Rick Carlisle’s Role Changing With Dallas Mavericks
By Evan Siegel
The Dallas Mavericks are once again going to be in the top ten of the NBA draft in June. Rick Carlisle, largely known as a win-now coach, has seen his role change over the course of his time in Dallas.
Rick Carlisle has had a weird run since guiding the Dallas Mavericks to the championship in 2011 over the Miami Heat. The Mavs proceeded to undergo a frustrating, up-and-down season in 2012 that ended in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavs missed the playoffs the following season, and then returned in 2014 and dropped a seven-game thriller to the Spurs. Another first round exit against the Thunder came in 2015, followed by a 2016 season that saw the Mavs miss both the playoffs and the draft lottery. 2017 then gave us DSJ.
Rick Carlisle has remained in charge despite the team failing to get past the first round of the playoffs since their title run. Management has had a significant role in the team’s demise, as unrealistic, ambitious pursuits of marquee free agents has cost the team chances at acquiring helpful, long-term assets.
Carlisle’s role has evolved over the years. Rather than focusing his attention on getting his average team to another miracle playoff berth, the team’s tanking strategy has already begun to produce some results. While the team is years away from being in a position to consider themselves a Western Conference force, Dennis Smith Jr. is certainly a good place to start.
Carlisle had an integral role in the drafting of Smith. Carlisle hinted at as much on draft night remarking “I started looking at the draft in March because of how our season was going.” The Mavs implemented a surprisingly effective smoke screen when it came to possibly drafting Frank Ntilikina, who was taken by the Knicks one spot before Smith.
Smith has dealt with a series of minor injuries throughout his rookie season, but has still flashed some pretty significant potential at only 20 years old. Carlisle’s relationship with Smith seems to have taken on a much smoother tone than that of the one between Carlisle and Rajon Rondo.
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Coach Carlisle has willingly accepted the role of being a top-notch talent evaluator in the draft and has used his on-court knowledge to develop Smith and some of the other youngsters on the Mavs’ roster. Wesley Matthews’ season-ending injury has opened up more playing time for Kyle Collinsworth, and Dorian Finney-Smith as well.
At this point in a completely lost season, the Mavs are fully focused on who they could draft with another top ten pick. The Mavs have also shown some examples of on-court experimentation with certain lineups that suggest an interest level in some of the top prospects in this year’s draft. We have seen the Mavs use Dennis Smith Jr. in some off-ball scenarios which could be an effort to get him used to playing with another ball dominant player.
Michael Porter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., and any of the star big men of this coming year’s class will be enticing to the Mavs, but the team may still have a limited level of interest in retaining Nerlens Noel, who has been sidelined for the majority of the season with a long-term thumb injury.
Carlisle’s presence will be a necessary one for the Mavs as this process continues to unfold. The team will unquestionably be in the middle of the free agency frenzy again this year, with their widely expected interest in Aaron Gordon likely to produce a large contract offer.
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Carlisle’s developed eye for young talent will be a useful tool in the war room on draft night as well as free agency. The Mavs may have made a long series of irreversible errors since their title run, but the team has no reason not to position themselves to keep their rebuilding pace up with Carlisle at the helm.