ESPN expert Fran Fraschilla talks top draft prospects on ‘The Post Up’

ESPN college basketball analyst and hoops expert Fran Fraschilla joined Matt Mosley on The Post Up Podcast after the NBA Draft Lottery to discuss some of the top draft prospects.

The Mavericks will pick ninth in the NBA Draft on June 22. In most seasons, picking ninth might not guarantee the opportunity to draft a player who can contribute immediately and has a good chance to become a star. While the Mavs (and some other teams) have had plenty of luck at No. 9 in the past, the thing that stands out most about the 2017 crop of prospects is it’s reportedly a loaded draft on top. Experts across the board believe the Mavericks will be able to acquire a very talented player if the club does indeed stay at No. 9.

Listen to the complete podcast below, with some transcribed highlights below.

On the number of top point guards available: This is obviously a point guard-deep first 10, because you’re looking at Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, De’Aaron Fox, and Frank Ntilikina. All those guys have been mentioned in the top-10. Certainly, Dallas can improve in the backcourt. It’s not like they can’t improve in a number of places, but there’s a plethora of backcourt, playmaking guards that are gonna be in that first 10.

On French point guard Frank Ntilikina: With Frank Ntilikina, you’re getting an 18-year-old youngster, right now playing in (French) Pro A, who is 6-foot-5, can play both guard spots, has a very good feel for the game, can shoot it, can defend, is an above-average athlete although not a great athlete by NBA standards, but above-average, and he’s gonna play his entire rookie year in the NBA as a 19-year-old. You’re looking at a young man with a lot of potential, but maybe not a star right away. … He’s proving to be a good, not great player at the French Pro A level, but certainly someone who fits in the mold of French players who have come to the NBA and done very well.

On Arizona big man Lauri Markkanen: Where Lauri Markkanen fits in nicely — and he’s certainly not at the Dirk level and likely will never be — is that at 7 feet tall and 19 years old, he’s a very, very good outside shooter. When you draft this young man you’re getting incredibly high character, I can’t say that enough. The people that have interviewed him have already said one of the nicest young men that you’ll ever talk to, hard worker, wants to be a good pro. And there’s a difference, because there are youngsters that want to be in the NBA, and there are guys that want to be NBA players. Coaches in the league know the difference. This kid wants to be a good NBA player.

On NC State point guard Dennis Smith Jr.: You have a young man who is extremely athletic, strong, good size for a point guard. The average NBA starting point guard was 6-3, he’s probably in that 6-2 to 6-3 range. … He did not play well the last month of the season, but you love the raw, physical attributes of this young man. When you bring him in, the first question Rick Carlisle is gonna try to size up from him is can he make the quick adjustment to putting the ball in his hands, does he understand the pick-and-roll, can he get to the paint, can his shooting improve? All these question marks are gonna be asked by the staff of Dennis Smith, and they’re gonna find out what makes him tick.

On Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac: Tremendous potential. Maybe, if you told me seven years from now that he was the best player in the 2017 Draft, it would not surprise me. 6-foot-11, can play both forward spots, athletic, can shoot it, has really good defensive instincts, knows how to play, high character, and just scratching the surface.

On Indiana forward O.G. Anunoby: Great kid, high-level NBA defender. He’s going to be an elite NBA defender. He looks like he’s going to be a 3-point shooter in time. But the ball skills and the feel offensively not there, certainly not in the Kawhi Leonard range. I think [pick] nine’s a little high. I think he’d be ideal on a team that’s ready-made offensively.

The Post Up Podcast is available on Mavs.com, iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere else podcasts are available. Be sure to subscribe!

Seth Curry talks Dallas, comparisons to big bro Steph on ‘Undisputed’

Mavs guard Seth Curry appeared on “Undisputed” on Tuesday to talk about his first season in Dallas and discuss his brother Steph’s run with the Golden State Warriors.

Seth, 26, averaged 12.8 points and 2.7 assists per game on sizzling 48.1/42.5/85.0 splits in his first Mavs season, in what was by far the best of his pro career. During his best stretch of the season, a 24-game run from Jan. 17-March 10, Curry averaged 17.5 points on remarkable 53.0 percent shooting and 48.1 percent from deep, giving the Mavericks hope that he can achieve even better numbers heading into his second season with the team.

Watch the full video below, with some transcribed highlights below.

On what changed to make his first season in Dallas so smooth: Coach Carlisle and Mark Cuban, those guys gave me the opportunity to come in and play a lot. They had a lot of confidence in me. We obviously had a lot of injuries early on this season, so some of the young guys got an opportunity to play big minutes. A lot of times the young guys come in and play minutes, but it’s not really meaningful basketball. We had a lot of meaningful minutes to play trying to win games, and it helped me out to get my confidence going, playing every night and trying to play well.

On comparisons between him and his brother Steph, and if that adds any pressure: I feel like I could play in the NBA, and I’ve proven I can play well, whether it’s college, D-League, high school, whatever the case. But I feel like at times people were comparing me to what he was doing at that moment, and that’s an MVP level, leading college in scoring, leading the league in scoring. Obviously I wasn’t at that level yet. I was being compared to that instead of being compared to people I was coming out of college with, playing against in the D-League, and things like that. Obviously it has some benefits, being a Curry, but it was things I had to battle against.

On who wins the backyard battles in the Curry household: I’ll say it’s 50/50, shooting games, 1-on-1 games. It’s good battles. It’s obviously one of the reasons I’m here today, just being able to measure myself against him in the backyard, and his work ethic, things like that. He’s helped me a lot throughout my career.

Nerlens Noel already working out with Mavs teammates ahead of ‘biggest offseason’ of his career

Nerlens Noel called this summer the “biggest offseason” of his life, and it looks like he’s already getting a head-start on improving alongside his new teammates.

Noel, 23, has already been in the gym with some of the other Mavericks, not wasting much time after the end of the 2016-17 campaign. This summer will be an unusual one around these parts, because in recent seasons the Mavericks have had numerous unrestricted free agents on the roster. This time around, however, 14 of the 15 players are either under contract next season, or the Mavs have a team option to extend them another year if they choose. Noel is the one who isn’t. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.

