Apr. 17, 2017
7 Guys, 2 Spots? Let the Competition Begin
It's basically, kind of, almost, but not really the NBA season. Dallas just tipped off their preseason in a game against the New Orleans Pelicans, and then their home opener against the Charlotte Hornets. Although the shorthanded Mavericks took the loss to New Orleans, there was a lot of good things that Mavs fans got to see. With four of Dallas' five starters sitting out, along with Salah Mejri and Devin Harris, due to rest or rehab for minor injuries, there was really a chance to watch some of the non-household name guys shine. Dallas won their game against Charlotte, which was actually quite impressive (as far as Preseason games go) considering most of their big name guys played a majority of the game, minus Kemba Walker.
Carlisle began the New Orleans game with a starting five of JJ Barea, Justin Anderson, Quincy Acy, Dwight Powell, and the biggest splash of Dallas' odd offseason, Harrison Barnes. Each only logged about 20 minutes of playing time (except Simba who played 27), again leaving room for the other guys. In the Charlotte win, Dallas was in a very similar situation, except Wesley Matthews got to play, and played well in the few minutes of playing time he got. Again, the minor guys got a chance to show what they were made of. But why is this such a big deal? Easy, there are a lot of guys fighting for just a couple of spots. When asked for his opinions of those guys fighting during Mavericks' media day, Rick Carlisle said this: "It's too early to tell, we've got, essentially, seven guys fighting for two spots...There's going to be at least two guys who get cut from this team that have a substantial amount of guaranteed money." Woof. This is a great problem to have, but I would not like to be in the shoes of decision maker here. Well, I kind of would because that's a cool job, but not the point.
Who are the seven? Here's a quick list:
1) Dorian Finney-Smith, the combo forward from the University of Florida
2) Keith Hornsby, Ben Simmons' ex-point guard / roommate out of LSU
3) Jameel Warney, a big man out of Stony Brook who shined in the Summer League with Dallas
4) Kyle Collinsworth, the triple-double machine from BYU
5) CJ Williams, a slasher from NC State who has bounced around overseas and in the D-League
6) Jonathan Gibson, the Summer League scoring machine for the Mavericks
7) Nicolas Brussino, the young forward who played for Argentina's national team this summer
Coming into the preseason, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jonathan Gibson were the favorites to secure a spot, but things are beginning to shake up. Statistics on paper really do not always tell the whole story when there are guys fighting for a spot. But in the case of these seven guys, the stats really do tell the whole story. If I'm being honest, Kyle Collinsworth, Keith Hornsby, and CJ Williams are as close to guarantees to get cut as you can get. I would love all three to wind up in Frisco with the Texas Legends, but I think at least one of them will get a roster spot somewhere. Especially Hornsby, I really like his game.
So that leaves us with DFS, Jonathan Gibson, Jameel Warney, and Nicolas Brussino.
This kid frustrates me. He could have been a mid to late second round pick, but fell out of the draft and was quickly picked up by Dallas to play on their Summer League team. What looked like an offseason steal slowly looked like just another camp body. In his 6 games in the Summer League, Finney-Smith averaged 2.8 points per game on 4 of 25 shooting to go with 3.5 rebounds.He has the potential to be a three-and-D type guy, but he only showed half of that combination this summer. His defense was strong, he has long arms, and lots of potential, but his shot wasn't all the way there in Vegas. In 21 minutes against New Orleans in the preseason opener, DFS went 1-3, his one make coming from beyond the arc. He also snagged four boards and swatted one shot, but his performance was nothing impressive. His second game was worse on paper. In 16 minutes, DFS went 0-3, 0-1 from behind the line, pulled down four boards again, and blocked another shot. His perimeter defense looked very strong, but anything on offense was just not there. He has room to grow, but he is not ready to contribute to a *playoff* team.
Prediction: Cut, but ends up with the Texas Legends before possibly landing a deal overseas.
This kid was so fun to watch in the Summer League, so if you missed it, go look up his highlights on YouTube. After bouncing around overseas, Gibson seems to have a legit shot at making an NBA roster this year. In 6 games with Dallas' summer league team, Gibson put up 17 points per game on 51% shooting. He's undersized, but so is JJ Barea, and so was Muggsy Bogues, and so was Nate Robinson, and so was Spud Webb, so I don't want to hear it. He can put the ball in the basket. In the New Orleans game, Gibson dropped 10 points and dished out 3 assists in 20 minutes of playing time. In the Charlotte game, he put up 5 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals. He's a pesky defender, which is what he must be at the size he is. I like him a lot for a lot of different reasons. From his microwave scoring mentality to the heart that he plays with, it all impresses me.
Prediction: Earns himself a roster spot, bounces back and forth from the Legends to the Mavericks, contributes on an inconsistent basis.
So I like Warney, he's strong and young, but I think he's very likely to get cut unless he does something spectacular in the next few preseason games. The only reason I include him here is because the big man depth is still a bit questionable. Mejri seems to be prone to injuries; Acy is honestly one of my favorite pick ups of the summer, but he is inconsistent; and A.J. Hammons has been less than impressive. I love Dwight Powell, especially with the weight he's put on, and like I said, I love Acy, but still growing. Warney put up 7 points and pulled down 7 rebounds per game, and that's a near double-double threat, but that's in the Summer League. In the first preseason game, Jameel logged 6 points in 15 minutes to go with 4 rebounds. Against Charlotte, Warney only played 6 minutes but still managed to put up 4 points and pull down 3 rebounds. He's strong in the post, but I'm afraid he isn't ready to be an integral part in a 15 man NBA roster.
Prediction: Cut, and quickly signs with a team overseas since he was offered guaranteed money in China.
The Argentinian Kevin Durant? No (maybe), but I like, no LOVE this kid. Brussino got a chance to play on the Argentinian national team, even though he actually didn't really play, but he was on the team. The signing this summer was very random, at least from the fans' point of view, but I am more than happy that it happened. In his first two games as an NBA player, Brussino shined. Against the Pelicans, the 6'7, 23 year old played 23 minutes, scored 13 points, while shooting 2-3 from behind the arc. He's not quick, but he is smooth and has long arms that come in handy for perimeter defense. Against the Hornets, Brussino played 18 minutes scored 5 points, pulled down 5 rebounds, and dished out three assists, two of those going to Seth Curry who killed it just FYI. This kid has so much room to grow and could really be something special, so watch out.
Prediction: Gets picked up, dominates in the D-League, becomes a role player in a couple years.
It's a long preseason, so all of these guys have time to prove themselves, but Gibson and Brussino have jumped out to an early lead in my mind.