The Mavericks got the player they wanted — and the player they needed — in Luka Doncic

One-on-One with Luka Doncic

Mavs rookie Luka Doncic goes one-on-one with Mavs.com's Bobby Karalla and dishes on coming to Dallas, playing with a legendary European in Dirk Nowitzki, and familiarizing himself with one of Dallas' best restaurants: Whataburger.

I don’t want to get you too excited, and I certainly don’t want to overhype a guy who’s never played an NBA game, but there has really never been a prospect like Luka Doncic.

At just 19 years old, he’s already conquered the Euroleague, the Spanish domestic league, and Eurobasket. He was the alpha dog on Real Madrid, the best team in the world outside of the NBA, which won 64 of its 82 games across all competitions last season. He’s been playing professional basketball at a high level for nearly two years straight with precious few breaks — he won the ACB title two days before the draft — establishing himself as one of the most skilled and most accomplished young players in the history of Europe.

OK, so we know the guy can play, and we know the Mavericks took a liking to him long ago and have targeted him since last fall. Clearly they’re all-in. But while they’re excited, they also made it clear that Doncic is still going to be a rookie in the NBA. Players are going to go at him — and not just guys on other teams. So instead of the beginning of a coronation, last night’s press conference with a relieved Donnie Nelson took an interesting turn when the man who traded up to get Doncic warned that it might not be smooth sailing right away for the Slovenian wunderkind. Rather than talk up Doncic’s achievement and potential the same way they did 20 years ago with Dirk Nowitzki, they reminded us — almost as if to remind themselves — that this latest mountain will be a challenge to climb no matter how good Doncic is.

“He’s going to have his rear end handed to him,” Nelson said. “I’m not going to make the same mistake we did 20 years ago. But (Nowitzki had) the comparisons of Larry Bird roll off the tongue. We’re going to steer away from any of those comparisons.”

“We’ve got to understand that he is 19,” Rick Carlisle added. “NBA stardom doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to be a process.”

Cautious excitement is the responsible way for them to feel. Nelson, Carlisle, Mark Cuban, and the rest of the Mavericks invested quite a bit in Doncic — not only the No. 3 pick, but also likely their first-round pick next season as well. They need to get this right.

But that’s their job. My job is not nearly as important, but here we are. And considering Doncic was the No. 1 prospect on my board — and was for many, many brighter basketball minds than mine both locally and across the internet — there’s certainly plenty to be excited about. Here’s why you should be, too.

Pick-and-roll scoring

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but offense matters. The way the game is played now, every player on the floor has to be multi-dimensional; we often talk about the small ball revolution, but what’s really happening is a skill revolution. If you can’t shoot the 3-ball at above 40 percent, you’d better either be a world-class defender or able to create at least a little bit off the dribble. In Doncic’s case, he can handle the ball and read the floor like a point guard, though he stands about 6-foot-7 with a strong frame. He is a 1 in a 3’s body.

Doncic averaged 6.5 assists per 36 minutes in 73 games for Real Madrid last season. It’s important to say here that generally young players hardly even receive playing time at the highest levels in Europe, let alone the responsibility to carry the offense. Veteran legends like Sergio Rodriguez and Vassilis Spanoulis — whose No. 7 jersey inspired Doncic to wear the same number for Madrid — are supposed to control games in Europe, not teenagers. But Doncic isn’t your average teenager. Word spread quickly overseas that Doncic was legit, and not just among the European players. Americans are impressed, too. “I doubt 99 percent of this year’s draft class could do what he did in the Euroleague this season,” former Maverick Pierre Jackson told Alex Kennedy. “I think he is super talented, man. The sky’s the limit for the kid.” When you’re that good, you become the focal point.

He earned it all. His derived offense in the pick-and-roll — which includes possessions he used himself and also those finished off by teammates he passed to — generated 1.119 points per possession last season, ranking in the 93rd percentile among all international players in the entire world. That mark ranked 31st out of more than 1,600 players across the world who tallied at least 100 possessions in the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports, and fourth out of 163 with at least 500 possessions. And he was by far the youngest of anyone anywhere near the top.

He was an elite playmaker for Madrid. Doncic is not a burner when it comes to speed, but he’s shifty, dynamic, and strong in ways similar to players like James Harden and even to a degree J.J. Barea. (In fact, thinking of Doncic like a 6-foot-7 Barea is a good way to get an idea of the kind of player he is, though it’s not totally accurate.) For example, he’s able to use his sturdy frame to drive right into big men and still finish at the rim, which both tricks them into committing touch fouls and creates some extra space to compensate for not having a 40-inch vertical.

He can also use that same size to his advantage against smaller players. Doncic has an advanced ability to feel his defender. Instead of constantly turning the corner in the pick-and-roll at full speed, he’s able to sense both what’s happening in front of and behind him, and he can patiently wait for his window of opportunity. Pinning defenders to your hip is a veteran move that has served shorter players like Chris Paul and Barea extremely well throughout their careers. Doncic can already do it.

Again, he does not appear to have top-end speed for a wing, but neither does Harden. What makes Harden such an elite player is his ability to stop on a dime and shift direction with more power than almost any other player in the NBA. Deceleration is not something we talk about very often, but that’s been Harden’s most lethal weapon as he’s risen to superstardom. He can lull you to sleep with some between-the-legs dribbles, then will take two hard steps to the right, and by the time you move that way, he’s already gone back to his left and scored two points — or, more dangerously, three. Harden dominates by slowing down.

This season more than ever, Harden’s quiet explosiveness unlocked the step-back 3-pointer, his go-to move on the way to averaging 30.4 points per game and the scoring title. I am not saying Doncic will be Harden. (Repeat: I am not saying Doncic will be Harden.) But I don’t remember a prospect coming along that had a step-back J similar to Harden’s at such a young age. Doncic is able to free himself up for a jumper almost any time he wants — and his ability to decelerate is a huge reason why.

He shot just 31.0 percent from deep with Madrid this season, though most of his attempts were off-the-dribble while fewer were of the catch-and-shoot variety. A combination of slightly more space in the NBA, more catch-and-shoots, and of course plenty of hours in the gym with coaches (Holger, anyone?) will almost surely result in an uptick in accuracy in the coming months and years.

Playmaking

Good scorers are hard enough to find, but it’s even more difficult to find guys who can fill it up and also create for their teammates. There’s been a shift in the NBA in recent seasons where point guards must now be able to be a threat to score, otherwise your entire offense shuts down because of the way teams can defend you. The same holds true for playmaking wings, and Doncic certainly qualifies as one of those. He was often the primary facilitator for Madrid whenever he was on the floor, whether it was with the second unit or, eventually, even the starting lineup. Again, we cannot say enough how rare it is for such a young player to carry as much responsibility as Doncic did. Even the brightest European prospects in recent seasons didn’t come close: Mario Hezonja played 15.1 minutes per game for Barcelona before coming to the NBA, and Kristaps Porzingis played just 21.4 for Real Betis. Doncic, meanwhile, led his team in points and assists per game and often had the ball in his hands late in crunch time.