The Dallas decision-makers have said many times they hope to retain the young center for the long-term. The club acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first-round draft pick which ultimately became two second-rounders. The negotiating period won’t begin until July, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban pointed to Noel’s involvement in informal team workouts on a recent appearance on the Ben & Skin Show on 105.3 The Fan.

“I’m not allowed to talk about [negotiations] but all I can tell you is he’s one of a bunch of guys who came in, they all got together and said ‘Let’s go down to the practice facility and start working out together,'” Cuban said. “So they’re down there now and so that’s exciting to see, and he’s part of that group.”

During his exit interview, Noel said he’d enjoyed his short time with the Mavericks, despite the club’s failure to qualify for the postseason. Still, Dallas pulled off a six-month youth movement while still staying within striking distance of a playoff spot, and hopefully with another offseason of activity, the Mavs can assemble a team capable of returning to the playoffs in Dirk Nowitzki’s 20th season.

“I love Dallas. In my short time here, I’ve really enjoyed it,” Noel said. “I think it’s been a great time. And with the pieces that we have and the opportunities that could be seen in the near future, I think there’s a lot to be excited for. But obviously, there’s some things that will be worked out, most likely, and we’ll just go from there.

“I think I built a lot of chemistry. I think Philadelphia was a little different situation, with guys coming in and out, and just trying to find the right niche with young guards that can play. But this team had a veteran group that already knows how to play pick-and-rolls. I know they’ve had Brandan Wright and Tyson, so they’re experienced guards. And I think it was something I definitely needed. It’s something that will continue to grow, assuming things go the way they should into next year.”

The Mavericks front office is excited about the club’s youth, and it appears Noel also recognizes the potential of this group.

On the Inside: Dirk Nowitzki

2016-17 Exit Interview: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki addresses the media for exit interviews.

Throughout the last several weeks, we have published end-of-season breakdowns for some of the key Mavericks as part of our “On the Inside” series. Imagine never having seen the players before, and this is the scouting report. Read all of them here.

This was an unusual season for Dirk Nowitzki.

He played at least 30 minutes in a game just once in 2016, and that was on opening night. He missed 24 of the team’s first 29 games with lingering Achilles soreness. That’s far from the norm; previously, Nowitzki had missed more than nine games just once through 18 seasons. In his absence, the team struggled. Dallas won just eight of its first 29 games, a hole which ultimately proved too steep to climb out of as the Mavs missed the playoffs for just the second time since 2000. Some might have thought his best days were too far behind him to ever see again, while others brought up the possibility of retirement.

But when he came back, the 38-year-old was productive for a player of any age despite playing out of position at center for much of the season. From his return on Dec. 23, Nowitzki led the Mavericks by scoring 19.7 points per 36 minutes, adding 8.9 boards, 2.1 assists, and a block. During his best stretch of the season — from March 5-21 — the German compiled per-game averages of 18.3 points and 7.6 rebounds on 52.4 percent shooting from the field and 45.0 percent from deep, good for a 59.5 effective field goal percentage.

That period came toward the end of the Mavs’ best stretch of the season; from Jan. 12-March 23, Dallas sported a 20-13 record. But by then, the club had already played 71 games and was essentially out of the playoff race. For Nowitzki, however, that run came right in what would normally be the meat of his season. That nine-game run in which he averaged 18 points and seven rebounds came in his 36th-44th appearances on the year. By the time he finally reached his peak form, the season was already winding down.

That doesn’t mean it was a lost season, statistically speaking. The 7-footer continued to put up numbers most other players will never come close to matching. For example, he shot above 37 percent from beyond the arc for the 13th season in his career, which ties for fourth-most ever. He averaged 19 points per 36 minutes for the 17th consecutive season, which ties Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone for second-most all-time behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was also his 13th season with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher and a turnover percentage of 10 percent or lower, which is a new NBA record. (He moved past some guy named Michael Jordan.)

He also reached the 30,000-point milestone, becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to do so. It might have been the coolest regular-season moment in Mavericks history, another once-in-a-lifetime achievement by a guy an entire generation of Dallas sports fans has grown up with.

Mavericks Celebrate Dirk’s Milestone

Mavericks fans and teammates surround Dirk Nowitzki as they celebrate him reaching 30,000 points for his career.

So even though Nowitzki’s injury basically delayed the start of what could have been a fine season, he still accomplished a fair amount individually. Within the context of the team, the big man once again had a positive impact on his teammates, virtually across the board. Nearly every player was better at everything when Dirk was on the floor, in what was a continuation of one of the most unique traits in NBA history: Nowitzki’s floor-bending effect on the opposing defense. That’s a quality that will never disappear, even if he plays until he’s 50.

Next season will be Dirk’s 20th as a pro, and he’ll tie Kobe Bryant (Lakers) for most seasons played for one franchise, and the Mavericks obviously want to reach the playoffs in what could be the German’s last season. That’s part of what made Nowitzki’s late-season surge so refreshing to see: It reinforced the belief that he can still play big minutes on a good team, so long as the talent around him continues to blossom. The team’s young players will have to take a step forward to push the Mavs over the hump. Regardless, Dallas could enter 2017-18 with a real shot at the playoffs despite only a few known quantities, and Nowitzki is still probably the surest thing of them all, which at his age is truly incredible.

The burning questions

OK, so if he’s still a pretty sure thing, what is there to wonder about?

The Mavericks have acknowledged they’ve entered into a transition period. Harrison Barnes is taking over the late-game duties, and Rick Carlisle is running the free throw isolation plays for Barnes now that he once called for the German en route to a championship. By the end of the season, the Mavs were starting multiple rookies on a regular basis. The club’s biggest move of the season came at the trade deadline in a move for Nerlens Noel, who became the Mavs’ youngest player. Heading into next season, it’s likely Noel will be the second-youngest, behind only the team’s No. 9 draft pick, who will likely still be a teenager on opening night.

