting Guard-Virginia

In watching the Jazz this season, their lack of depth in the back court was a glaring weakness.

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The Other Curry

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For Dallas Mavericks point guard Seth Curry, his journey to the NBA has not been an easy one. After Curry averaged 22.3 points as a high school senior, none of the big time college basketball programs came calling. Curry would average 20.2 points in his freshman year for the Liberty Flames before transferring to join the Duke Blue Devils. Curry’s first year at Duke saw him average 9 points as he was the backup to point guard Kyrie Irving who would go on to be the first overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Curry would continue to improve during his time at Duke under head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski which culminated with him averaging 17.5 points per game as a senior en route to him being a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s first-team in 2013.

Heading into the 2013 NBA Draft, Curry was looked at as a possible second-round pick as people mainly knew him for the younger brother of Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and the son of former NBA guard Dell Curry. Surprisingly the younger Curry went undrafted by the NBA, but he would quickly sign with the Warriors to join his brother. Curry never appeared in an official game for the Warriors as he instead was relegated to their Development League affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors. Curry would spend the next few years bouncing back and forth between the D-League and various NBA teams as he appeared in games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings. Last summer Curry would become an unrestricted free agent as he opted to join the Dallas Mavericks which has worked out good for both he and the team.

Prior to this season Curry had never averaged more than 6.8 points per contest, but he has nearly doubled that in his first season with the Mavericks as he is averaging 12.8 points per game. Curry has appeared in 70 of the Mavericks 75 games which has included him scoring 31 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 24 and 29 points against the Miami Heat on February 27. For the season Curry is shooting 42% from behind the three-point line which is sixth in the NBA. And although that Curry is only signed through next season, I have the feeling that he is on the verge of finding an NBA home in Dallas.

Initially I was shocked to see that it took Curry this long to find stability in the NBA, but unlike his older brother Steph, Seth had trouble creating his own shoot upon coming into the league. At Duke, Curry shot nearly 40% from behind the three-point line which primarily was the result of him coming off of screens, or as the result of players such as center Mason Plumlee being double teamed. There was never a question about Curry being able to shoot as he is from one of the best deep shooting families in NBA history. And even though that Curry had to go through the D-League in order to get to the NBA, the journey is paying off for him in a big way.

With just a few games left in the regular season the odds are against the Mavs making the postseason as they are 6.5 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. This would also mark just the second time since 2001 in which Dallas has failed to make the postseason, but things could be trending upwards for them heading into next  season.

Curry has given the Mavericks some stability in their back court as this is an organization that has been spurned in recent years in free agency. Curry might not be on the level of his famous brother who has an NBA Championship to his credit, while also being a two-time MVP, but he is a shining example of how hard work pays off as he is showing the ability to be a solid contributor to a team.

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The Winners And Losers At The 2017 NBA Trade Deadline

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Only time will tell how things will work out for DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Making The Most Of His Opportunity

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It’s safe to say that this current NBA season has been a struggle for the Dallas Mavericks as they are on pace for their first losing season since the 1999-2000 campaign. The Mavericks are currently 12-27 and they are in last place in the Southwest Division. But as bad as things have been for the Mavs who began this NBA season 0-5, while also having to endure an eight-game losing streak, they may have found a future building block for their organization in small forward Harrison Barnes.

The Mavericks landed Barnes in free agency last summer as both sides agreed on a four-year deal that is worth $94 million. Barnes joined the Mavs after he spent the first four years of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. Barnes was a first-round pick by the Warriors in 2012, but he found himself taking a backseat to point guard Steph Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson who were the focal points of Golden State offense. And there was absolutely nothing wrong with that as Curry along with Thompson are two of the games better perimeter shooters which led to an NBA Championship for the Warriors in 2015.

Barnes was still a valuable role player for the Warriors, however during his time with Golden State he appeared to be disrespected by some fans who thought that he was hindering instead of helping Golden State’s cause. And when small forward Kevin Durant became an unrestricted free agent last summer, that made Barnes very expendable in Oakland.

But whereas the Warriors showed Barnes the door, the Mavs have welcomed him with open arms as this is an organization that is desperate for an infusion of youth.