As point guards have become scorers, so too have guards and forwards become playmakers. Everyone must now be able to do both. That holds true for Dennis Smith Jr., who learned to play off the ball last season next to J.J. Barea, in what now seems like an eerie bit of foreshadowing. He will certainly play off the ball every now and then while Doncic is on the floor; it’s relatively safe to assume the rookie will be either a day-one starter or will receive tons of playing time as a sixth man. They will share the floor together often. But that does not mean Smith won’t touch the ball. Believe me, the ball will fly all over the place. Dallas was a top-half team in passes per possession last season, and I would believe they could climb into the top-five this season. Both Doncic and Smith will have plenty of chances to eat.

That’s a terrific thing for the Dallas starting lineup in particular. Last season, the most-frequent starting lineup (Smith, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, Maxi Kleber) collectively assisted on 60.3 percent of their made field goals. That’s a more than respectable mark and would have ranked top-10 in the league last season. But the second unit of J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrell, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Powell assisted on an astonishing 70.2 percent made buckets, which would have led the entire NBA and it wouldn’t really have been close. That group’s assist percentage ranked second among the 48 lineups with at least 200 minutes played, standing only behind the Curry-Thompson-Durant-Green-Pachulia unit in Golden State. After swapping Harris for McDermott, that number rose all the way to an absurd 72.2 percent. The Mavericks can move the ball well — they were one of six teams in the NBA to have multiple players average at least five assists per game, and their assist percentage ranked 10th in the league — but adding Doncic could help them morph from one of the better ball movement teams to one of the very best.

Doncic is capable of manipulating the defense with his ball-handling and as a threat to score. Because he’s so dangerous as a driver and shooter coming off screens, defenses have to respect him. That’s going to open up small passing lanes, but Doncic is so clever that he can turn small rooms of space into wide-open jump shots for his teammates.

Doncic is especially adept at finding players for corner 3s, which has become one of the most important shots in the NBA. Dennis Smith Jr. is also excellent at finding guys there, which could mean great things for Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes — Matthews shot a ridiculous 46.4 percent on corner 3s last season, per Basketball-Reference, and Barnes was no slouch either, hitting 41.2 percent. (On a side note, that could be very beneficial for Barnes, who will likely spend much more time at power forward this season. All that bruising could take a toll on his legs throughout games, and as corner 3s are shorter, taking more of them and fewer long-distance treys could result in a jump in his 3-point percentage.)

Doncic’s presence on the roster will allow Rick Carlisle the freedom to keep two of the trio of Smith, Doncic, and Barea on the floor at all times if he so chooses. Jalen Brunson, who they drafted No. 33 overall, is a terrific facilitator in his own right, leading the Villanova offense to one of the best seasons we have seen in some time. And to be clear, Carlisle is very happy about it. “I never think you can have too many playmakers on a team,” he said.

The Mavericks needed to add a quality young player in this draft. Earning pick No. 5 was a good start, but it wasn’t good enough to get the guy they wanted. Instead of standing pat and taking someone else, they went and got him. Credit to the organization for pulling it off, for forming one of the most intriguing young duos in the NBA in Smith and Doncic. They complement each other extremely well in nearly every way. Both can get a shot off at virtually any time, and while Smith can get to the rim at will, Doncic prefers step-back Js. Both can find shooters on the perimeter, and while Smith can terrorize defenses by driving hard with a rim-rolling buddy stampeding alongside him, Doncic can look for cutters (including Smith) as he finesses his defender 20 feet from the rim. As both continue to improve from distance, the Mavs’ offense looks like it could be a major problem in the near future.

The questions will be answered, the potential possibly fulfilled, in time. Maybe in one year, maybe in several. But the Mavericks now have the foundation — a core featuring Smith, Doncic, and a constantly improving Harrison Barnes — for the future, with more money and flexibility to pull off other moves this summer. No matter how this ride ends, whether it’s in five years or 20, it’s hopefully going to be an exciting era of Mavericks basketball.

Mavericks acquire draft rights to Ray Spalding and Kostas Antetokounmpo

DALLAS— The Dallas Mavericks announced that they have acquired the draft rights to 56th overall pick Ray Spalding and 60th overall Kostas Antetokounmpo from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the draft rights to 54th overall pick Shake Milton.

Spalding (6-10, 215) was an early-entry candidate to this year’s draft after spending three seasons at Louisville. As a junior, he averaged 12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting .557 from the field. He ranked third in offensive rebound in the Atlantic Coast Conference and registered 11 double-doubles on the season.

Antetokounmpo (6-10, 197) was an early-entry candidate to this year’s draft after spending one season at Dayton where he averaged 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds for the Flyers. He is the brother of All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mavericks select guard Jalen Brunson with 33rd overall pick

DALLAS— The Dallas Mavericks announced that they have selected guard Jalen Brunson with the 33rd overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Brunson (6-3, 190) is a two-time NCAA Champion (2016, 2018) and an early-entry candidate to this year’s draft after spending three seasons at Villanova. As a junior, he averaged 18.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists on his way to winning Big East Player of the Year, Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year and the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard. He was also the only player in a Power 6 conference last season to shoot better than .520 from the field, .400 from behind-the-arc and .800 from the foul line.

The New Jersey native moved to Lincolnshire, Ill., in high school and became 2015 Mr. Illinois Basketball as a senior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. Brunson was named McDonald’s All-American, Parade All-American and USA Basketball 2015 Male Athlete of the Year after leading Team USA’s under-19 team.

J.J. Barea wins PBWA’s 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award

J.J. Barea has won the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, as administered and selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. Named after the NBA’s second commissioner, the honor is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach, or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.

According to the PBWA release, “Barea is being honored for his swift and sustained response to disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.” For the entire release, click here.

Barea and his foundation provided more than 100,000 pounds of supplies, personally raised nearly $500,000 and another $270,000 through a YouCaring campaign, and worked with the Mavericks to donate 100 percent of single-game ticket sales from their Oct. 25 game against the Memphis Grizzlies, raising an additional $114,000 for hurricane recovery.

“J.J. Barea’s impassioned and tireless efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico are inspiring and should spur us all to contribute in our own communities,” said PBWA President Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “PBWA members salute J.J., his fellow finalists and fellow nominees for their outstanding and heartfelt work.”

Click here to donate to J.J.’s foundation.

Dirk Nowitzki is amazing, but he didn’t win it by himself in 2011

The 2011 Mavericks have come to represent something much larger than merely a champion from a random season. In today’s era of superteams, fresh off a run of three straight 67-plus-win seasons in Golden State and four straight Warriors-Cavs Finals matchups, fans are beginning to pine for the good ol’ days when one star carried his teammates to the title. This has never been the case, of course — without contributions from players up and down a roster, no team is ever good enough to win a championship — but as is with everything else in life, the passage of time has clouded our memory to the point where, today, if you ask a Mavericks fan to describe that glorious spring of 2011, they’ll tell you it was Dirk against Kobe and Gasol, Dirk against Durant, Harden, and Westbrook, and Dirk against Wade, Bosh, and LeBron James.

You won’t find many more ardent Nowitzki supporters than me. The list of players I would take ahead of him in an all-time draft is shockingly short, almost certainly shorter than yours. Nowitzki has put together one of the most effective, unique careers we have ever seen. If he didn’t happen to play in the same era, conference, and state as Tim Duncan — spending much of his prime in the shadow of one of sport’s most successful and extended dynasties — the NBA universe would surely hold him in much higher esteem, he’d probably have more rings, and we’d never have to defend his legacy on the internet. But none of us chooses when we come along.

