In an intriguing twist, Yogi Ferrell and the Mavs are streaking, which could significantly affect their draft position come summertime.
At some point last week I looked at the Mavs’ schedule and became depressed. It read at Oklahoma City, at San Antonio, and a home date with Cleveland. Now those were three games we were going to get embarrassed in, I thought to myself. Expected to lose all three, the Mavs would have dropped to 16-32, or 4th in the lottery odds behind Brooklyn (who owes that pick to Boston), Phoenix, and the Lakers.
I barely watched the Thunder game, as I had no interest in watching Pierre Jackson get steamrolled by vengeance Russell Westbrook (45 points 8 rebounds 3 assists). I did however watch Enes Kanter fight that chair, which I assume was much better than the actual game.
I didn’t watch the Spurs game at all, because we haven’t won in San Antonio in almost 1000 years. But then everyone started talking about Yogi Ferrell, the Indiana standout we’d plucked out of the D-League. I watched the highlights after and thought “we might have something here”. And then last night happened.
I made a mental note to watch the Mavs play Cleveland since I’d sort of blown them off the last few nights and I wanted to see how Yogi did over a full game. He did not disappoint. 19 points on 7-15 shooting? Against the defending champs?! He held Kyrie freaking Irving to 18 points on 7-21?!
You could argue that the Cavs are slumping, Kevin Love was injured, Kyrie is an awful defensive guard, etc., but outplaying the guy who put the lid on the Finals against a historic Warriors team is no small feat for someone fresh out of the D-League.
The Mavs have won eight out of eleven and play their next three games against teams with losing records; Portland twice, and Denver. If we defend like we have the last two nights and keep hitting shots, we will win those three games barring a Damian Lillard supernova. That will put us at 20-32, and nudge us right next to Portland, Denver, and everyone else fighting for that 8th seed, which is potentially disastrous for the tanking fans.
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For all the confused people, making the 8th seed is NOT a good thing in my opinion. As much as I’d like to imagine a revenge series for 2007 could happen, we’re not going to beat the Warriors. We would get swept, embarrassed, and I’d rather not have to watch Steph Curry do little dances every time he hits a three for four games.
As a reward for our troubles, we’d receive a crappy draft seed in the range where mistakes happen. Don’t get me wrong, this draft is absolutely loaded. There are very good prospects in the 15-20 range. But there are much better prospects in the 1-10 range.
To be clear, I do not condone blatant, Sam Hinkie-style tanking. It’s bad for the game. That being said, we are in a prime position in a loaded draft, and having a David Robinson – Tim Duncan style situation going on isn’t the worst place to be in. The top seven teams are mostly clear cut. Whoever makes the 8th seed will get steamrolled. Why not loosen up the bench, develop some guys (Yogi, Anderson, DFS, Brussino), let Dirk chase some records, and monitor the veterans’ minutes so they stay healthy for next year?
The Mavs need a point guard of the future. Deron Williams is workable for now but he is declining fast and his injury history is disconcerting. There are five ELITE point guards in the top half of this draft, four of whom are projected to go 1-4 by NBA.com. The top two, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, are legitimate difference makers that could be future stars.
The Mavs currently have a very workable roster with hardworking, high-IQ guys, but need an infusion of non-injury prone talent to make the next stage.
I don’t trust us to attract a top-flight free agent like Kyle Lowry or Gordon Hayward any time soon. I don’t expect to make a blockbuster trade. Our draft history has been poor at best the last decade, so putting ourselves in a position where we’d have a hard time missing would be ideal.
One scenario that may alter these plans would be Yogi Ferrell earning a spot. If Yogi makes it past this 10-day contract, through the season, and keeps performing at a high level, he might be rewarded with a contract and a roster spot next year. This would shift our needs from a difference making point guard to a different kind of contributor. Think of Josh Jackson, Lauri Markkanen, or TJ Leaf. If the Mavs keep Yogi, keep winning, but still end up staying in the bottom-10 range, we will be in an enviable position next season as long as we don’t blow the draft again.
I’m excited to see how Yogi pans out and how we do through this next week-long stretch. He’s energetic, a plucky defender, and an excellent facilitator. This run will define the season, and will have a significant hand in determining our seeding for the draft.
If the Mavs get hot and somehow slingshot into the 5-7 range, I’ll eat crow. I want us to win as much as anybody, but this may be as close as we get to a guaranteed draft hit for a long time, and we can’t linger in no man’s land all season.