The Dallas Mavericks are entering uncharted waters this season. In a rebuilding year, here are several players to keep in mind as the preseason gets under way.
The 2017-18 NBA campaign has already started in some NBA circles, as the preseason has just gotten underway across the league. The Mavericks play their first game on Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks at home at the American Airlines Center.
The Mavericks enter the new season with many young, developmental players who will be interesting to watch once the season gets underway. One of the younger teams in basketball, the Mavericks are entering a different kind of season than they have had for the better part of the last fifteen years.
With little hope of being a true force in the Western Conference, the Mavericks will use this season to see what they have in their talented young core and hope to push this group of unproven youngsters higher than what is expected of them.
With the first game getting underway this evening, here are five players to specifically keep an eye on tonight and for the remainder of the preseason:
Brandon Ashley: Brandon Ashley spent last training camp on the Mavericks preseason roster, but was shown the door after final cuts were made. The Mavs liked the lanky forward’s progress enough to give him another shot in this year’s summer league, where Ashley excelled.
Showing a shooting ability that had improved drastically from his inconsistent past, Ashley was an offensive force for the Mavs over the summer. Ashley’s highlight came against the Bulls when he scored 21 points and grabbed 2 boards in a tense clash with Lauri Markkanen and the Bulls. Ashley has a higher chance than some would think to make this roster, where he may even receive some playing time.
Jeff Withey: The Mavs signed Withey away from the Utah Jazz during the offseason to add another backup behind Nerlens Noel at center. Now that it appears that Noel will come off the bench, the Mavs have an interesting situation developing at center. A bit of a logjam has formed as Noel will undoubtedly come off the bench first, with Withey and Salah Mejri behind him.
Where Withey is used by Rick Carlisle will be interesting to watch, as the Mavs simply aren’t quite sure how to utilize the backup center quite yet. The Mavs have one of the deepest defensive teams in the NBA, and Withey’s presence on the second unit is important given the Mavs’ lack of a talented backup at the position since Brandan Wright.
Dorian Finney-Smith: Dorian Finney-Smith has been one of the better stories in NBA circles. The overlooked, undrafted forward out of Florida was a massive overachiever in his first year in the NBA, and his spot on the depth chart will be interesting to watch this coming season. The Mavs don’t have all that much depth behind Harrison Barnes, and Finney-Smith’s spot with the team will be crucial for the second unit.
Part of the reason the Mavs were comfortable dealing away Justin Anderson, was because of Finney-Smith’s quick development at backup small forward. The Mavs hope that Finney-Smith can grow into the team’s next Jae Crowder or Al Farouq-Aminu, as they are still searching for their athletic complement to an otherwise slower starting lineup.
Johnathan Motley: Johnathan Motley was a stud at power forward and center during his career at Baylor University. Due to injuries and cold feet from general managers, Motley went undrafted in this past year’s draft. The big man had a whopping seventeen offers on the table, and took the one from the Mavericks.
The Mavs did not have a second round pick in this year’s draft after selecting Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth overall pick. Motley’s rare athleticism combined with impressive skills make him an ideal candidate to make the roster as a backup big man. After signing Jeff Withey in free agency and now bringing in a potential star in Motley, Salah Mejri’s spot on the team is becoming increasingly questionable.
Dennis Smith Jr.: This is the one that everyone will have their eyes glued to. Smith is essentially who the Mavericks are placing all of their chips in the middle of the table for. After a very promising summer league performance, Smith proved just how much potential he has.
Incredible athleticism combined with a seemingly veteran’s level IQ are making him one of the most interesting players to watch across the entire NBA this preseason. The Mavericks desperately need Smith to become the type of point guard he has claimed himself to be. The “Russell Westbrook” potential seems a bit overstated right now, but the rookie out of N.C. State has all the talent to prove it.
To keep an eye on all of these players vying for minutes or even a spot on the Dallas Mavericks roster, the preseason begins tonight at 7:30 central time with the Mavs hosting Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks. Follow us at @TheSmokingCuban for live updates.