All of that said, our retrospective appreciation for Dirk’s accomplishment in leading the Mavericks to the championship against rosters with more name-recognition starpower has intensified to the point that it almost feels like we intentionally dismiss the contributions of other players on that team. Nowitzki was phenomenal that postseason, averaging 27.7 points and 8.1 rebounds on 48.5/46.0/94.1 splits; he was obviously sensational. But his teammates contributed so much, and in so many ways, that statistically speaking Nowitzki’s run doesn’t even qualify among the top 50 individual postseasons in NBA history, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton. We can all disagree with him on that one, but once you get past the initial shock, you begin to realize how it’s possible. You begin to understand that the 2011 Mavericks were a complete basketball machine, a roster perfectly constructed around a generational talent filled with players who so perfectly complemented the centerpiece and each other that it truly became a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Dallas began that season 24-5 and was 55-18 when Dirk played. The Mavericks were 2-7 without him, but even the Warriors struggled this postseason without Andre Iguodala, who is arguably their fifth-best player. Teams are fragile; every player matters, whether he is your best or your sixth man. Nowitzki was the most important, most irreplaceable, and most unstoppable piece, yes. That isn’t a debate. But he certainly did not scale the mountain by himself.

I rewatched the Mavs’ playoff run for this project, focusing on everyone except for Nowitzki — which, given how that run ended, was very hard to do — in order to gain a greater understanding of what each of those players provided to the team. I’m sharing a few small plays each player made in a few big moments so that hopefully we can put to bed the myth that Dirk Nowitzki had to win a championship ring alone. This is the story of the other guys, beginning with the best lineup the club has ever had.

The Lineup of Death. The Hamptons Five. Call them what you want, but the Golden State Warriors’ lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green has smoked the league since KD joined the Dubs in 2016. In 65 minutes together last postseason, as the Warriors went 16-1 en route to a second title in three years, that group outscored opponents by 32.9 points per 100 possessions, far and away the best of any lineup in the playoffs. It’s considered unguardable due to the number of scoring threats, the terrifying amount of shooting, and the defensive versatility. That same group dominated opponents to the tune of a +24.8 differential this postseason as the Warriors won yet another ring.

The Mavericks’ best lineup, by comparison, during that 2011 championship run performed relatively better. The five-man group of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler played at a level we rarely ever see. In 163 minutes together during that postseason run, they scored an astonishing 126.0 points per 100 possessions and allowed just 87.9, good for a +38.1 net rating. That lineup’s 57.1 effective field goal percentage throughout the playoffs would have led the league by a mile that season. Last season’s Warriors, possibly the best offense of all-time, recorded a 56.3 eFG percentage. That’s the level that Dallas group reached for 21 games, and the Mavericks did it at a time when efficiency was not nearly as high league-wide as it is today.

In the Finals, with razor-thin margins, Rick Carlisle turned to that lineup more often than he did at any other point during the season. In 66 minutes across just six games against the Heat, that group poured in 126.8 points per 100 possessions and had a +38.6 net rating, outscoring Miami by 44 points. That famous 22-5 run to steal Game 2 of the Finals? Yep, that was the group that pulled it off. (Terry scored the first six points himself in 58 seconds.)

The Kidd-Terry-Nowitzki trio just devastated the competition in the 2011 postseason, outscoring opponents by 182 points in the 297 minutes they shared the floor. In the Finals alone, that trio outscored the Heat by 61 minutes in the 94 minutes they were united.

It should have gone without saying back then that Nowitzki wasn’t the only Hall of Famer on that team, but it recently became official. Jason Kidd’s fingerprints were all over the club’s success. (So was everyone else’s. The debate among Mavs fans often centers on the question “Who was the second-best player on the team?” There is no right answer; it’s impossible to choose. You take any one player off that team and the Mavs don’t win. That’s the beauty of their run.)

Despite the nature of playoff games, when the pace is much slower and generally there is more isolation play, especially in the fourth quarter, Dallas was able to keep the ball moving. One example: Kidd actually assisted Jason Terry slightly more often in the playoffs (28.1 percent of his made buckets) than during the regular season (26.4 percent). The Mavericks led the league in assist percentage in the 2010-11 regular season and finished third in the postseason among the eight teams that won at least one series. Kidd quarterbacked an offense that handed out 20 assists in 10 of its 21 games, including two games of 30+ dimes. He assisted his teammates on one-third of their made baskets while he was on the floor in the postseason. In general, we look back on those Mavericks as an iso-heavy team that revolved around Nowitzki. There was plenty of iso-ing and posting up, as is always the case in the playoffs, but Dallas actually shot spot-up jumpers on a higher percentage of possessions than any other team that postseason. Even when the Mavs iso’d, it was with passing in mind.

The point guard position has changed in recent years. With more teams relying on spread pick-and-roll to generate offense, point guards must now be a scoring threat first, or else the offense is compromised. Kidd was a never a shoot-first player, instead relying on other initiators to create dribble penetration while spotting up on the arc and making the occasional extra pass. That isn’t to say he wasn’t a scoring threat, however; he made more 3s (43) than anyone else in the 2011 playoffs, including his teammate Terry.

Kidd’s reluctance to create for himself, often choosing instead to get the ball out of his hands as soon as possible, was a key to what made Dallas such a good passing team. The earlier in the shot clock Nowitzki or Terry could touch the ball — or, better yet, both of them — the sooner the Mavericks could dismantle their opponent. And by making the opposition cover so much ground, Dallas was simply able to wear the other team out. The Mavs scored 111.4 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter during the 2010-11 regular season, second-best in the league, and they flaunted a league-best 53.6 effective field goal percentage in the fourth.

A typical Dallas possession during that playoff run consisted of at least three or four passes, often more. If nothing was open early, Nowitzki would finish the possession late. That level of ball movement doesn’t happen under a point guard who needs it in his hands to make plays. Dallas could beat people inside-to-outside, high-to-low, and side-to-side, and oftentimes in combinations. The Mavericks scored 0.970 points per possession in the halfcourt during the 2011 playoffs, which led the league and it wasn’t even close. Second place was Boston, at 0.919. In playoff fourth quarters, their offense scored a blistering 115.0 points per 100 possessions, while the defense allowed just 104.7.

Shawn Marion gets a ton of credit for defending go-to players throughout that run (and we’ll get to him later, of course) but Kidd spent an extraordinary amount of time defending those same players. He checked Kobe Bryant for much of their four-game series, taking over for Marion when he defended Lamar Odom or even Pau Gasol. In fact, Kidd defended Bryant for a big chunk of the fourth quarter in Game 3, blocking a shot and holding Bryant to 2-of-6 shooting with a turnover in the frame. Kidd also defended Kevin Durant in the Western Conference Finals while Marion spent time on James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and he had the tall task of guarding Dwyane Wade in the Finals. The Mavericks allowed just 99.8 points per 100 possessions with Kidd on the floor in the 2011 playoffs — the best mark among anyone on the team who played at least 50 minutes — all while he ran point on an offense which scored 109.1 points per 100 and assisted on 61.8 percent of its makes whenever he was on the floor.

Kidd’s biggest contribution of them all was his intelligence. “I don’t think there’s ever been a smarter player in this league than Jason Kidd,” Carlisle once said. His understanding of offense wasn’t the only thing that stood out, though. Kidd just found ways to make plays with or around the ball. The Mavericks came away with more than their fair share of 50/50 balls during the 2011 playoffs, and Kidd could take the credit for many of their successes.

