Quinn Cook hopes to make impact on 10-day deal with Mavericks

One-on-one with Quinn Cook

New Mav Quinn Cook goes one-on-one with Earl K. Sneed prior to tonight's game against the Miami Heat.

A few hours after winning the NBA D-League All-Star Game MVP, then-Canton Charge point guard Quinn Cook was stuck at an airport, waiting to get out of New Orleans and back to the grind at home in Ohio.

Just a week later, he’s earned the chance to call Dallas home for the rest of the season.

Cook’s 18-point, 12-assist performance in the All-Star Game was a nice representation of who he is as a player. In 35 appearances for Canton this season, he’s averaged 26.1 points and 6.7 assists per game, and he had been widely considered the best point guard prospect at that level before he and the Mavericks agreed to terms on a 10-day contract on Sunday. He could play his first NBA minutes as early as tonight.

“I was totally excited,” Cook said. “I called my mom, called my sister, called my brothers and coaches. I’m just extremely excited and humbled for the opportunity.”

The 23-year-old has enjoyed success at virtually all levels of basketball. He was a key member of the 2015 NCAA national champion Duke Blue Devils squad, averaging 15.3 points and 2.6 assists per game while mostly playing off-guard. He’s familiar with many players on this roster; Cook was a freshman when fellow Maverick Seth Curry began his junior year at Duke, and that also overlapped with Harrison Barnes’ sophomore season at fierce rival North Carolina.

He also played at Oak Hill Academy with Mavs rookie A.J. Hammons. Cook’s best friend, Victor Oladipo, played college ball at Indiana next to Yogi Ferrell. Connections abound.

Ferrell’s 10-day success with the Mavericks certainly caught the attention of Cook, who at that point was rumored to be drawing interest from multiple NBA clubs. The way he sees it, a rising tide lifts all boats.

“We all root for guys who get called up,” Cook said. “I think guys who prosper from getting called up on 10-day contracts give us lots of confidence. I remember watching every game against the Spurs, Cavs, and Portland. We were all rooting for him, and that gives us confidence. He did an amazing job.”

Ferrell’s success at this level has also got to have Cook thinking that if he can step in right away and contribute, there could be an opportunity to stick around for at least a second 10-day deal, and perhaps the rest of the season if he can impress the Mavericks. Dallas needs help at the point guard position after waiving Deron Williams last week and while J.J. Barea remains sidelined due to injury. Even when the Puerto Rican point returns, the Mavs will still only have two active point guards, leaving room for Cook if he can prove he belongs in his first real NBA stint.

Part of the reason Ferrell fit in right away is because he has a tremendous basketball IQ. Cook is looking to show the same quality, and that’s the right way to go. Dallas values IQ in its point guards perhaps more than any other trait.

“I’ve won everywhere, so I have some good habits,” Cook said. “I know the terminology. It’s been an easy transition for this first practice.”

Similarly, this is yet another chance for an undrafted player to make an impact with the Mavericks. Look up and down the roster, and you’ll notice Dallas has by far more undrafted players than any other team in the NBA. Whether those guys use it as motivation is their own prerogative, but it’s got to be a point of pride for the Mavs’ player development program that so many young guys have played well despite not generating enough buzz when they came out of college.

For Cook, the one-and-a-half seasons he spent in the D-League gave him a chance to move back to point guard — he’d played out of position as an upperclassman at Duke — and show what he has to offer. Clearly, he took advantage of that chance.

“These last two years, I felt I’ve gotten better every day,” he said. “Just learning from pros, playing against first-round picks, guys who have been in the NBA, it’s some good competition down there. It’s just me getting better every day, trying to get to the NBA for a long time.”

Game 59: Mavs vs. Heat

One-on-one with Quinn Cook

New Mav Quinn Cook goes one-on-one with Earl K. Sneed prior to tonight's game against the Miami Heat.

That’s What’s Up: Episode 10

Don’t know what’s up? NBA champion Shawn Marion’s got you covered. Feast your ears on episode 10 of his new podcast, as “The Matrix” chops it up with Danny Bollinger on hoops, life and everything in between.

Mavs sign Quinn Cook to 10-day contract

The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have signed rookie guard Quinn Cook to a 10-day contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cook (6-2, 180) went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft and signed as an rookie free agent with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played in six preseason games for the Cavaliers before being waived on Oct. 24. He played the 2015-16 season with the Canton Charge of the NBA Development League and averaged 19.6 points, 5.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 33.8 minutes in 43 games (37 starts) on his way to being named a 2016 D-League All-Star, Third Team All NBA D-League and the 2016 D-League Rookie of the Year.  