It’s difficult both to get young and still compete for another playoff run for Nowitzki. The 19-year vet said during his exit interview that he’s willing to help mentor young players as they come, but clearly the Mavs aren’t interested in going full rebuild with a legend still in the locker room. The club is walking a delicate tightrope, which leads to some questions that must be answered by next season.

1. Is Dirk still Dirk?

Evidence cited earlier suggests that, yes, Nowitzki is still Nowitzki. He might never average 20 a game again, but the fact remains that he was still a productive scorer. That question honestly does not need to be asked.

His highlight run of the 2016-17 campaign excluded some of his finest late-game performances, including back-to-back games against Portland and Utah in which he hit last-second shots to bring the Mavs back into the game (Blazers) and tie with a couple seconds left (Jazz). As you can imagine he had quite a few highlights this season, but those two fourth quarters stand out.

Dirk Sends It To OT

Harrison Barnes misses the shot but Dirk Nowitzki is there to retrieve it and lets the jumper fly to send the game into OT.

More importantly as it relates to the youth movement, however, Nowitzki fit well within the team. As the season wore on, Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry emerged as the club’s two strongest clutch performers, as both can create their shot and see the whole floor to make the right passes. Dirk still found himself with the ball in his hands late plenty of times, but one unintended consequence of Nowitzki’s prolonged absence to begin the season was the development of Barnes as Curry as late-game studs; together, they shot 50 of 98 from the field in the clutch this season, per NBA Stats.

Dirk’s willingness to not have to be the guy late in games could be a big factor next season, when he’ll almost certainly be healthier than he was this year and, therefore, play more games. He had a lower usage rate in the clutch this season than Barnes, Deron Williams (while he was with the Mavericks), J.J. Barea, and Yogi Ferrell. At this stage in his career, he’s just as dangerous when he’s off the ball as when he has it in his hands. Defenders are always going to stick with him, no matter what else is happening, even if it means the opposing center steps 25 feet out from the rim to defend him. Nowitzki’s gravity helped lead to Wesley Matthews’ game-winning 3 in Chicago, for example. (There will be more examples of this later.)

One of my favorite Nowitzki plays this season wasn’t even a shot. It was a pass. On March 15, with the Mavs clinging on to a narrow lead in Washington and Nico Brussino playing out of his mind, Nowitzki gave up a fairly good look at a 3-pointer to swing it to the rookie in the corner for a better one and then was the first to dap him after the bucket.

We celebrate Nowitzki more for his baskets than his passes or floor presence, but those qualities might be more valuable on a young team than they’ve ever been. If a player is capable of helping his team win simply by standing still, it’s crucial to keep that guy on the floor when you need a bucket while the young guys figure out how to take over games. That he can still score at a high level is a bonus: Nowitzki scored 1.088 points per possession in the post against his own defender (not even a switched little guy) this season, per Synergy Sports. To put it in context, he scored more efficiently against bigs in the post than the league-leading Golden State Warriors offense did overall, regardless of play type (1.043).

So, yep, he’s still Dirk.

How’d he do as a 5?

The key date to remember about the 2016-17 Mavs season is Jan. 12. That’s when the club made a commitment to 5-out small-ball, and Dallas rode that philosophy to the 20-13 stretch mentioned earlier. Even after the Noel trade, Nowitzki still started at center for quite some time.

You can imagine many things would be true about a team with Nowitzki at center. First, you’d expect the offense to be pretty spectacular because of all the shooting. With the offense running predominantly through Harrison Barnes, that left the German to spot up on the perimeter and pull the center from the rim. As a result, Dallas could get pretty creative on the perimeter. Though Barnes ultimately passes to Dorian Finney-Smith, watch the screen Yogi Ferrell sets to free up Dirk from the corner.

There aren’t many offenses in the league in which point guards are basically setting pin-down screens to spring the center loose for a 3-pointer. That type of action is very difficult to defend and, if timed perfectly, can give Nowitzki an easy look almost every time.

Defensively, though, you might think a Nowitzki-at-center group would struggle to defend the lane without the presence of a traditional rim protector. Also, given Barnes’ relatively low rebounding numbers for a power forward, you might think the Mavs would struggle to clean the defensive glass. That wasn’t necessarily the case, though.

Below are some of Nowitzki’s on-off splits on both sides of the ball from Jan. 12 through the end of the season, when more than half of his minutes were played at the center position. (All starred “on” numbers represent the highest mark on the team, while all double-starred “off” numbers represent the lowest.)

Nowitzki On Nowitzki Off
Mavs Assist% 62.3% 54.8%**
Mavs D Rebound% 79.4%* 74.5%**
Mavs Turnover % 10.8%* 13.3%**
Opp. Free Throw Rate 0.237* 0.313**

What do those numbers mean? Assist rate measures the percentage of buckets a team makes that came off an assist. With Nowitzki on the floor, Dallas assisted more than three-fifths of its baskets. With him off, that number dropped to below 55 percent, which was the lowest mark without any player on the roster. More surprisingly, the Mavs assisted on just 45.0 percent of its made 2-pointers without Nowitzki on the floor following Jan. 12, which shows just how much the club relied on Barnes to create from the mid-range without the Big German.

The Mavericks rebounded at an elite rate with Nowitzki and struggled in that regard without him — a 79.4 percent defensive rebound rate would have finished third in the NBA this season, while their 74.5 percent clip without him would have ranked 29th in the NBA. Dallas allowed 2.4 fewer second-chance points per 100 possessions with Nowitzki on the floor than without him. The Mavs also rarely fouled shooters with Nowitzki on the floor (free throw rate) — the 0.237 rate would have ranked sixth, while the 0.313 rate would have ranked 28th.