Despite his advanced age and natural drop-off in athleticism, Kidd knew exactly when to turn on the jets so he could make plays. He famously sat on the bench for every second possible in order to maximize his rest time, and he’d receive massages before virtually every game to help loosen up. And while he was older, his game hadn’t really dropped off; he was an All-Star in 2010.

Kidd had a next-level awareness of the moment, which helped him make some of the biggest, yet occasionally invisible, plays of the postseason. For an example, look no further than Game 3 against the Lakers, when during a seven-second stretch of game time Kidd showed the extent of his hoops genius. With 16.6 seconds left and the Lakers down six points with the ball, Kidd knew that L.A. would need a 3-pointer to give itself a chance to force overtime. After Dallas sniffed out the Lakers’ play and forced a turnover the previous trip down the floor (for that, go to Shawn Marion’s tab), it looked like the Lakers were setting up the same exact play, only this time instead of cutting to the top, Kobe took a screen from Derek Fisher to go to the corner, and it would then be Fisher who used the double-screen to come to the top of the arc. The Mavs, led by Kidd and Chandler, called it out.

Kidd fought through the screen, not caught off-guard by the similar play design, and was still able to strip Bryant clean. Not only did he appear to anticipate the play, but he was also able to communicate that to his teammates and wipe out Bryant’s shot entirely by himself.

His best work would come seven seconds later. With L.A. now down five points and just nine seconds left on the clock, it made sense for the Lakers to miss intentionally — though it didn’t seem like that was their plan. Still, as Pau Gasol was lining up his free throw, Kidd communicated with Jason Terry, appearing to tell him exactly what was about to happen.

It might just be pure luck that Kidd always found himself in the right place at the right time, but this is a guy who once, while down two points with under two minutes left on the road, intentionally ran full-speed into an opposing head coach in order to draw a technical foul. In Game 4 against Oklahoma City, Kidd stripped Kevin Durant with 1:02 left in overtime of a tied game, then 22 seconds later hit a go-ahead 3-pointer. We hear a lot about The Moment during the playoffs. Kidd always had command of it.

You can replace individual qualities like shooting, passing, and defense, But it’s hard to find someone who can do all three, and it’s even more impossible to find someone who’s also got a supreme understanding of the game. Kidd was extremely valuable — so valuable, in fact, that as Pelton points out, Kidd’s Value Over Replacement Player during that run rated even higher than Dirk’s.

The 2011 Mavericks made wearing all black to closeout games famous. They made fashion statements cool again, although we probably can’t prove it. What we can prove, though, is that once Dallas smelled blood, the series was over. The Mavs were 4-0 in closeout games in the 2011 playoffs, and 8-2 after winning their second game of the series.

Nowitzki hit some enormous shots in each of those elimination games, particularly against Portland in the first round and down the stretch in Game 6 at Miami. Jason Terry, though, might have been the closeout game king. Terry averaged 23.3 points per game in the four closeout contests that postseason, and his +63 plus-minus in those games led all Mavericks. He shot 61.8 percent from the field and 64.0 percent from beyond the arc in those games. Before Nowitzki’s 18 second-half points carried the Mavs across the finish line in Game 6 at Miami, Terry’s 19 first-half points (on only 10 shots) helped put them in position to claim the trophy. “Killer instinct” is an intangible quality, but Terry was cold-blooded in those four games.

Of the 35 players who attempted at least 100 shots that postseason, Terry’s 55.6 effective field goal percentage ranked fourth. He hit nearly as many 3s during the Mavs’ four-game sweep of the Lakers (13) as the entire Lakers team did against the Mavericks (15). Although he was the sixth man, Terry was the club’s most consistent first-quarter threat. He shot 52.2 percent from the field in opening frames throughout those playoffs, combining with Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson to shoot 38 of 71 from 3-point land in the first. And he connected on 20 of his 36 3-point attempts in the second quarter, too.

You cannot tell the story of the late-2000s Mavs without prominently mentioning Terry. He and Nowitzki’s two-man game tortured teams down the stretch for years, with JET consistently ranking in the top-10 in fourth-quarter scoring for a better park of the decade. And he wasn’t too far behind Nowitzki in terms of impact in 2011, either. Nowitzki’s +172 playoff plus-minus led the Mavericks, but Terry was right behind him at +146.

Why did Terry work so well within the offense? We know that he was a terrific 3-point shooter, but he was able to create offense in ways that Kidd could not. While Kidd set the table, Terry was able to force the action. Moments before the biggest play of Game 5 of the Finals — which, surprise surprise, was a shot hit by Terry — the JET demonstrated how his quickness changed the dynamic of the offense.

Kidd was not known for his speed, and although Nowitzki was a much more agile player than we give him credit for, neither he nor Marion could consistently break down the defense in isolation from the top of the arc. Terry’s ability to get into the lane opened things up for his teammates much in the way Dirk’s ability to draw double-teams in the low-post did. With a minute and a half left in Game 5 and the Mavericks up 102-100, Terry, a player who throughout his career to that point was known for scoring and little else, made one of the biggest passes of the playoffs.

Jason Terry finds Jason Kidd for 3

Jason Terry drives and dishes to Jason Kidd late in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

You can see the play from multiple angles, and this is intentional. First, you see Terry beat LeBron off the dribble and get into the lane before passing to… what looks to be nobody. Then, all of a sudden, Kidd pops up in the screen. Whew. The point: Terry made this pass blind. He couldn’t see anything, but he trusted that Kidd would be there. The next angle is from above and behind the basket, where you can see just how Miami’s defense reacted to Terry’s dribble penetration. With four Heat defenders in the lane to stop Terry, and Udonis Haslem glued to Nowitzki in the corner, Kidd may as well have been in his own city with how open he was. Finally, from the top you see the Xs and Os of it all: how aggressive and swarming that Heat defense was; how Nowitzki’s gravity prevented Haslem, the closest man, from helping out at all; how Dallas played with two in the corner and one at the rim before most of the league figured out that 3s were good. And if Kidd wouldn’t have shot it, Terry would have been wide-open, too. The Mavericks could move it. Often in crunch time, especially in the playoffs, we see a team give it to the best player and get out of the way. We saw Dirk hit multiple game-winners in that Heat series, of course, but the Mavs’ late-game offense wasn’t only limited to playing through him. Dallas ran an actual play — (What a novelty!) — with under a minute left and was able to generate a wide-open 3-pointer.

Terry was much more than a secondary scoring threat to back up Nowitzki. He changed the feel of games when he checked in as a player capable of stretching the floor with shooting, moving well without the ball to get open, attacking the rim off the dribble, and pairing up with Nowitzki to create a completely unguardable two-man game. He was the focal point of the offense when Nowitzki rested, and their success without him was a huge reason they won the championship. After being outscored by 31 points with Dirk on the bench in the first three games of the Finals, the Mavs went +5 without Nowitzki in the last three, all of them wins. Dallas outscored Miami 568-554 in those six games. Every point mattered.

While Jason Kidd helped share the defensive load with Shawn Marion, the Mavs turned to their primary defensive stopper in the game’s biggest moments. LeBron James’ fourth-quarter troubles in the 2011 Finals are well-documented at this point. But when looking at the bigger picture, you begin to really appreciate Marion’s defensive impact.