Cook was recently named Most Valuable Player of the D-League All Star Game last weekend in New Orleans. This season, he is averaging 26.1 points, 6.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 38.9 minutes in 35 games with Canton.

The Washington, D.C., native was a four-year player at Duke University and, as a senior, helped lead the Blue Devils to the 2015 National Championship. He played 143 games (112 starts) while at Duke and had career collegiate averages of 10.9 points, 3.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 27.8 minutes per contest.

Cook will wear number 2 for the Mavericks. 

Mavs sign Ben Bentil to 10-day contract

The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have signed rookie forward Ben Bentil to a 10-day contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bentil (6-9, 235) was drafted by Boston in the second round (51st overall pick) of the 2016 NBA Draft. He signed with the Celtics on July 27, 2016, but was later waived by the club on Oct. 21 after appearing in three preseason games with the team. 

On Oct. 31, Bentil was acquired by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA Development League. After appearing in just one D-League game for the Mad Ants, he left the team in mid-November to play in China for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. On Jan. 16, Bentil returned to the Mad Ants after appearing in 11 games for Xinjiang.

In 13 D-League games (three starts) for the Mad Ants this season, Bentil averaged 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 24.1 minutes per game. 

A native of Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, Bentil played two seasons at Providence from 2014-16. As a sophomore in 2015-16, he led the Big East in scoring (21.1 ppg), field goals made (246) and free throws made (194) en route to earning First Team All-Big East and Big East Most Improved Player honors. Bentil declared for the NBA Draft following his sophomore season.

Bentil will wear No. 42 for the Mavericks. 

Nerlens Noel’s gravity had Mavs’ offense rolling in his debut

Nerlens Noel only scored nine points in his Mavs debut, a 96-83 win against the New Orleans Pelicans, but he had a pretty major impact on the offense nonetheless, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Noel has the potential to become a very dangerous big man in the pick-and-roll due to his athleticism and above-the-rim finishing ability. He’s already drawn some comparisons to Tyson Chandler from his head coach, and those who remember Chandler’s playing days in Dallas will remember why: Elite roll men open up so many opportunities for their teammates, especially shooters.

“Today’s game — if you’re going to put four shooters out there — you’ve got to have a guy who’s an impact guy rolling to the rim that’s a threat,” head coach Rick Carlisle. “Tonight’s a difficult night to throw lobs because you’ve got two monsters out there who were eating them up. But there were other situations where he rolled, drew attention, and it opened up other shots. That’s an important weapon to have. We’ve got some guys that roll well, but we don’t have that kind of elevation.”

We hear a lot of talk about Dirk Nowitzki’s gravity, how his presence on certain places around the floor influence the way the entire opposing defense functions. Big men are afraid to leave him open, and point guards are terrified of switching onto him, and that usually creates quite the dilemma.

But good roll men have gravity, too, and Noel’s impact showed strongest on one play toward the end of the third quarter. He set a screen in the middle of the floor for Yogi Ferrell and took off toward the rim, absorbing the weakside defense with him.

It just so happens that the weakside defender was responsible for defending Nowitzki, the best mid-range jump-shooter in NBA history. There aren’t many things that can draw an opponent away from Dirk, but a potential alley-oop is one of them.

“It just opens stuff up on the perimeter. Obviously, we’ve got some good shooters around,” Nowitzki said. “If you have a lob threat, the defense has got to suck in, otherwise it’s a lob and a dunk. It opened up a few shots for me today.”

While the trade for Noel, just 22 years old, is as strong an indication as ever that the Mavericks are planning for life in the post-Dirk era, the Nowitzki-Noel combo is going to be vital for this team until that time comes. The 38-year-old Nowitzki has played center almost exclusively for two months, as the Mavs have relied primarily on small-ball to generate points. But Noel’s presence can push Dirk back to power forward, where he’ll face less pressure to constantly set ball-screens, and he’ll have a sidekick who can collapse the defense and make life easier spotting up.

Despite not knowing a single page of the playbook until this morning, Noel showed surprisingly good instincts in just his first game playing next to Nowitzki. During one play in the first half, he sprang Dirk loose for a jumper by targeting and then screening the German’s defender as Nowitzki caught the ball.

