Oct. 04, 2016
Dallas Mavericks' Chemistry: An Unexpected Strength
It's nothing new, the Dallas Mavericks had a lot of turnover this offseason. Chandler Parsons is out, Harrison Barnes is in; Zaza went bye-bye, and we now say hello to Andrew Bogut. The MVP's little brother Seth Curry, and fellow King Quincy Acy decided to move down to Texas together. AJ Hammons, Jonathan Gibson, and Nicolas Brussino all made the step-up from college and overseas play to compete for an NBA roster spot. But even with all that change, the chemistry on this Dallas team may be stronger than anyone is expecting in the 2016-17 season, and here's why.
Obviously, at the center of this whole thing, is Dirk Nowitzki. No matter who comes or who goes, Dirk stays constant (German Jesus). Dirk can be a mentor to anyone who needs it and has been known to help newcomers get acclimated with the way Dallas runs things. Along with Dirk in that starting lineup are two second-year Maverick veterans that are now used to the system, but there's more to it than that. Wes Matthews already had a decent year after just a season removed from a major achilles injury and is known around the league as one of the hardest workers within any franchise. Deron Williams is a Dallas native, and even though he's been a part of the franchise for just one season, he's been buddies with Dirk for a long time and also played with backcourt mate Wes Matthews in Utah before the two joined forces in Dallas. These three will be the anchor of the chemistry and should have no problem helping the two newbies in the starting five getting acclimated.
Off the bench come two not just proven players, but two proven Mavericks. Devin Harris, the long time Mav who made his return after bouncing around with a few teams after the Jason Kidd trade a couple seasons back, has all the tools and maturity to help lead newcomers off the bench into a prominent role for the Mavericks. JJ Barea, another Maverick who came back after a short stint with Minnesota, had arguably his best season in the NBA last season both off the bench and as a starter when needed. Although I expect Devin Harris' role to diminish a bit this next season due to injuries and the hopeful emergence of Seth Curry, I believe Barea will continue to be the spark off the bench that he always has, while being a leader every step of the way.
Five returning veterans is never a bad thing, but the returning youngsters are the real excitement for most Mavs fans. That list includes second year man Justin Anderson, third year Canadian Dwight Powell who just signed his GIANT deal this summer, and the 30-year-old Tunisian in his sophomore season, Salah Mejri. With David Lee, Charlie V, and JaVale McGee all gone, the bench is wide open for big man Dwight Powell to fulfill his full potential as Dirk's backup and (hopefully) eventual successor. Justin Anderson got more playing time for a rookie than I think I've ever seen in Rick Carlisle's system, and now, with a foundation of trust, he should be able to become one of the best draftees in recent Dallas memory. Along with Anderson, Salah Mejri received a lot of playing time for a "rookie", but the fact that he had professional experience overseas contributed to that a lot. All of these guys are in the early stages of their NBA career, but now that two have had a year of learning and one with a year and a half, they should all turn into consistent contributors for Dallas' bench, while being able to help newcomers as much as possible since they were all in their shoes not too long ago.
The Kind of but Not Really New Teammates
Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut have been through a lot together. The two grew together on a Warrior team that would eventually turn out to be one of the best teams to come through the NBA. They won a championship together and they lost a championship together. They watched their point guard win two MVP's, and they both got shipped out at the same time because of a the arrival of a former MVP. They got a chance to compete against each other in the Rio Olympics this summer before Harry B went on to win gold and Andrew Bogut and the Aussies came up just short of winning bronze. Now, the two are together again in Dallas. Harrison Barnes, as a free agent, obviously had a choice to sign with the Mavericks this summer, but what many don't realize, is that Bogut also had the choice to come to Dallas. Golden State was forced to move Bogut's contract in order to make room for KD, so they asked the well-respected center where he would like to go. It apparently came down to Houston (gross) and Dallas. The rest is history. The two will have a chance to continue to help each other grow, while getting acclimated to a new system at the same time.
The other duo that isn't quite as prominent as the afore mentioned is Quincy Acy and Seth Curry. Both were in very similar situations last season with the dysfunctional Sacramento Kings. They rode the bench more than they deserved, and when they finally got a chance to play, they produced numbers that were arguably stronger and more consistent than a lot of the Kings' role players. Both are only 25 years old and both are expected to play larger roles than they did in Sacramento from the get-go. Seth will likely step into a 6th man type role as a shooting guard, and Quincy Acy has all of the tools to play anywhere form the three slot to the center position. They're both about to find out what they're really capable of, and will likely be on the court a lot together. Going from dysfunctional Sacramento to friendly Dallas should serve them both well, especially since they'll be making the change together.
The Wild Cards
The rest of the guys on the roster don't really have any ties to Dallas' system, unless you count the limited amount of time that they got together in the Summer League. AJ Hammons got a bigger deal than most second rounders receive this summer as the front office truly believes that he's a first round talent with second round effort. Jonathan Gibson averaged more points per game than anyone on Dallas' SL team, and has a legit shot at making the final roster. Nicolas Brussino is attempting to make the jump from Argentinian basketball to the NBA this next season, but at only 23 years old, it might be a bit too early. The other three guys that Dallas brought in from their Summer League team, Kyle Collinsworth, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jameel Warney, will all get consideration for the final 15, but they are likely headed to Frisco to play for the Texas Legends next season. 5 of the 6 of these guys got a chance to gel in Summer League, so the chemistry could be there if they're fortunate enough to make the team, but nothing seems imminent with these guys
Is the chemistry in Dallas going to be absolutely perfect? Not at all, but it should definitely have less bumps and turns than most teams with this type of turnover. It's going to be fun to watch these guys grow together, but it will take some time. They're not all going to know each other's game when they tip things off in October, but it shouldn't take long at all before the team is really starting to look like a team.