For example, Kevin Durant shot just 44.8 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter in the Western Conference Finals. Russell Westbrook shot just 36.4 percent. Marion’s defense on Durant late in games forced the then-youngster into some very difficult shots. Kobe Bryant didn’t fare much better, shooting just 31.6 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from beyond the arc in fourth quarters against the Mavs. (As a team, LA shot just 33.7 percent from the field in the fourth.) And Marion did it all without fouling; across nine games in those two series, he committed only 25 infractions. Opponents in those two series had a miserable 44.4 effective field goal percentage with Marion on the floor, a mark that rose to 51.0 percent when he sat. Considering his minutes almost always aligned with an opposing superstar, the impact is undeniable. (For reference, the lowest eFG percentage in the league this season was 49.5.) For the playoffs, Marion’s 3.8 defensive box plus-minus was a team-best.

As previously stated, though, Marion spent a lot of time guarding Lamar Odom against the Lakers. At the time, Odom was a serious matchup problem for Dallas, as he was quicker than 4-men Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic and much longer than DeShawn Stevenson, Terry, and Kidd. The Mavs couldn’t afford to have Marion shadow Kobe for the entire series — not only would that allow Odom to feast on mismatches elsewhere, but it’s not really fair to expect one player to check Bryant for 40 minutes a game. Kidd and Stevenson helped in the effort against Bryant, then, while Marion slid over to defend Odom once the 6-foot-10 sixth man entered the game.

That’s where having all of this defensive versatility really mattered. Dallas really did go up against some stacked collections of wings throughout that championship run, so Marion’s ability to slide up and down the lineup and defend each and every one of them depending on who else was in the game — without requiring a double-team — was a priceless trait.

Here’s where we go back to that earlier play against the Lakers in Game 3. (If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, go read Jason Kidd’s section after this.) After Kobe nearly won Game 1 with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer on a play that saw him use a double-screen to cut from the baseline to the top of the arc, you could be rest assured that Dallas wouldn’t fall for that same play again. So, with L.A. down four points with 18.7 seconds left in Game 3, the Mavs knew what was coming, and this time they’d be ready. One difference: Odom was in the game instead of the suspended Ron Artest, so Nowitzki slid over to guard Gasol this time, leaving Marion one-on-one against Odom, the play’s safety valve. This is what happened.

To that point in the fourth quarter, Odom actually led the Lakers in scoring, though with a modest four points. Marion had been sitting out since late in the third quarter, leaving Dirk and Peja Stojakovic to slow down the Sixth Man of the Year. There was still enough time left in this game, and the score was still close enough, that a 2-point bucket would have been dangerous. And with Odom going strong, it made sense to make him the fall-back plan if Dallas sniffed out the Kobe cut, which the Mavs clearly did. That left Marion completely on an island against Odom, who was sitting on 18 points, one more than Kobe.

Marion appears to almost catch Derek Fisher by surprise when he fronts Odom, forcing the entry pass to be much higher than it otherwise would have been. The toss ultimately went so high, in fact, that it sailed out of Odom’s reach and all the way out of bounds. To add another layer to this: Fronting Odom was also the correct play because, had he come down with the pass, Marion would already have been stationed to Odom’s preferred left-hand side. This would have forced the Laker to his right, and directly into Nowitzki and the prowling Tyson Chandler. That is terrific defense that most of us probably never even noticed.

His rebounding mattered, too. Marion contributed 46 offensive boards, more than two a game, throughout that postseason run, scoring 27 points on put-backs and tip-ins and creating several more second chances. Additionally, he collected the third-most defensive rebounds of any Maverick, despite often checking guys who were 20+ feet away from the basket when the shot went up. Dallas needed all the help it could get against the Lakers’ and Blazers’ big frontcourts, and Marion held his own in that area while also contributing on the perimeter.

While we’re here, there’s a case to be made for Marion to join Kidd and eventually Nowitzki in the Hall of Fame. Over his five-year peak he was a 20/10 guy playing small and power forward at a time when he helped revolutionize his position, he was a starter on 10 playoff teams, made four All-Star teams and two All-NBA teams, and is the shortest player ever with 15,000 career points, 10,000 rebounds, and 1,000 blocks. He’s also just one of four players ever to meet those numbers and add 1,500 steals, alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, and Kevin Garnett. Plus he’s got an awesome jump shot and an even cooler nickname. That’s what’s up.

The prevailing narrative throughout the Mavs’ title run was that this would be the players’ last chance at glory, that this bunch of wily veterans would be hard-pressed to ever find themselves in this situation again. That could not be said of Tyson Chandler, who was only 28 at the time. While injuries limited him during the two seasons prior, Chandler was only beginning to enter his prime in 2011. Following that run, he would go on to make three All-Defensive teams and win the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, despite somehow only making Second-Team All-Defense that season. He’d also make All-NBA Third Team in 2012 and the All-Star Game in 2013 and would average a double-double as recently as 2014-15.

Chandler didn’t fit the old narrative, and in many ways his relatively youthful energy was a welcome addition to the Mavs that season. He covered so much ground on defense that by the end of the season it was almost like Dallas was literally steering its opponents directly into Chandler in the middle of the paint. He was the anchor of the team defense who patrolled the paint and barked out coverages. Despite being one of the youngest players on the roster and only joining the club that same season, Chandler was the vocal leader. Who was the one communicating most on the defensive end when it mattered? Yep, Chandler.

I do not envy Shawn Marion’s list of defensive assignments, but Chandler’s was almost as daunting. He was tasked with defending LaMarcus Aldridge in the first round and Andrew Bynum in the second, before spending time both against Chris Bosh and as the middle of the 2-3 zone responsible for eliminating easy looks at the rim for LeBron in the Finals. The results were incredible: Opponents shot just 20 of 52 (38.5 percent) against Chandler out of post-ups and 5 of 19 (26.3 percent) in isolation, per Synergy Sports. Both Aldridge and Bynum shot at least four percentage points below their season average, and for good measure Pau Gasol shot just 42.2 percent from the field in that series, although he was primarily matched up against Dirk Nowitzki.

One of the weirder things about all of this is if you only looked at the counting stats, you might not realize how important Chandler was. He only blocked 19 shots in 21 playoff games. He averaged a modest 8.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. Opponents offensive rebounded pretty well against the Mavs, all things considered.

But dig a little deeper and you notice. Chandler’s offensive responsibilities consisted mainly of relatively little things like setting screens and rolling hard to the rim, but that let him expend all of his energy on defense. Not only did he have terrific closing speed for such a big player, but he was able to fend off fellow giants when fighting for loose balls and rebounds. All that size can be intimidating.

Dirk may have been under the most pressure to perform offensively, but as the emotional and vocal leader of the team, and not to mention the centerpiece of the defense, Chandler faced perhaps the highest defensive demand of any Maverick in 2011. Not only did he have to call out coverages, protect the rim, and battle for boards; he had to cover a ton of ground, too. The Mavs weren’t the quickest team, but Chandler was exceptionally agile for a center. Against a Heat team with multiple quick, strong ball-handlers like LeBron and Dwyane Wade, Chandler had his work cut out for him to make their lives difficult. One of his biggest plays of the playoffs came in the midst of a 15-3 Mavs run in Game 5, which was capped off by a couple 3-pointers we’ve already talked about. Those aren’t possible, though, without this play by Chandler, which protected a 102-100 lead with 2:27 left. One minute later, Kidd hit his 3.