Finally, the Mavericks rarely ever turned it over while Nowitzki played, even when he was at center and primarily just setting ball screens. Dallas gave it away just 10.8 percent of the time with Nowitzki on the floor for the last four months of the season, which would be the lowest team turnover rate in the history of NBA basketball. (The Hornets’ 11.7 percent turnover rate this season is the lowest on record, per NBA Stats.) The Mavs have almost always been a low-turnover team with Nowitzki; the Dirk-Era Mavs have three of the nine lowest turnover rate seasons in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference. They were historically low again this season — tied for 16th-best in league history — and that’s with no less than eight true point guards logging minutes, plus Nico Brussino manning point for long stretches in several games.

There are certainly trade-offs with Dirk at 5. For example, Dallas shoots less often at the rim and earns trips to the free throw line at a much lower rate with him on than when he’s off. There’s not as much of a rim-protecting presence as there would be if a player like Noel or Salah Mejri is in the game. But those are sacrifices you’ve got to be willing to make when you need a quick scoring burst within the course of a contest.

Is he a good fit between Barnes and Noel?

Nerlens Noel is a restricted free agent this summer, but the Mavericks have publicly stated their desire to retain him, and Noel has gone on record to say he likes playing for and living in Dallas. If the Mavs can strike a deal with the young big man to bring him back, and if nothing else crazy happens, a Barnes-Nowitzki-Noel frontcourt could be starting on opening night 2017.

Barnes and Noel are just 25 and 23 years old, respectively, so the Mavericks have plenty to be excited about in terms of their long-term development. (Read about Barnes’ season here and Noel’s here.) But in the short term, their fit with Nowitzki — and, more vitally, Nowitzki’s fit with them — is essential.

The sample size with a Nowitzki-Noel partnership was pretty small considering he was such a late acquisition and Nowitzki sat out some games down the stretch, but nevertheless there were some good results. The Mavs were +6.0 points per 100 possessions when the two shared the floor, including sporting an impressive 100.1 defensive rating and 2.04 assist-to-turnover ratio. That 6.0 net rating would have ranked third in the NBA this season, and the 100.1 D rating would have led the NBA. Though this isn’t to suggest the Mavs will win 60 games if Nowitzki and Noel play 48 minutes a game — in fact, the Mavs were only 9-11 when they played, but several losses came when the two would be shut down mid-game — it does tell you something about the pair’s potential. (It’s no surprise that Nowitzki’s best individual stretch — March 5-21 — coincided with Noel’s arrival. Together they torched opposing second units.)

Noel’s rolling ability combined with Nowitzki’s spot-up shooting can create some devastating offense for the Mavs.

Noel isn’t the only Maverick who benefited from playing next to Nowitzki, and vice versa. The 7-footer has a unique symbiotic effect on nearly all of his teammates. When the Mavericks have surrounded Dirk with players who complement his strengths and can fully take advantage of the extra space he provides, it’s almost always led to offensive fireworks.

The graphic below shows some of the top Mavs guards and wings’ individual shooting numbers when Nowitzki was on the floor this season vs. when he was off.

Player 2P% Dirk On 2P% Dirk Off Difference 3P% Dirk On 3P% Dirk Off Difference
Harrison Barnes 52.4% 48.1% +4.22% 35.5% 35.0% +0.48%
Seth Curry 60.3% 47.8% +12.44% 42.7% 42.4% +0.30%
Wesley Matthews 42.9% 43.4% -0.52% 37.5% 35.9% +1.57%
Yogi Ferrell 42.3% 39.7% +2.55% 41.1% 39.0% +2.13%
Dorian Finney-Smith 51.4% 46.7% +4.70% 32.7% 27.9% +4.79%
J.J. Barea 51.3% 41.9% +9.40% 36.8% 34.7% +2.12%

That chart does more to show the positive impact Nowitzki has on his teammates more than any words I or anyone else could write. Every single player shot the 3-ball better — some significantly — with him on the floor than when he was off, and every player also saw massive 2-point improvement (with the exception of Wesley Matthews, whose numbers only decreased marginally).

Now, Nowitzki’s presence wasn’t always the only thing that had an influence on production — numerous point guard injuries to begin the season coinciding with Nowitzki’s absence presented the offense with unique challenges for some of those players, as well — and there are many reasons why those numbers could look the way they do. But there’s only one constant, and that’s Dirk.

The mark of any great athlete in a team sport is his ability to make those around him better. That holds especially true in the NBA, when just five teammates are on the floor at the same time and the league’s hierarchy is typically determined by only a handful of players.

Nowitzki might not be in the popular discussion for top-five, or even top-20, active players anymore, but I would bet you’d be hard-pressed to find another player in the league right now whose presence would provide a similar universal boost to his most common teammates. An easy guess would be LeBron James, who’s now considered possibly one of the three or four best players ever and is still at the height of his powers.

That Nowitzki still made an impact of that magnitude — in an injury-plagued season on a lottery team, no less! — is truly stunning. He is a walking offensive cheat code. In an era when we have more tools than ever to determine what makes a good basketball player, Dirk is still underappreciated, or at least he’s not been properly quantified. I suspect that 15 years from now new stats will have been created that can more accurately determine his one-of-a-kind effectiveness. The above chart could be a good place to start.

At this point in his career, Nowitzki might not be able to go out and get you 25 points every night, or even 20. He might not be able to play 35 minutes a night, and he probably shouldn’t even play 28 anymore. The days of “give it to Dirk at the elbow and get out of the way” might be behind us forever. But even now, in an NBA in which otherworldly athleticism is required and ball-handling big men are the most sought-after asset in the game, there’s still a place for Nowitzki, the soon-to-be 39-year-old who’d rather jog than sprint and has dunked just 11 times in his last three seasons combined.

He can play with the young guys on his own team and continues to make them better. He can play power forward or start at center. He can spot up in the corner or keep running the pick-and-pop. He can post up, he can get you some rebounds, and he can still draw a double-team. He is today what the Mavericks can only hope Harrison Barnes will one day become, and who at least 20 other teams hope their best player can one day evolve to be.