Noel also appears to be a good fit next to Harrison Barnes, who’s been much better at 4 than the 3 in his first year with the Mavericks. Noel brings a shot-blocking and rebounding presence that can help Dallas overcome potential size mismatches Barnes will face — like tonight, for example, when he was up against Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

It also means that now, as Barnes will probably play almost 100 percent of his minutes with either Nowitzki or Noel on the floor, that he’ll be used less as a screen-setter to generate switches and more as a perimeter guy who can attack bigger, off-balance defenders who check down (or up) to help against either Noel or Nowitzki. Any two of those three guys can play together and the Mavs will maintain versatile, effective offensive options at both 4 and 5.

“It’s really interchangeable with Dirk and Harrison being as versatile as they are, and I’m able to switch some things up defensively,” Noel said. “Just being able to open some things up for the guys on the pick-and-roll is something I take pride in.”

As for Barnes, it means he could have more opportunities to drive, or perhaps to even handle the ball. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see somewhere down the line — assuming the Mavericks re-sign Noel this summer, as he’ll be a restricted free agent — Barnes handling the ball in pick-and-rolls of his own, one of the only things that hasn’t been asked of him yet.

“We’ve all gotta learn how to throw lob passes,” Barnes joked. “That’s the biggest thing now.”

In addition to Noel, the Mavericks also still have Salah Mejri and Dwight Powell, each of whom can score efficiently in the spread pick-and-roll. Dallas can now have above-average roll presence on the floor for 48 minutes if it so chooses, and that’s going to make things easier for everyone else on the team. Case in point: Dallas shot 12 of 26 on 3s, and Nowitzki scored 18 points on just 12 shots.

These kinds of nights could begin to happen more often the rest of this season and, most importantly for the suddenly young Mavericks, the years to come.

The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Pelicans

Final: Mavs 96, Pelicans 83

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

Dirk Nowitzki finished the night with 18 points, leaving him just 67 points shy of 30,000 for his career. He’ll become only the sixth player ever to reach that milestone.

Dorian Finney-Smith was a team-high +18 for the Mavericks.

Seth Curry finished with 13 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and three steals. He’s the first Maverick to stuff the box score to that degree since Jason Kidd did so in 2011. It was Curry’s 10th game this season with at least three steals

Notebook

  • Nerlens Noel made his Mavs debut, and for the most part he looked terrific. Noel is already a very good defender, even for a 22-year-old. He can change the game with his quick hands, which he used to strip guys multiple times tonight, both in isolation and after switching on pick-and-rolls. He has rare athleticism for a big man, which allows him to switch to defend guards, or even trap or blitz them, disrupting the offense in the process. The sky’s the limit for him defensively. The Mavs kept it relatively simple tonight for him on the other end of the floor, because he basically had one meeting’s worth of time to review the playbook before the game with Rick Carlisle. As he spends more time around the team in the coming days, he’ll become more familiar with the gameplan, and that could take his productivity up even higher. All in all, Noel had a very solid debut.

  • Even though he was unfamiliar with most of the ins and outs of Carlisle’s complex offense, Noel still had a positive effect on one teammate in particular: Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas ran pick-and-roll through Noel more than Nowitzki when the two shared the floor tonight, which allowed Dirk to spot up on the floor instead of endure the physical demand of setting endless ball screens the way he had been when he was playing most of his minutes at center. Dirk still started at the 5 tonight, but he and Noel played plenty together. He’s going to be able to conserve so much energy playing next to Noel, and that could reflect in his shooting percentages. Tonight, for example, he finished with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

  • This was our first glimpse at the Anthony Davis/DeMarcus Cousins Pelicans. They’ve only played two games together, counting this one, so clearly New Orleans has some initiating of their own to do, much like Dallas does with Noel. Even still, you could see the potential those two have together. They are both very, very good, and they can push the defense to the limit every possession. But those guys both post up a lot, and occasionally the Pels’ offense slowed down a bit and other players weren’t able to get many shots up, aside from Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans will eventually establish a pecking order, no pun intended. These two teams do play each other one more time down the road this season, and by then New Orleans could look like a completely different team.

  • The Mavs admitted Dorian Finney-Smith hit the dreaded rookie wall earlier this month, but the All-Star break appears to have helped him. He had one of his best games in a long time tonight, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and two blocks. He was electric defensively, especially in partnership with the long Noel. Finney-Smith figures to receive more consistent playing time after Justin Anderson was traded to Philadelphia, so he’s got the opportunity to develop a steady rhythm and hopefully capitalize on the opportunity. He could be a key player for this team down the stretch this season, and into the future as well.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (23-35) will play the Miami Heat (26-32) on Monday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.