There is nothing pretty about stepping in front of LeBron James with a full head of steam. It takes a certain level of courage (or insanity), and it’s safe to say Chandler had plenty of the former without much of the latter. And when a leader sacrifices himself, those around him rally. Watch Nowitzki’s and Terry’s reactions. Nowitzki was the star, Kidd the brain, Terry the guts, Marion the swagger, but Chandler was the fire that fueled the whole thing.

If video and anecdotes don’t do it for you, here’s one last number. Think what you want of value stats like win shares, but Chandler was second on the team behind only Nowitzki in win shares per 48 minutes. The only players across the league worth more win shares than him during the 2011 playoffs were LeBron, Wade, Dirk, and Kevin Durant.

Jason Terry was the quintessential overconfident sixth man every team needs, but the Mavs’ supporting cast was oozing with self-belief and plenty of experience to back it up. There is a certain level of confidence a player who went undrafted must have in order to survive in this league, and that feeling must be even more pronounced when you’re always the smallest guy on the floor. J.J. Barea has become a fan-favorite over the years and has earned plenty of respect as his career has unfolded, but in 2011 he was just a 26-year-old rising reserve many outside of Dallas still hadn’t likely heard of before. This postseason put him on the map. As Jason Terry was able to do when he came into games, Barea was also able to break down defenses off the dribble and get all the way to the rim with or without the help of a ball-screen. His elusiveness, particularly in the Lakers series, was a massive key to the Mavs’ sweep of the two-time defending champs.

It might appear that Barea had little to do with the outcome of that play, but it was the first of many dominoes. His early penetration, enabled by a pick-and-roll just five seconds into the possession, sent the Lakers into scramble mode, ultimately forcing point guard Steve Blake to abandon Jason Terry in the corner in order to get a body on Tyson Chandler in hopes of preventing a lob for a dunk. Barea knifed into the lane from right to left, dragging the entire Lakers defense with him. Terry was then left all alone for one of his nine 3-pointers that day, three of which were assisted by Barea.

Barea’s success in the pick-and-roll with both Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood was so unstoppable that it effectively won Game 2 for Dallas and led the Staples Center crowd to boo its own team, the guys who less than a year earlier won their second Larry O Trophy in a row. (In that same series, Ron Artest would be ejected for elbowing Barea in the head in Game 2 and suspended for Game 3 as a result, and Andrew Bynum was dismissed for elbowing Barea in the ribs in Game 4.) The run below immediately followed a blown alley-oop pass from Barea to Shawn Marion. Instead of compounding his mistake when the crowd got into it, Barea completely took over, leaving everyone — including future Warriors coach Steve Kerr — in awe.

J.J. Barea takes over in Game 2 against L.A.

Mavs point guard J.J. Barea leads the team on a run in Game 2 against the Lakers!

When the Mavs found themselves down 2-1 in the Finals and having been outscored by a combined 13 points in the first and third quarters, Rick Carlisle decided to make a change. He inserted Barea into the starting lineup to replace DeShawn Stevenson, and the move paid immediate dividends. Dallas was a cumulative +11 in the first and third quarters in the next three games, all wins, and the new starting lineup with Barea rattled off 120.6 points per 100 possessions in 38 minutes. It was a welcome influx of playmaking and creation into a starting lineup that had been slowed down by the Heat’s suffocating defense. (Stevenson responded to the move, as well, hitting 7 of 14 from deep in the final three games of the series. That gives you an idea of the level of buy-in that team had.)

Barea assisted on a whopping 33.6 percent of his teammates’ made baskets throughout the playoffs whenever he was on the floor, including an astonishing 47.8 percent of their makes against the Lakers. He maintained better than a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the postseason, able to work with Nowitzki or another big in the pick-and-roll and create offense for himself or for others. His contrasting style with Kidd made the two a pretty smooth fit; Kidd enjoyed handing off, directing traffic, and then spotting up, while Barea preferred (and still prefers) running the show and pulling all the strings. Both were effective means of creating offense on that team.

DeShawn Stevenson’s presence in the starting lineup before the change-up gave Dallas another 3-point shooter alongside Kidd and Nowitzki, which was extremely important considering Marion’s role at the time as more of a post-up player. As he and Tyson Chandler floated around the paint, Stevenson could stretch the floor and play hard-nosed defense. Peja Stojakovic spread the floor even further, most famously hitting all six of his 3-point attempts in the Mavs’ Game 4 annihilation of the Lakers to end the second round. Before that, however, he hit 41.9 percent from beyond the arc in a six-game series against Portland, including draining five out of 10 en route to 21 points in Game 2, the most he’d scored in a playoff affair since 2008. Stojakovic’s presence as a stretch-4 off the bench allowed Dallas to rest Dirk without sacrificing any shooting, which was absolutely huge for the offense.

Brendan Haywood was instrumental in keeping size on the floor, often simply outplaying his opponent as the backup center. Consider this: Haywood had a negative plus-minus in just one of the Mavs’ first 11 playoff games, including finishing +10 or better twice against the Lakers despite averaging just 15.5 minutes per game in the series. Haywood suffered an injury in the Finals that sidelined him for the remainder of the playoffs, and he was replaced by Ian Mahinmi, who managed to hit one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters of that entire postseason (and set it up with an offensive rebound). Corey Brewer had his moment as well, injecting energy and intensity into a stale game to help Dallas claw out of a double-digit deficit in Game 1 against the Lakers.

Then there’s Brian Cardinal, the Custodian, who played less than 10 minutes total in the playoffs until the Finals, when he was suddenly thrust into the backup power forward minutes. And in Game 6, with the Mavs’ big men struggling through foul trouble, Cardinal slid in as the backup center, as well, where one sequence demonstrated the destructive power of 5-out basketball.

Remember: This came at a time in the league when teams still took an average of just 18.0 treys per game. (This season, the average rose to 29.0.) The NBA was not ready to defend in maximum space the way the Heat and the rest of the league was forced to when the Mavericks went on that run. Dallas was the only team in the West in those playoffs that attempted at least one out of every four shots from beyond the arc. The Mavs shot the NBA into the modern era, and Brian Cardinal played a role in that.

History of the No. 5 pick shows Mavs could get a good one on draft night

The Mavericks didn’t win the lottery. Fate played a cruel joke on us all when Dallas — which won an earlier tiebreaker against Atlanta to move up to the No. 3 spot in the lotto order — was passed up by those very same Hawks last week, along with the Sacramento Kings. It’s the second year in a row the Kings have gotten lucky on draft night, while the Mavs are again left wanting more — although last year turned out OK for them.

At the end of it all, after the ping pong balls and superstitious rituals and summoning energy from around the world, the Mavs will pick fifth on June 21. Luck has certainly been kinder throughout the course of the Mavs’ history as a franchise, but then again this is still the fifth pick we’re talking about. It’s OK to be disappointed about dropping two spots, but also recognize that there have been a heck of a lot of talented players drafted fifth overall in the last few decades.

As a matter of fact, one could make the case that fifth has almost proven to be the place you want to be. Since the end of the 1988-89 season, when the NBA expanded from two All-NBA Teams to three, players who were selected fifth overall in their respective drafts combined to make 46 appearances on the all-league teams, second-most of any draft spot behind only those chosen first overall. (Coincidentally, players chosen third overall sit in third place on that list, combining for 41 appearances.) All together, 10 players chosen fifth overall have made an All-NBA Team in the last 30 years, including two players who spent time with the Mavericks. Below is a list of players chosen fifth who have made an All-NBA Team since 1989.

