The Dallas Mavericks lost a total of 58 games this season. Despite ending the year with the 3rd worst record in the NBA, only 5 other lottery teams had a better point differential than Dallas. These are the teams that were competing for a playoff spot in the final weeks.
It wasn’t a pretty season for the Dallas Mavericks, a franchise not used to being so far down the standings. Despite losing 58 games, however, the Mavs may not be as lost as it seems on paper. This is because the win/loss record does not tell the whole story for the 2017-18 NBA season.
While the Mavs were losing 58 games this year, they were (quietly for some) competing in every single outing. With players like Yogi Ferrell, J.J. Barea, Dwight Powell, and Kyle Collinsworth on the team, hustle was never a concern. Hustle can’t win you games on its own though.
This ability to compete had the Mavericks total point differential for the season at -249 points. That may seem like a lot on paper, but that averages out to about -4 points per loss. To put that into perspective, the Memphis Grizzlies averaged -8.5 points per loss and the Phoenix Suns averaged almost -12.6 points per loss. In fact, only the top lottery teams (Nuggets, Clippers, Lakers, Pistons, Hornets) had better point differentials than the Mavs.
This makes me believe that the Dallas Mavericks are not so much in need of a full-scale rebuild, but rather are searching for someone to fill the role of fourth-quarter hero.
It has been almost 20 years since Dallas has needed to find someone who could score the ball in crunch time. For the past two decades, that role has been filled by a top 20 player in NBA history. Dirk Nowitzki is no stranger to the big stage and, when a bucket was needed, a bucket happened. Now, Dirk is past the age of dominance and into his twilight years, meaning Dallas needs someone new to step up.
That someone new may already be on the roster. The Mavs had a lot of clutch opportunities this season and one player stuck out as being particularly good in important situations. No, it’s not Harrison Barnes.
Dennis Smith Jr. is already looking like a potentially good clutch scoring option for the Mavs. Although he did not shoot a great percentage in the final minutes, he showed that he is not afraid to fail if it gives the team a chance to succeed. That alone is something Dallas has to look forward to.
Whether DSJ is the Mavs future closer or someone else, the Mavs need to get a end of game scorer established soon if they are going to have success. Until the team can finish a game strong, they will have no shot at the playoffs now or in the near future.