Yes, even now, after 19 long seasons and coming off perhaps the longest one yet, Dirk is still Dirk.

Mavs one of record 24 teams to compete in NBA Summer League 2017

The Mavs will head west once again to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. This time, they’ll be joined by an NBA-record 23 other teams.

The Mavericks have competed in Vegas each year since 2005, with the exception of 2011 when there was no Summer League. Dallas is 28-30 all-time in Summer League play.

Teams will compete in three preliminary games beginning July 7 before being seeded in a tournament that leads to the Championship Game on July 17. Each team will play at least five games. Last summer, the Mavs lost in the second round of the tournament to the Chicago Bulls, who would go on to win the championship a few days later.

Summer League is a great opportunity for younger players to prove themselves and potentially even earn their first NBA contract. For example, Jonathan Gibson took Vegas by storm last summer, eventually clinching a partially guaranteed contract and training camp invite.

It also gives more established players an opportunity to work on different aspects of their game. Dwight Powell spent time in Vegas a couple years ago working on elements of his outside game, and last season Justin Anderson played some minutes to work on his ball-handling and creating.

This summer, more so than others in recent memory, the Mavs will have the chance to take plenty of young players already under contract with them to the tournament. Nothing is official, of course, and plenty can change between now and then, but the Mavericks have hinted that virtually all first-year players from this past season’s team could play in Las Vegas. That list could even include guys like Yogi Ferrell and Dorian Finney-Smith, who were among the club’s most-used players for large chunks of 2016-17.

The full roster will be revealed some time after the June 22 NBA Draft. The Mavericks will also almost certainly send the player they select to Las Vegas to make his debut in blue.

Last year’s event set records for total attendance, single-day attendance, combined viewership across ESPN and NBA TV, and NBA social media. Tickets for NBA Summer League will go on sale Monday May 22 at 10 a.m. PT. Fans can purchase tickets by visiting NBATickets.com. ESPN and NBA TV will also bring fans all the action from NBA Summer League 2017 in July. A complete broadcast and game schedule will be released at a later date.

Other teams competing include Houston, San Antonio, Golden State, Chicago, Phoenix, Brooklyn, Toronto, Washington, Boston, Denver, Memphis, Miami, Utah, Cleveland, Portland, Sacramento, Atlanta, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and both L.A. clubs.

Mavs’ ‘inspirational’ Herskowitz was on hand at last night’s draft lottery

Michael Finley and Keith Grant weren’t alone at last night’s NBA Draft Lottery in New York.

Joining them was Neil Herskowitz, who’s worked under equipment manager Al Whitley for almost a decade. Herskowitz received a double-lung transplant in 2015 after battling cystic fibrosis for his entire life. Read more about his story here, and watch his interview with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth below.

Mavs’ assistant equipment manager reps team in lottery

Neil Herskowitz tells Cassidy Hubbarth his inspirational story of life with cystic fibrosis and shares how proud he is to represent the Mavericks organization in New York.

“I’m fortunate to say that things are going well now,” Herskowitz said. “But, really, I’m just emblematic of a lot of people — some I don’t even know, including hte donor’s family. The benevolence that they’ve shown, the care, hard work and patience of doctors, family, friends, obviously the Mavericks’ staff from top to bottom.”

Now nearly two years removed from his surgery, Herskowitz — also known by the team as “McLovin” — has become a source of inspiration for the entire organization. Rick Carlisle, Brad Davis, and Whitley shared their thoughts on Herskowitz in a terrific piece on CBS toward the beginning of the season.

“This is as inspirational a kid as I’ve been around,” Carlisle said at the time. “I love him like a little brother.”

Herskowitz’s bravery in the face of a terrible situation has given the entire team a lift for some time, and it’s easy to see why. He’s the kind of guy who always makes you laugh no matter who you are or what kind of mood you’re in, even if you only talk to him for five seconds. It was awesome to see him represent the team in New York.

Herskowitz sat in the room where the ping pong balls were drawn, which put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. However, he didn’t take any superstitious charms. (“I don’t believe in good luck, but what I do believe in is the greater the stage, the bigger I rage,” he said.) The Mavs wound up with the No. 9 pick in the draft, matching their projected position heading into the evening. Although the club wasn’t able to move up, Dallas still believes it has a great chance at landing a player who can produce immediately.

As the draft process unfolds, the Mavs will begin working out rookies they might be interested in selecting with that ninth pick. One thing they’ll be looking for in prospects is the measure of their character. From the very top, this is an organization full of uniquely good people who care about basketball and each other, and while Herskowitz might not have persuaded the basketball gods into giving Dallas a higher pick, he still proudly represented the team’s best quality.

How does the NBA Draft Lottery work?

2015 Draft Lottery Drawing

Watch as the ping-pong balls fall to determine the picking order for the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery.

Tonight, the Mavericks will find out just how lucky they are.

The NBA Draft Lottery takes place tonight at 7 p.m. Central and will be televised on ESPN and streamed on WatchESPN. Dallas has the ninth-best odds at winning the lottery, with a modest 1.7 percent chance at taking home the No. 1 pick. But while the first overall pick is the top prize, there are several other possible outcomes tonight.

First, a brief primer on how the lottery works. Each of the 14 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs is eligible for the draw. One thousand four-number combinations were assigned to lottery teams, with the amount of combinations given to teams based on inverse order of their regular-season record. Eight teams finished with a worse record than the Mavericks, so Dallas will have the ninth-best odds of winning.

Fourteen ping pong balls numbered 1-14 are placed into a machine and the numbers are then drawn at random. The resulting four-digit combination represents the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and the team which was given the corresponding combo earns that top spot. (See the video above for a visual example.) The Brooklyn Nets finished with the worst record this season and have the highest odds of winning the No. 1 pick at 25.0 percent (250 combinations), but the Boston Celtics hold the rights to that pick via a 2013 trade involving Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and former Maverick Jason Terry.