Player All-NBA Appearances (1989-present)
Kevin Garnett 9
Charles Barkley 8
Dwyane Wade 8
Scottie Pippen 7
Mitch Richmond 5
Ray Allen 2
Vince Carter 2
DeMarcus Cousins 2
Kevin Love 2
Juwan Howard 1

Many of the names on the above list are surefire Hall of Famers, including a couple of Dirk Nowitzki’s greatest rivals. (Nowitzki leads all No. 9 picks with 12 All-NBA appearances.) Each of those players came into the league and immediately made an impact. Two of them, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, are still in the prime years of their career and could possibly add more honors to their collection in the future.

Of course, when you say that 10 players out of nearly 30 have made an All-NBA Team, the cynics will immediately realize it means nearly two-thirds of them didn’t. There have been players chosen fifth overall in the past who didn’t go on to have standout NBA careers; there have been players taken fifth who didn’t play beyond their rookie contract. But drafting has never been easy and it almost certainly never will be. Where there’s risk, though, there’s reward. If you’re looking for upside, five is a solid place to be.

Although the draft is under a month away, there’s still plenty of time for things to change. Teams just got up-close glimpses at most of the top prospects at last week’s Combine, and between now and late-June the top players will make their tour around the country for private workouts. As it stands now, mock drafts are all over the place with what the Mavericks will do at No. 5. Some have them selecting Texas center Mohamed Bamba, while others have them going with Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. One says Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr., with another yet predicting Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. There’s no consensus, which means we could be in for a surprise on June 21.

It’s important to remember, too, that the Mavs’ work won’t be done after pick No. 5. The club also holds picks No. 33 and 54. No player in either draft slot has ever made an All-NBA Team, but that doesn’t mean that player’s ceiling won’t be high. Keeping it local, the Mavs hit on Jae Crowder at No. 34 in 2012 one pick before the Warriors hit a home run with Draymond Green. Green is a game-changing defender and hugely important part of the Golden State Warriors’ success while Crowder has carved out a very nice career as a rugged defender and 3-point threat and proved to be a very valuable piece to the Utah Jazz as they stormed down the finish line this season. Other notable names recently taken in the 30-35 range include Jimmy Butler (30), David Lee (30), and DeAndre Jordan (35).

What the Mavs do at 33 is anyone’s guess; it’s very difficult to forecast what will happen between the bottom of the first round the top of the second round because there are typically a handful of trades in that range. If I had to guess, though, Dallas will probably draft a player of a different position at 33 than at No. 5. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. The Mavericks are committed to acquiring and developing youth, so whoever they end up selecting at 33 could compete for playing time immediately if he proves himself. Dallas has shown in the past it doesn’t limit its gaze on players taken in the first round; this season alone, four of the top eight Mavs by minutes played went undrafted while another, Dwight Powell, went in the second round in 2014. That group includes Yogi Ferrell, who made the All-Rookie Second Team for his work as the starting point guard in 2017. (Dennis Smith Jr. recently received the same honor.)

If you’re still bummed about what happened at the lottery, rest easy. History shows that Dallas still has a good chance to draft a stud prospect who could join names like Barkley, Garnett, and Wade as success stories at No. 5.

Dennis Smith Jr. named to All-Rookie Second Team

Dunk of the Night: Dennis Smith Jr.

Dennis Smith Jr. steals the ball away from Julius Randle and races down the court before showing off for a 360-degree finish.

DALLAS – The NBA announced today that guard Dennis Smith Jr. was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. It marks the second year in a row that Dallas has had a player earn NBA All-Rookie Team honors (Yogi Ferrell was named to the All-Rookie Second Team in 2016-17).

Smith (6-3, 195) averaged 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.0 steal and 29.7 minutes in 69 games (all starts) for Dallas in 2017-18. Among all rookies, he ranked fifth in scoring, 14th in rebounding, third in assists, sixth in steals and seventh in minutes. Smith ranked second on the Mavericks in both scoring and assists. He knocked down 106 3-pointers in 2017-18, the most by a Mavericks rookie in franchise history.

The ninth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft burst onto the scene with a historic performance in his NBA debut. He recorded 16 points and a game-high 10 assists in Dallas’ opener against Atlanta on Oct. 18, becoming the youngest player in NBA history (19 years, 327 days) to record a point-assist double-double in his NBA debut.

Smith racked up 142 points and 49 assists in his first 10 career games, joining LeBron James (168 points and 64 assists in 2003-04) and Kyrie Irving (166 points and 52 assists in 2011-12) as the only teenagers in league history to reach those totals in their first 10 career NBA contests.

The former North Carolina State guard represented Dallas at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, competing in both the dunk contest and Rising Stars game. In fact, he became just the third Maverick ever to compete in the dunk contest, along with Tony Dumas and Michael Finley.

At 20 years, 34 days old, Smith recorded his first career triple-double (21 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) at New Orleans on Dec. 29. He finished the season as the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, behind Markelle Fultz (19 years, 317 days), Lonzo Ball (20 years, 15 days) and James (20 years, 20 days).

Smith’s triple-double began a streak of 23 consecutive double-figure scoring games for the young point guard (12/29/17-2/23/18). It tied the second-longest double-digit scoring streak by a Mavericks rookie in team history (Jamal Mashburn also scored in double figures in 23 straight games from 1/24-3/17/94 and Jay Vincent scored 10-plus points in a franchise-best 65 consecutive games from 12/3/81-4/17/82).

Smith finished the season with 15 20-point efforts and six double-digit assist games. His 15 20-point outings were the fourth-most by a Mavericks rookie in team history, behind Vincent’s 53, Mashburn’s 37 and Mark Aguirre’s 20. Jason Kidd (22 in 1994-95) was the only Dallas rookie to record more 10-assist games.

Smith becomes the ninth Maverick to earn NBA All-Rookie Team honors. In a talented rookie class, the Lakers’ Ball, Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta’s John Collins and Phoenix’s Josh Jackson join Smith on this year’s NBA All-Rookie Second Team. The 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie First Team consists of Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma and Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen.

MAVERICKS NAMED TO ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

Dennis Smith Jr. – 2017-18 (Second Team)
Yogi Ferrell – 2016-17 (Second Team)
Marquis Daniels – 2003-04 (Second Team)
Josh Howard – 2003-04 (Second Team)
Jason Kidd – 1994-95 (First Team)
Jamal Mashburn – 1993-94 (First Team)
Roy Tarpley – 1986-87 (First Team)
Sam Perkins – 1984-85 (First Team)
Jay Vincent – 1981-82 (First Team)

Happy Friday: 10 fun gifs from the 2017-18 season

Basketball is fun. It’s competitive, too, but it’s a game and games are meant to be enjoyed.

We’ve been lucky the last 20 years to watch a guy who’s openly only still playing because he feels good and — most importantly — because he still has a blast on the floor. All the extra stuff Dirk Nowitzki has to go through to get ready for a game, from his diet to his training schedule and even the surgery he’s now in recovery from, is worth it because basketball is fun. (It helps that he’s still capable of shooting 40 percent from 3.)