The Mavericks won their first and only NBA Championship in 2011, but they would ultimately be done in by a new collective bargaining agreement for the following season which limited their financial ability to re-sign players and hindered the chance for them to get back to basketball glory. The Mavericks have made the playoffs four times since 2011, however they have been unable to make it past the first round. Dallas has attempted to keep it together with spit and glue around power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is still the face of the franchise, but at the age of 38, he cannot be counted on in the same fashion to produce like he did in the prime of his career.

Barnes has begun to fill that void as his 20.8 points per game currently lead the Mavericks, while it is also a career-high for him. Barnes has scored at least 10 points in each contest this season which was highlighted by going for a season-high 34 points in an 86-75 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on November 6. But anyone who has followed Barnes’ basketball career should not be surprised.

Barnes grew up in Ames, Iowa and was one of the top high school players in the country. Barnes could have gone to any college that he chose too, but he settled on playing basketball for the North Carolina Tar Heels. In two years at North Carolina, Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game as he was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2011, while also helping the Tar Heels make consecutive Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Barnes has always had to share the spotlight as in high school, he was teammates with Chicago Bulls small forward Doug McDermott, while at North Carolina played alongside Boston Celtics center Tyler Zeller who was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Player of the Year in 2012, along with Milwaukee Bucks center John Henson. And of course with the Warriors, Barnes took a back seat to Curry and Thompson.

But now Barnes has the green light to show his scoring ability from the wing as his combination to get to the basket along with a solid mid-range jump shot make him one of the NBA’s rising stars. And although that all roads point to the Mavericks heading to the NBA’s Draft Lottery this spring, Barnes is giving them a star for the future, while also being a transition for the organization from an aging Nowitzki. I’m not saying that Barnes will have to ability to put the Mavs on his back in the fashion that Nowitzki did, but he is a start.

This is an organization that was hurt by the NBA Lockout in 2011, while also being spurned in free agency by the likes of Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan who was all set to come to Dallas in 2015 until he had a change of heart. But going forward for the Mavericks, drafting will be the key and if they can show quality free agents that they are putting a team together that includes Barnes, a quick turnaround in the Lone Star State is not out of the realm of possibilities.

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2016-2017 Southwest Division Projections

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X-San Antonio Spurs 63-19 (2)

Last season saw the San Antonio Spurs win 67 games, but they were a team that most people were not talking about since the Golden State Warriors set an NBA single-season record for victories with 73. The Spurs were poised for another title run until they ran into the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals who knocked them out in six games. The loss to the Thunder signaled the end for power forward Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. For the last 19 seasons Duncan has been the face on Spurs franchise. With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs never missed the playoffs en route to winning five NBA Championships. But under the guidance of head coach Gregg Popovich, don’t expect the Spurs to slow down now that Duncan has retired.

In order to attempt to replace Duncan, the Spurs signed free agent center Pau Gasol. In 15 NBA seasons Gasol has averaged 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists as his skill set is an ideal fit for the Spurs system. Gasol is also a two-time NBA Champion and his leadership and knowledge of the game will be welcomed with open arms in San Antonio.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard

Gasol will team in the Spurs starting front court with small forward Kawhi Leonard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to give San Antonio one of the toughest trios in the NBA to match up against. In each of Leonard’s five seasons with the Spurs, his numbers have improved and he is becoming one of the best two-way players in the league. Last year Leonard averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals as he finished second in the NBA’s MVP voting. Leonard should once again be a force to be reckoned with this time around. As for Aldridge, his numbers were slightly down in his first year with the Spurs which was the result of the constant ball movement that is orchestrated in San Antonio. However you can pencil in Aldridge for another All-Star caliber season, and he should also benefit from playing alongside Gasol who is one of the better passing big men in the NBA.

Tony Parker

Veteran point guard Tony Parker has seen his fair share of the NBA’s grind as he is set to begin his 15th season with the Spurs. And even at the age of 34, Parker isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as he is still one of better guards in the NBA when it comes to penetration. Veteran shooting guard Manu Ginobili is 39-years of age, but he will still be a vital member coming off of the bench for San Antonio, while shooting guard Danny Green is looking to bounce back after a subpar campaign last season from downtown. Power forward David Lee is set to begin his first season with the Spurs, and as he has averaged 14.2 points, along with 9.2 rebounds during his 11-year NBA career, he will be a valuable player coming off of the bench for the Spurs.