Then, a drawing takes place for the No. 2 pick, followed by the No. 3 pick. Only three combinations are drawn, and the remaining 11 teams who did not win a top-3 pick are slotted 4-14 in the draft order, again based on inverse order of regular-season record.

That means the Mavericks can only win a certain number of picks. Dallas has heavy odds to earn the ninth pick, but can also win 1-3 or 10-12. Below are the club’s complete odds at landing each possible pick.

Draft Pick Mavs’ Odds
1st 1.70%
2nd 2.00%
3rd 2.41%
9th 81.31%
10th 12.20%
11th 0.38%
12th 0.002%

Michael Finley will represent the club on stage at the lottery. Hopefully he can bring some luck. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will announce the lottery results in reverse order, starting with the 14th pick. If you don’t hear Dallas’ name called by No. 9, it means something exciting has happened. Be sure to tune in tonight at 7 to find out.

The Mavericks do not currently have a second-round pick in the draft. The club’s second-rounder went to Philadelphia as part of the trade which brought Nerlens Noel to Dallas this season.

The last time the Mavericks were in the lottery was 2013, when the club at the 13th-best odds at the No. 1 pick. Dallas eventually selected point guard Shane Larkin, who was traded to the New York Knicks after his rookie season as part of the deal that brought Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas.

Want to know more about the top prospects? Check out some of my favorite sites for draft coverage, including DraftExpress, The Ringer, and ESPN. Each of these sites (and many more) have mock drafts and detailed profiles of all the draft-eligible players.

Dallas Mavericks announce Teachers of the Year

The Dallas Mavericks and The UPS Store, in association with Teach For America DFW, teamed-up to present the 13th Annual Classroom Champions Program, created to recognize North Texas educators for their work in the classroom. Each month from September until April, two DFW Metroplex teachers were selected as Classroom Champion “Teachers of the Month” and recognized at home games throughout the Mavs season.

MFFLs had the chance to vote for five Classroom Champion “Teachers of Year” and the winning teachers were awarded $1,000 for themselves and $1,000 for their school.

Over 63,000 votes were counted and the winners were announced this week via social media:
Justin Artis, Uplift Pinnacle Preparatory
Tameika Sanchez, E. Ray Elementary School
Arleen Averill, Cigarroa Elementary School
Shawn Blair, Harmony Science Academy Garland
Cambria Dotson, Melissa High School

For more information on the 13th Annual Classroom Champions Program and to watch videos for the 16 Classroom Champions, visit: mavs.com/classroomchampions.

ABOUT THE UPS STORE
The UPS Store locations are independently owned and operated by licensed franchisees of The UPS Store, Inc., a subsidiary of UPS. With more than 80 locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, The UPS Store is the largest network of retail shipping, postal, printing and business service centers. For additional information, please visit www.theupsstore.com.

ABOUT TEACH FOR AMERICA
Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, more than 53,000 Teach For America corps members and alumni are leading within schools, school systems, and every sector and field that shapes them. Among them are 19,000 teachers, including nearly 7,000 first and second year corps members in 53 urban and rural regions across the country. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

DALLAS MAVERICKS: CHAMPIONS IN THE COMMUNITY
The Dallas Mavericks strive to be champions on the court and in the community. We are dedicated to building a stronger community through educational programs, health and wellness initiatives, environmental efforts, support for military veterans, and grants to nonprofit organizations. Through our community programs and the Mavs Foundation, we are changing lives in North Texas and have impacted thousands of children, families and communities. Learn more at Mavs.com/Community. @MavsCare

On the Inside: Harrison Barnes

2016-17 Exit Interview: Harrison Barnes

Mavs F Harrison Barnes addresses the media for exit interviews.

Over the next several weeks, we will publish end-of-season breakdowns for some of the key Mavericks as part of our “On the Inside” series. Imagine never having seen the players before, and this is the scouting report. Read all of them here.

In an age when efficiency is king in the NBA, and when you read all about it on this very site, the more statistically savvy basketball fan might not want to give Harrison Barnes the credit he deserves for his first season in Dallas.

Barnes finished tied for 81st in the NBA among qualified players in points per shot at 1.19, and 57th among them in free throw attempts per game. Those two stats are directly related, of course: If you replace shot attempts with free throws, you’ll naturally score more efficiently because you’re scoring points without taking a field goal. The 24-year-old Barnes clearly has room for improvement in that regard, and he’ll be the first to acknowledge that.

But too often the starting point for any smart Barnes discussion is “He’s played well, BUT…” ending that argument with a thought on efficiency, or too many mid-range attempts and not enough 3s, or that he needs to get to the free throw line.

Given his age and his relative lack of experience in this role, those complaints are a bit premature.

This was Barnes’ first-ever season as any type of focal point of an offense. His career usage rate in Golden State was just 16.3 percent; this year it soared up to 25.3 percent, meaning he was responsible for more than one-quarter of the Mavs’ possessions. After two seasons playing fifth fiddle for title-contending Golden State, when more than 60 percent of his field goal attempts were either 3s or layups, Barnes had to earn every shot this season as the go-to guy. We got to watch him figure it out for 79 games, and he did a heck of a job doing that. The guy is only 24 years old and he was taking game-winners on a brand-new, injury-ravaged team which, on most nights, started more undrafted players than those who were selected on draft night.

We all need to put his first Mavs season in context. Yes, in the future he ought to shoot more free throws, and hopefully he can turn 21-foot 2-point shots into 24-foot 3-point shots in order to score a little more efficiently. But we’re kind of splitting hairs here: For example, if next season he adds one point to his scoring average and attempts one fewer shot per game — that’s a very realistic possibility if he gets to the free throw line a little more often — he would have finished 37th in points per shot and he’d have had an incredibly efficient season. Heck, even taking one fewer shot while scoring the same points per game would vault him up more than 20 places. The statistical difference between ordinary and extraordinary is so extremely small that to base your entire assessment of a player on one number is kind of silly, especially in this situation. Efficiency is a process.