Anyway, the Mavericks didn’t end up with the record they wanted in 2017-18, but they still did some really funny and cool things on the floor. Here are 10 gifs (pronounced “JIFS,” no matter what the gif inventor himself believes) that will hopefully remind you or reinforce to you why we all love this game. These aren’t really in an order, but I’m numbering them anyway because that’s what we do online these days.

10. “Hey”

One possession during a late-season game at Sacramento went awry, and by the time Dirk recovered the loose ball, only a couple seconds remained on the shot clock. Instead of pulling the common move nowadays of dribbling out the clock to save a tenth of a point on his 3-point percentage, Nowitzki decided to let it fly. (That’s a power move. Lets you know he’s made so many he doesn’t care what his numbers look like.) I was at that game but watching from a similar angle as the TV, so I had no idea just how off it was. All I could tell was that it looked like Dirk thought it had a chance, but of course it caromed off the top corner of the backboard, off by a good two feet.

To be fair, you could give me 10 tries on that exact shot without any pressure and I probably wouldn’t come any closer than Dirk happened to in the middle of an NBA game.

9. A Kind of Windmill

This isn’t an all-Dirk list, but the GOAT already makes his second appearance here. His form on this rebound was very impressive. We saw Dennis Smith Jr. throw down a windmill dunk late in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks this season, but DSJ only completed the windmill motion with one of his arms. Here, Dirk did it with both, gathered the ball, and casually rose for a jumper.

Another cool thing about this gif is if you play it in reverse, basically the same exact play unfolds only instead this time Dirk grabs the rebound in more athletic fashion before gently underhand-lobbing a pass to Smith off the rim, then loosening up a little bit before setting a screen.

What a great teammate.

8. Keep Ya Head Up

Speaking of Smith, this was a pretty cool play. Unfortunately due to the bulk of the play happening off-camera, this one requires some backstory. Portland guard Damian Lillard was arguing a call and therefore was making his way very slowly up the floor. Recognizing this, Smith bolted up the court after receiving the inbound pass, catching Lillard off-guard and compromising the Blazers defense. The result was an open Maxi Kleber 3.

7. Spo Wants His Timeout

Anyone who watches lots of Mavs games knows that Rick Carlisle sometimes likes to call timeout very enthusiastically, sometimes even scaring unsuspecting officials who almost back-pedal right into him as they make their way up the floor. But Carlisle isn’t the only coach who’s unafraid to join the action. In the play above, a frustrated Spoelstra made it all the way to the elbow before the officials noticed he wanted a timeout. A confused Harrison Barnes pointed at Spoelstra as if to say “hey, you’re not a Heat!” Had he been a little more Johnny-on-the-spot, he could’ve pulled a repeat of an infamous play Jason Kidd made as a member of the Mavs, when he ran into a coach and drew a technical foul.

6. Excuse Me, That’s a Travel

Unbothered by Spoelstra’s attempt to dethrone Carlisle as king of funny coach antics, Carlisle makes the list at No. 6, when he briefly traded his clipboard for a whistle to call a travel on Carmelo Anthony. Carlisle politely applauded the call afterward. Also, Yogi Ferrell feared he was called for a reach-in foul, then looked very relieved to find out that he’d in fact played a part in forcing a turnover.

5. Teamwork

There’s saying “one, two, three, team!” to break the huddle, and then there’s this, in the play above, when four Mavs hustle over to J.J. Barea to help him up. Ferrell and Dwight Powell had to cover a ton of ground to get there before Wesley Matthews, but darn it if they didn’t try to beat him to the spot anyway.

4. Iron Man

Speaking of Matthews, that dude is tough. This is supposed to be a fun list, and there’s nothing fun about getting laid out into the scorer’s table, but man. We would be remiss not to highlight in some way his otherworldly ability to shrug off violent collisions like that one and stay in the game. That’s Hassan Whiteside plowing into him! He’s a big guy! And that scorer’s table isn’t very comfortable to even sit on, let alone smash into!

3. Dirk Inexplicably Does a Push-Up

Dirk’s work ethic is legendary, and there’s no question he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to remain in tip-top shape as he sees out his 30s and approaches his 40th birthday. Apparently that even means he’s willing to do a push-up mid-game. Now, on my freshman basketball team we had to do extra push-ups when players would talk too much during study hall or miss too many layups. (We were 14 and bad — no offense, guys — so there were plenty of missed layups.) The Mavs didn’t miss a lot of layups this season, and as far as I know there’s no such thing as study hall in the NBA. I think the right answer is also the simplest: Dirk just likes to work out.

2. Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This is a two-parter. Late in a January game at Phoenix, the Suns had built a bit of a lead and rookie Josh Jackson was feeling himself. He let Smith know about it, too. All good.

A man of few words, Smith let him speak his words, replied back quickly, then promptly took the ball from the official and fired a pass to a wide-open Yogi Ferrell for 3.

Smith is only 20 years old but he’s already pretty savvy. Maybe he’ll be the next Mav to run full-speed into an over-zealous opposing coach, a la Kidd.

1. Here’s a Helping Hand

Finally, the best of the best. The Mavs closed out 2017 with a New Year’s Eve win at Oklahoma City, in what was also one of the most exciting games of the season. Late in the first quarter, former Maverick Raymond Felton rose for a 3-pointer and the ball took such a funky bounce that it ended up sitting itself atop a beam behind the backboard that connects to the shot clock.

If this was a pick-up game, there’d definitely be another ball nearby that a player could go grab to knock the game ball from its perch. But this is the NBA, home to the world’s greatest athletes. Two of the Mavs’ all-time best, Dirk and Barea, decided to team up to get that ball without any extra props. Their attempt, though valiant in theory, proved to be futile.

But you know what? As Mark Cuban always says, the one thing in life you can control is effort. Not only did they try hard, but they also gave the OKC crowd, the referee, and all of us a good laugh in the process. Even in the midst of a difficult season in the standings, basketball can be fun after all.

Mavericks win draft tiebreaker draw, hold third position in pre-lottery draft order

The Mavs won today’s draft tiebreaker by random draw and now sit third place in the pre-lottery draft order.

Both Dallas and Atlanta finished with a 24-58 record this season, tied for third-fewest in the NBA. The two teams will split the difference between the third- and fourth-place odds in the draft lottery, which will take place next month. Today’s draw was to determine pre-lottery draft order.

Dallas has a 13.8 percent chance to win the No. 1 overall pick, while Atlanta will have a nearly identical 13.7 percent chance. Both teams will have roughly a 42 percent chance at a top-three pick. (The randomized lottery drawing only determines the order for the first three picks in the draft.)

The draw had little to do with odds related to winning the lottery, but there is a significant benefit to winning in case teams behind them in the lottery order get lucky on May 15. If neither Dallas nor Atlanta wins a top-three pick, the Mavericks will pick before Atlanta on draft night. The Mavs now have a 95 percent chance to pick somewhere in the top-five and will pick no lower than sixth. Atlanta, meanwhile, will pick no lower than seventh. For a better visualization of the odds, see the chart below from the Hawks’ KL Chouinard.

By virtue of losing the pre-lottery tiebreaker, Atlanta will choose third in the second round, or 33rd overall. Dallas will select fourth that round, or 34th overall. The Mavericks also acquired Portland’s second-round pick via Denver in the three-way trade for Doug McDermott, which will fall 54th overall.

The draft lottery takes place in New York on May 15.