The Dallas Mavericks are hoping to return to playoff contention this season and here are five players that are important to their success.
The Dallas Mavericks still employ veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, and Deandre Jordan, but the younger players are the key to the future. Here are five of the most important players to keep an eye on this season.
5. Dorian Finney-Smith
This coming season will be Finney-Smith’s most important season as a Maverick. It will be his third NBA season after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Florida. DFS quickly established himself as a diamond that the Mavs found in the rough after he became a solid perimeter defender and sneaky-good 3-point shooter.
He failed to build off his rookie success last season, as he was more or less the same player while his playing time fluctuated over the course of the year.
Finney-Smith has an opportunity to finally earn himself a consistent spot on the team as they continue their rebuild. The more he improves, the more expendable the Mavs can make Wesley Matthews, who might net them a draft pick at the trade deadline.
4. Deandre Jordan
The massive contract that the Mavs inked for Deandre Jordan was a little bit puzzling. After winning just 24 games last season, the Mavs are convinced that they can march back towards the playoffs given the addition of Jordan and others in the draft. The Mavs only gave Jordan a one-year deal, giving them the chance to back out of the marriage if things go south.
The Mavs don’t like long-term rebuilds, and while that may be more exciting for fans, it does raise the risk for long-term detriment. The Mavs have time and again missed out on young, promising assets while pushing all of their chips into the middle of the table for so-so free agents. This time, they may have landed one, but time will tell if Jordan will really be worth it.
3. Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson is an underrated part of the Mavs’ future. Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic are going to have significant meaning towards the success of the team, but a backup point guard is shockingly essential to a championship team.
The Warriors have had the luxury of spelling Stephen Curry with Shaun Livingston, while others like Fred VanVleet, Marcus Smart, and Patty Mills have been crucial towards their team’s success.
Brunson is an extremely experienced player coming out of Villanova. As a two-time national champion in college, Brunson is a big, muscular player who could be among the better defensive point guards in basketball.
With J.J. Barea’s career winding down, it will be crucial for the Mavs to get him on the court as much as possible to expose him against quicker point guards.
2. Luka Doncic
The Mavs clearly wanted Luka Doncic more than any other player on draft night. They had to part with a first-round pick in next year’s draft in order to move up only two slots to secure him.
Pairing him with Dennis Smith Jr. will hopefully solidify the backcourt for years to come, but with so much to prove given how young both players are, the Mavs could be in for some painful growing pains this year.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic are very different players. Doncic’s large frame limits his ability to drive to the basket as effectively as Smith, but his bulky presence does allow him to simply out-muscle his defenders.
At 6’8, there is no shortage of size in the Mavs’ backcourt which could also do wonders for them on the defensive end.
1. Dennis Smith Jr.
This is a critical season for the former number nine overall pick. While Doncic will grab all of the headlines this season, this is Dennis Smith Jr.’s team for the future. The Mavs drafted him with the expectation that they had found themselves a star point guard for years to come.
While his rookie season was promising on many levels, he did show some glaring weaknesses while orchestrating the offense.
The Mavs need to see him make quantum leaps this season in order to be as confident as possible that they indeed have themselves a star for the future. With Doncic flanking him in the backcourt, and solid veterans in Harrison Barnes and Deandre Jordan in the starting lineup, a supporting cast has begun to take shape in Dallas. Dennis Smith Jr.’s time is now.