Barnes embraced what was for him an unprecedented role and performed at a high level for most of the season. With another summer of individual (and team-wide) improvement he could potentially enter the All-Star conversation should his numbers take a small step forward. He’s not far from being one of the top scorers in the NBA at this rate, and he’s come a long, long way in that regard since averaging 11.7 points per game a year ago for the Warriors. There’s so much potential left to tap that it’s hard to believe Barnes has plateaued as a player. This article is about how he’s scaled the mountain to this point, and also imagining what’s still ahead of him.

Shot creation

Barnes’ first responsibility was becoming the endpoint of an offense that for long stretches of the season without a veteran point guard. With Deron Williams, J.J. Barea, and Devin Harris all injured within the first three weeks of the season — and with no Dirk Nowitzki, either — head coach Rick Carlisle shifted the offense toward a more isolation-oriented system built around Barnes, who moved from small forward to power forward and saw a dramatic rise in touches.

It was a welcome challenge for the fifth-year pro, who wrote for Mavs.com in January that although his workload increased significantly from his time with the Warriors, in Dallas he at least knows what he’s going to get heading in to every game.

“Sometimes I would shoot five 3s, sometimes I’d get four post-ups, sometimes all my touches were in transition,” he wrote about his role in Golden State. “It was hard to be consistent that way. But here, I know what plays I’m gonna get, I know what shots I’ll have. It’s a routine now, and now that I have that consistency I can just focus on trying to get better at the things I want to improve on.”

That aside, Barnes’ job was still much more difficult this season. Instead of capitalizing on open 3s and extra space granted to him by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, Barnes assumed an initiator role for the Mavericks, relying almost exclusively on off-the-dribble shooting, post-ups, and isos. Even his catch-and-shoot attempts were less open: Last season, according to Synergy, more than 59 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts were unguarded, but this season that number sank down to 48.5 percent. To his credit, Barnes hit a higher percentage of both guarded and unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers this season than he did last season, jumping 1.7 and 6.4 percent, respectively.

Numbers like that do a much better job of telling you just how different Barnes’ season was, and visualizing just how much more dribbling he did this season tells you a lot, too. More than 64 percent of his field goal attempts followed at least one dribble.

You’ve got to remember Barnes is at the very beginning of this stage of his development. Until this year, he’s never done any of this stuff before. Below is a chart showing how much his workload changed from last season in Golden State to this season in Dallas. The numbers represent the percentage of his possessions by play type. Notice how dramatically his spot-up and transition touches decrease, while his iso touches rise extremely high.

Play Type 2015-16 Volume 2016-17 Volume
Isolation 8.7% 24.5%
Post-Up 12.7% 17.8%
Spot-Up 29.5% 14.8%
Transition 19.1% 5.8%

Isolation is considered a less-efficient means of scoring than operating out of the pick-and-roll, simply because it’s difficult to beat a guy one-on-one and when you clear out an entire side of the floor, it’s likely to inhibit ball movement that could lead to an open shot elsewhere. But because Barnes played so many minutes at the 4 in an offense that targets mismatches, he was able to put the ball on the floor against bigger, slower players and get to the rim at will, especially as the season wore on.

And before the Nerlens Noel trade, while the Mavs were committed to a small-ball lineup with Barnes at 4 and Dirk Nowitzki at 5, Dallas was able to run some creative Barnes/Nowitzki actions to force even more switches. The clip below does a great job of illustrating the difficult choice that demands the defense to make: Dirk sets a pin-down screen for Barnes and then they almost run a pick-and-roll, and by then the defense must switch. Utah’s problem is Derrick Favors is a center, not a modern power forward, and Barnes has a significant quickness advantage against him. The result is an and-1 layup, as he’s strong enough to finish through the contact. The Mavs kept going back to that mismatch all night long Barnes finished with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, one of his finest performances of the season.

Barnes scored 0.932 points per possession in isolation, per Synergy Sports, and he used more iso possessions (369) than all but four players in the NBA. Considering the offensive boom the league has enjoyed in recent years, you’d like to see higher than 0.932, but again: This was Barnes’ first season doing this sort of thing, and he still compares favorably in isolation to some of the best players in the league. Kawhi Leonard scored 0.939, for example, and Paul George scored .940. Jimmy Butler, meanwhile, scored just 0.872, and John Wall averaged only 0.807 PPP. All of those players were top-20 in isolation possessions per game, and Barnes was more efficient than several of those high-usage players.

More encouragingly, Barnes increased his isolation PPP by more than 0.1 points per possession this season from last, and he also improved his efficiency in the post. That suggests he’s got the potential to keep improving as he continues to work on those areas of his game.

The key to being a great isolation scorer is developing one or two reliable moves and then complementing them with counter-moves. For example, Barnes typically would catch the ball on the wing and size up his defender before making a move. Occasionally, though, he’d make a quick dribble move to go baseline immediately and attack the basket. That in itself is a counter-move.

Those decisive attacks are particularly important against long wings like Andre Roberson, as those are the guys who tend to give Barnes the most trouble. He was great against bigger and smaller players, but like-sized guys have the length and foot speed to stay in front of him and still contest his shot.

But what happens if he tries to attack yet the wing beats him to the spot? What’s his counter move? Does he have the ball-handling ability and body control to make a move in traffic and still finish? Earlier in the season he tried to beat Luc Richard Mbah Moute off the bounce during the final possession of a game in L.A. Barnes actually lost control of the ball but recovered in time to get up and hit a game-winner. You don’t want to try repeating that. As the season went on, however, he gained better control of the ball and was able to make sharper moves. This sequence, from a game played on March 19, shows how much Barnes improved as a ball-handler and as a patient, scoring-minded player.

He faces up against his defender, the similarly sized Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, before decisively attacking baseline. Hollis-Jefferson beats him to the spot and cuts off his drive, so Barnes responds by spinning middle and rising up for the shot. He then finishes athletically through traffic to put his team up six points with less than 30 seconds to go. That’s a big-time bucket against a really nice defender.