 

The Spurs are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, and being that they are led by Popovich, I don’t expect this team to take their eyes off of the prize as they will once again be a very formidable team when the playoffs roll around.

Y-Dallas Mavericks 49-33 (6)

The past five years have been a rough go at it for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks do have four playoff appearances over that stretch, but they’ve been unable to advance past the first round of the NBA Playoffs. After winning the NBA Championship in 2011, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been hell bent on getting back to the promised land. And after Cuban and the Mavs were spurned several times recently in free agency, they could be ready to re-emerge as a contender in the Western Conference.

Dirk Nowitzki

Power forward Dirk Nowitzki is set to begin his 19th season with the Mavericks and he is still playing at a quality level. Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points per contest last season and you can expect another quality campaign from him due to the talent that has been assembled around him.

In four seasons with the Golden State Warriors, small forward Harrison Barnes saw his points per game average increase, but he was still under utilized. With the Warriors, Barnes took a backseat to shooting guard Klay Thompson and point guard Steph Curry. But after the Warriors signed small forward Kevin Durant over the summer, Barnes became an afterthought there. And once Barnes hit free agency, the Mavs welcomed him with open arms to the tune of $94 million dollars over the next four years. Barnes will definitely see more shots per game and he should be able to average at least 16 points per game in Dallas.

The Mavericks also landed another player formerly with the Warriors in center Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks acquired Bogut from the Warriors over the summer, and like Barnes, he saw a dip in his production there. Bogut won’t look to be a scorer in Dallas, but what you can expect from him is a solid rebounder, while he is also a quality facilitator from the center position.

Wesley Matthews

The summer of 2015 saw the Mavericks sign shooting guard Wesley Matthews, but he spent his first season in Dallas attempting to get back on track after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the previous season as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. However Matthews is now healthy and he should able to contribute as a solid wing player; especially at the defensive end of the floor.

 

In 65 games with the Mavericks last season, point guard Deron Williams showed flashes of what made him a three-time NBA All-Star. And even at the age of 32, if Williams is once again motivated, it will be a huge plus for the Mavericks.

 

Rick Carlisle

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best in the business when it comes to dealing with different personalities while getting the most out of his team. And the Mavericks could be set up to have a very productive NBA campaign.

 

 

Y-Memphis Grizzlies 46-36 (7)

The past six NBA seasons have seen the Memphis Grizzlies be the little engine that could of the Western Conference. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs in each of the last six years, and although that they have been unable to advance to the NBA Finals, they continue to be a tough out in the postseason. But things are once again changing for the Memphis Grizzlies as after compiling a 147-99 record over the last three years, Dave Joerger was fired as the team’s head coach.

Dave Fizdale

Joerger was replaced in Memphis by Dave Fizdale who has spent the last 14 years as an assistant coach in the NBA; most notably as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat for the last nine seasons. Fizdale has inherited a veteran team that he must find a way to keep healthy for the riggers of the long haul that is the regular season in the NBA.

A broken foot forced center Marc Gasol to miss 26 games last year, along with the playoffs. Gasol is a catalyst for the Grizzlies at both ends of the floor as he is an all-around player. In 2013, Gasol was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, while in each of the last four seasons, he has averaged nearly 4 assists per contest. Gasol has good court vision which can see him pass the basketball from the top of the key as well as in the post equally which always keeps an opposing defense on its toes.

Zach Randolph

Like Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph has been a recent fixture for Grizzlies basketball. In seven seasons in Memphis, Randolph has averaged 17.2 rebounds and 10.5 rebounds as along with Gasol, they give the Grizzlies one of the better front courts in the NBA. But at the age of 35, Randolph has 15 years worth of mileage on his legs from playing in the NBA. Fizdale understands that and he is looking to preserve Randolph which will see him come off of the bench this year, but he can still be extremely effective in that role.

Point guard Mike Conley Jr. has spent his entire nine-year NBA career with the Grizzlies and this past summer saw him become a very rich man as he signed a five-year, $153 million deal to stay in Memphis as it was one of the largest contracts in league history. For Conley’s career he has averaged 13.6 points and 5.6 assists, and now the pressure is going to be on him to increase those statistics due to the lucrative deal that he agreed to.

In two years with the Dallas Mavericks, a bad knee kept small forward Chandler Parsons from reaching his full potential. But if Parsons is healthy, he could have a big impact in Memphis due to his shooting ability which compliments the playing style of Gasol, and Conley’s ability to penetrate into the paint.

Small forward Vince Carter is 39-years of age, and although that he isn’t able to crank it up and thrown down thunderous dunks as often as he once did, he is still brings a tremendous skill set to the table, along with a plethora of NBA experience. And along with guard Tony Allen who is still a solid defender, Carter adds to the Grizzlies depth off of their bench.

The Grizzlies will be a work in progress as the season goes along, but once the postseason rolls around, they will once again be a tough out.

Houston Rockets 40-42 

The past NBA season saw the Houston Rockets wilt under the lofty expectations that were thrust onto them. The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and there was hope within the organization that they could build off of that. But after a 4-7 start, the Rockets decided to part with head coach McHale. McHale would be replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff who was able to get the Rockets to the playoffs, but they could never rekindle the magic from the previous season.

Mike D’Antoni

The Rockets have now turned to Mike D’Antoni to be their next head coach. In 12 seasons in the NBA as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers, D’Antoni has a record of 455-426. D’Antoni has six playoff appearances to his credit as his teams have been known to very offensive oriented. The Rockets scored 106.5 points per contest last season which was fourth in the NBA, but they surrendered 106.4 points game which was 25th in the league. And being that D’Antoni is now running the show in Houston, you can expect that trend to continue.

James Harden

When you think of Rockets shooting guard James Harden, you think of instant offense. Harden is always in the MVP discussion as he is one of the best scorers in the NBA. Harden averaged 29 points per contest last season, and in D’Antoni’s “fun and gun” offense, you can expect him to be off to the races. Harden averaged 7.5 assists last year, and you can expect him to play the point guard position more this season which should be very interesting.

But aside from Harden, the Rockets don’t have any other players that can step up and put the team on their back. Small forward Trevor Ariza is a solid defender, and guard Patrick Beverly plays with tremendous heart, but will that be enough to make the Rockets a playoff team for a fifth consecutive year?

Daryl Morey

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is a huge proponent of analytics to build his team from which hasn’t been produced as many wins lately and it will once again be put to the test this season. Seven of the Rockets first eight games will be on the road which includes two meetings with the Dallas Mavericks, along with games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs which won’t be a picnic.

New Orleans Pelicans 38-44

In 2015, it appeared as if the New Orleans Pelicans were destined for greatness until they shot themselves in the foot. The Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time in three years and they appeared ready for an upswing under head coach Monty Williams. But surprisingly, Williams was fired by the Pelicans and replaced with Alvin Gentry. Under Gentry, the Pelicans got off to a slow start last season with a record of 1-11 and they were unable to recover as they only managed to win 30 games. The Pelicans were also done in by injuries with their best player in center Anthony Davis missing 21 games. But as a new NBA season is set to begin, will the Pelicans be able to pick up their production in the Western Conference?

Anthony Davis

Any chance that the Pelicans have for a turnaround begins with Davis. Davis is one of the NBA’s rising stars and he will be the MVP of the league at some point. If Davis is healthy, you can pencil him in to average at least 22 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest while he makes the players that are around him better due to the attention that he receives. Last year Gentry had Davis take more perimeter shots, but if he concentrates on his post game, there won’t be too many defenders in the NBA that will be able to stop him.

The Pelicans will definitely miss the contributions of point guard Jrue Holiday who has stepped away from the basketball team to care for his wife as she deals with a brain tumor, and although that it won’t be easy, New Orleans will have to find a way to replace his production as he averaged 16.8 points and 6 rebounds last season.

With Holiday away from the team, Tyreke Evans should see more time at point guard this year, and getting the basketball to Davis early and often should be his main priority.