Playmaking vs. Turnovers

The key to Barnes’ game is his ability to avoid turnovers. According to Synergy Sports, of the 166 players who averaged 10+ possessions per game and appeared in at least 10 contests, Barnes finished with the sixth-lowest turnover percentage, giving it away just 6.8 percent of the time. He had a self-admitted ball-handling weakness upon arriving to Dallas, but his daily work with player development coach God Shammgod clearly paid off in that regard. Barnes primarily played one-on-one basketball, so for him to turn it over as rarely as he did is a testament to the work he put in and his basketball IQ. He generally doesn’t make any silly plays with the ball, which is tough to do when you’re the center of the defense’s attention.

That doesn’t mean it was always an easy process. Iso ball is about identifying and getting to your spot. Barnes worked from the elbow or top of the key a majority of the time this season, and one of his favorite moves was taking one or two hard dribbles, then bumping his defender to create some space before stepping back and rising for a 16-footer. A layup is the better shot, of course, but sometimes trying to force something better can actually be a bad thing.

You appreciate Barnes’ patience, because the first shot isn’t always the best shot, but he could have taken that little step-back jumper and gotten it off just fine. Instead, he crossed over again against Solomon Hill in an effort to get into the paint but just couldn’t create any separation, and ultimately he turned it over because he dribbled too much. When a guy is in your face like that, you’ve got to get to your most comfortable spot and take the shot. Don’t over-complicate things, because that’s exactly what the defender wants you to do. (If he wants an even better look, this is where a reliable counter-move would come in handy. For example, Nowitzki is notorious for pump-faking defenders if he can’t create enough separation, and usually he ends up forcing enough contact to earn a whistle.)

That game was played on Dec. 26. By April 2, Barnes was much more comfortable getting to his spot and shooting without thinking. That comfort level is the perfect antidote for an over-aggressive defender, especially one facing a size disadvantage. Barnes takes the time to read the floor then makes a quick 1-2 dribble to get inside the arc, and takes one more hard dribble into Matthew Dellavedova to create some room. At that point it’s church.

In the clip above, Barnes looks so much more comfortable making that move than he did against Hill more than three months earlier. And he should: He developed throughout the year and worked on that exact move every single day for 100 days and eventually got it down to a science. It almost looks like the defender isn’t even there. That’s the mark of a really good one-on-one player. Similarly, Dirk’s been doing it for years.

By now, Barnes can consistently generate good looks for himself, but the next step for him is to create looks for his teammates as well. He turns it over at a historically low level — just 8.8 percent of the time, which would be 14th-best in NBA history if he had enough minutes to qualify (he’s another season or so away) — but he doesn’t record many assists. For as well as he avoided turnovers this season, Barnes still had just a 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

As mentioned before, it’s difficult to generate assists when you’re playing a lot of isolation. He’s not a prolific pick-and-roll ball-handler at this point, so that’s an element you’d like to see him add. It’s tough for him to do much of that at the 4 position, though, because there’s only one player, the center, to screen for him. The Mavs like to swing the ball side-to-side and run multiple pick-and-rolls, and usually the 4’s job is to set those screens. Asking only the center to set screens for 30+ minutes a night would be physically taxing and could make the offense a bit too one-dimensional.

As defenses show him more respect, though, Barnes will have an opportunity to move the ball even when trying to play one-on-one. When the Mavs visited San Antonio on Nov. 21, Barnes saw his first double-team in the post. You could tell the experience was new to him.

But by the end of the season, he was more comfortable moving the ball as defenses threw more guys his way.

This doesn’t mean he was perfect — he turned it over against double-teams in April, too — but he took strides forward. As he was presented with new problems, he found ways to solve them.

It’s very difficult to send double-teams against a player working in the middle of the floor, so if defenses are brave enough to do so, Barnes has got to make them pay by accepting those additional defenders and moving the ball to the newly open man.

In those two plays above, he has no intention to shoot the ball when he puts it on the floor. He understands the defense is going to swarm him, but he’s absorbing all of that extra attention in order to create a good look for his teammate. He doesn’t need to hand out five assists per game, but stepping up to 2-3 could really open things up for the rest of the offense and force defenses into tough positions. Do they continue doubling him at the risk of giving up a 3-pointer, or do they let him work on an island and score efficiently one-on-one? It’s a tough choice.

Improving efficiency

While Barnes could stand to become more efficient — and very well could based on natural progression that happens in a player’s mid-20s — he took steps forward in the middle of the season. For example, he shot 35.1 percent from beyond the arc in 2016-17, but just 28.6 percent from 3 in his first 16 appearances. During that time, the Mavericks were without their three best ball-handlers and Dirk Nowitzki. Across his final 63 games, when the team was much healthier, he shot 37.0 percent from deep.

He also attacked the basket more often later in the season. After driving the lane just 3.7 times per game from December through February, Barnes averaged 4.6 drives per game in the month of March, per SportVU. That resulted in an uptick in free throw attempts, as well: From the beginning of the season through Feb. 25, he averaged just 3.3 free throw attempts per game. Between Feb. 27-April 2 he averaged 4.5 per game, according to Basketball-Reference. Interestingly, that corresponded with him playing more minutes at small forward once the team had acquired Nerlens Noel. You would think Barnes would have an easier time attacking the basket at 4 than 3, although he still played plenty of minutes at the bigger forward spot after that deal.

You’re beginning to see the type of player Barnes can become. Next season, if he maintains that 37.0 percent 3-point shooting clip and can get to the free throw line five times per game instead of three, and does everything else the exact same, all of a sudden he’s averaging close to 21 points per game instead of 19.2. Now, let’s say he averages six free throw attempts, or maybe he improves in isolation, and he’s up to 22. And if he takes what Rick Carlisle calls a “quantum leap” and attempts 7-8 free throws and really solidifies that elbow isolation game? At that point he’s one of the premier scorers in the league.

This is only the beginning for Barnes. He’s a good player today, but with plenty of room for improvement. If he can realize that potential, he’s got the chance to be an excellent scorer for many years.