Buddy Hield

Shooting guard Buddy Hield was the Pelicans first-round past June and he should have an immediate impact. Hield comes to the NBA as a very decorated player which included him being the Naismith Player of the Year as the nation’s top men’s basketball player during the previous college basketball season as he averaged 25 points per game in helping the Oklahoma Sooners reach the Final Four this past April. Hield is one of the players that can heat up from behind the three-point line rather quickly and playing alongside Davis should see them help each other.

The Pelicans should be a little bit better than last year, but being that the Southwest Division is one of the toughest in the NBA, they will be fighting an uphill battle as far as making the postseason in the spring.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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A Tale Of Two Legends

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This summer has seen dollars handed out at an alarming rate in the NBA. The league’s new television deal has seen role players become multi-millionaires while making some superstar players appearing to be underpaid. We’ve also seen franchise players change addresses in the hopes of winning an NBA Championship and/or more money. After 13 seasons with the Miami Heat, shooting guard Dwyane Wade left as a free agent to join the Chicago Bulls. Wade was seeking $50 million over the next two seasons from the Heat which he didn’t receive and thus he bolted to Chicago. Like Wade, Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki opted out of his contract as he was seeking a pay increase. But unlike Wade, Nowitzki and the Mavericks agreed on a new two-year deal that is worth $50 million as this all but symbolizes that he’ll retire in Dallas. And it is a tale of how two NBA franchises approached their veterans players in different fashions.

Dirk Nowitzki

Nowitzki was drafted ninth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998, and they immediately traded him to the Mavericks. But in Dallas, Nowitzki has gone on to be a rock as he is the best player in Mavericks franchise history. In 18 years with the Mavs, Nowitzki has averaged 22 points per contest while helping Dallas win their only NBA Championship in 2011 as he was named the Finals MVP. Nowitzki is the Mavericks all-time leader in nearly every statistical category, and he is closing in on becoming the first and only player in franchise history to score 30,000 career points.

Wade was the fifth overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft by the Heat and he would make an immediate impact as he averaged 16.2 points as a rookie in helping Miami reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In 2006, Wade would team with center Shaquille O’Neal to help the Heat win their first NBA Championship. Wade’s Heat knocked off Nowitzki’s Mavericks, and he would be named NBA Finals MVP that June.

Dwyane Wade

Like Nowitzki, Wade is the Heat’s all-time leader in most statistical categories and he has become a cultural icon in South Florida to the point that some people refer to Dade County as “Wade County”.

In 2010, Wade took a backseat when the Heat signed small forward LeBron James and power forward Chris Bosh to make things work as he was all about winning championships. Like Bosh and James, Wade took less money in order to give the Heat cap flexibility to put a quality team around them which led to four consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals and a pair of championships.

But unlike Nowitzki, Wade has had trouble staying healthy throughout his NBA career as he has never made all 82 regular season starts in the league’s calendar year. This issue was front and center last summer when Wade was seeking a new long-term deal from the Heat which he was never received. Wade who was 33-years of age at the time was unable to persuade Heat president Pat Riley to give him that long-term deal and the two sides came to an agreement on a one-year deal for $20 million.

But this past NBA season it was vintage Wade as he averaged 19 points per game in leading the Heat to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However when it came time for both sides to talk turkey, Riley simply didn’t see Wade as still being a superstar caliber player which led a disgruntled Wade to taking his talents to the Windy City.

Just like Wade, Nowitzki took less money in order to make things work in Dallas which is what led to an NBA Championship in 2011. Nowitzki has continued to take contracts that were under his market value until now. And unlike Riley in Miami, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t have a problem in backing up the Brinks truck to pay the best player in his franchise’s history in order for him to remain in Dallas.

Pat Riley

This is just another example of the business of professional sports and how two franchises chose to operate differently. Riley was reluctant to pay an aging player superstar money as he felt that he was no longer worth it. But Riley called Wade’s bluff when he was unwilling to offer the shooting guard more than $40 million over the next two years. Wade didn’t get the $50 million that he was seeking from the Bulls, but he received $47 million as Chicago simply made him feel wanted as Riley has publicly expressed regret over allowing Wade to leave South Beach.

Riley was looking at the long term for the Heat, but in the short team Miami is not a better team without Wade as they will sorely miss his leadership. And Riley knew that he made a mistake as soon as Wade signed with the Bulls.

Cuban on the other hand feels that he can still win a championship with Nowitzki if the right players are put around him while also making sure that the Future Hall of Famer retires in Dallas. But it was Cuban’s commitment to Nowitzki that has shone brighter than anything else.

Like Tim Duncan who just retired after playing 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki has never publicly criticized the Mavericks when it came to money, and you have never heard of any animosity between him and the front office in Dallas which is the exact opposite of Wade and Riley in Miami.

Mark Cuban

From Cuban’s first day as owner of the Mavericks, he has run a top-notch organization and he has treated his employees accordingly. For nearly two decades with the Heat, Riley has built the Heat into a contender, but two of the last three summers have seen him lose James and now Wade in free agency. Cuban didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of re-signing Nowitzki as he did what was best for business, while Riley will always have to face speculation as to why he let the best player in Heat franchise history as well as on the current roster leave town scot free.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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Finally Getting Ahead

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The past few summers haven’t been kind to the Dallas Mavericks on the topic of free agency or upgrading their roster. After winning the NBA Championship in 2011, the Mavericks have been seeking to once again find that championship formula which has seen them focus on free agency. The prime example of the Mavericks struggles came last summer when they had a verbal agreement from center DeAndre Jordan to come to Dallas. But Jordan had a change of heart and he decided to return to the Los Angeles Clippers which left a void for the Mavericks. The Mavericks have continued to be a playoff team, but they’ve been unable to get out of the first round since winning the NBA Title. The Mavs do have a solid brain trust of owner Mark Cuban general manager Donnie Nelson and head coach Rick Carlisle that are determined and committed to putting a contender around veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki. And this summer that trio has to be happy with what the Mavericks were able to accomplish.

The marquee NBA free agent this summer was small forward Kevin Durant and his decision was going to have a ripple effect on the rest of the moves that would go down. On Independence Day, Durant would announce that he would not re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder as he was going to join the Golden State Warriors. Durant’s arrival in Oakland would mean that the Warriors no longer had a need for small forward Harrison Barnes. Prior to Durant agreeing to join the Warriors, the Mavericks had signed Barnes to a four-year offer sheet for $94 million. Barnes was a restricted free agent which gave the Warriors one week to match any offer from another NBA team.

Harrison Barnes

Barnes was the seventh overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft and he has averaged 10.1 points per game for his NBA career. But Barnes is a scorer and his low points per game average can be attributed to the fact that he was not the primary scoring option with the Warriors as that honor went to point guard Steph Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and power forward Draymond Green. However with the Mavericks, Barnes is going to have an increased role in the offense and his points per game should drastically increase.

Like Barnes, center Andrew Bogut was a member of the Warriors squad that won the NBA Championship in 2015. And like Barnes, Bogut took a backseat to the stars on the Warriors in order to make things work.

Andrew Bogut

Earlier this month the Warriors traded Bogut to the Mavericks, and although that he won’t be confused with a player that is going to score 20 points per game, he is going to provide Dallas with a body that can plug the middle while also being a facilitator from the center position that will definitely help the Mavericks next season.

The additions of Barnes and Bogut are not going to make the Mavericks a title contender as the writing is on the wall to see the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers get it on for a third consecutive year in the NBA Finals. But it shows that the Mavericks are trying to still be a player in the Western Conference as they have brought in some talent to put alongside veteran power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is still showing that he can put the ball in the hoop consistently as he turned 38-years of age last month while also leading the Mavericks in scoring last season at 18.3 points per game last season.

Rick Carlisle

Carlisle is still one of the best coaches in the NBA which is evident by his 661 career victories which are 20th all-time on the league’s win list for coaches. And the Mavericks have an owner in Cuban that is committed to winning which means that they should never be counted out which means that there should once again be excitement at the American Airlines Center in Dallas when the NBA season rolls around in October.

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The National Debt, NBA Style!!!!!!!!

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NBA Players such as Mike Conley Jr. have hit the jackpot this summer, but will the teams that paid them roll snake eyes when it’s all said and done?

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