First Half Highlights

MFFLs, are you ready for more?

The Mavericks were among the quieter team’s at yesterday’s trade deadline, which has quickly become a Twitter holiday. Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle had one of the funnier lines of the day at practice, when he described the deadline as “overhyped” and “overrated.” It’s true: There usually aren’t many earth-shattering deals made this time of year, although I think deep down many NBA fans might wish to see some.

The truth is the trade deadline has often been a slow time of year in terms of transactions, at least versus the expectations of the public. The Mavs fall in line with that rule, as well — although they traded for Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell last season, that move came even before Christmas. The last trade Dallas made near the deadline came in 2013, when the club acquired Anthony Morrow for Dahntay Jones.

As was the case then, the saying remains for the Mavericks: The front office likes this team and believes it can come together and perhaps make a playoff run. Mavs President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson said as much yesterday even before the deadline, as he made a logical case to keep this core intact. His message: If you can’t significantly upgrade at a position, be it in the starting lineup or in some type of bench role, there’s no need to make a trade. In other words, Dallas doesn’t feel the need to make trades that will move the quality of the roster in a lateral direction. This is a good bunch of players, after all, and everyone fills a role and does it well.

Donnie Nelson talks trade deadline

Mavs GM Donnie Nelson addressed the media before Thursday's trade deadline.

The most compelling revelation of the day came when Nelson said the Mavericks received and turned down “significant” offers including draft picks for some of the younger players on the team, including (but likely not limited to) Dwight Powell. As Nelson said himself, it’s a testament to the Mavs’ player development program that teams around the NBA were inquiring about these guys. One criticism the Mavericks have faced is the roster is usually one of the oldest in the league, but in the last year Dallas has acquired several young players — Powell, Justin Anderson, and John Jenkins, to name a few — who have starter-caliber potential or better moving forward.

Unless Dallas is an active player in the free agent market as veteran buyouts begin, this is the roster that will play out the rest of the season. Currently Dallas sits sixth in the West, three games behind fifth-place Memphis, who is now without center Marc Gasol (broken foot), and 1.5 games ahead of up-and-coming Portland. It’s a crowded race for the fifth seed, and it stretches all the way down to Houston and Utah, currently tied for eighth in the West. The Mavs’ performance down the homestretch could carry them as high as fifth place in the conference, which would mean — if nothing changed in the conference’s top-four — Dallas would have a date with the L.A. Clippers in the first round.

There’s still plenty of basketball left to be played, of course. What will it take for Dallas to earn that spot? What lies ahead of the club between now and mid-April, anyway? Let’s take a look at what’s to come for the Mavs in the regular season’s final act.

HOME, SWEET HOME

Fifteen of the Mavs’ next 27 games are at home, which must be a welcome sight for a club which played the third-most road games in the NBA prior to the All-Star break. Following tonight’s tilt with the Magic, Dallas will play nine of its next 10 at home. This means it’s a time for the Mavs to potentially make some hay in the standings, capitalizing on a relaxed travel schedule after an insanely busy January.

Many of the home games will be challenging, especially the dates against the Thunder and Clippers, two of the top-four teams in the Western Conference. Still, the Mavs have the advantage of jostling for playoff position in stressful contests in the friendly confines of their own home. Dallas has already played 29 road games, a huge number compared to those played by Utah and Houston (26) and Memphis (25). Those clubs are the Mavs’ primary competitors for the fifth seed, but they’ll have to make their push in someone else’s gym.

PARSONS MAKES HIS PUSH

Practice Report: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons chimes in on the trade deadline, Friday's game against Orlando and more.

Chandler Parsons has continued his development as the season has worn on. His scoring average and three-point percentage have both increased month-to-month, culminating in an impressive February stat line of 17.4 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent from deep. He’s averaged 5.6 rebounds in 2016, as well, indicating his ability to crash the glass effectively even when playing as a small-ball power forward. Basketball-Reference has estimated Parsons has played 24 percent of his minutes this season at the 4-spot, his highest volume since his second season in the league.

The forward is scoring 1.007 points per possession this season, according to Synergy Sports, which places him in the 82nd percentile league-wide in PPP. Among the heavy-minute players, Parsons is the second-most efficient behind only Dirk Nowitzki. That’s not a bad place to be. His greatest strides in terms in recent months in terms of offensive efficiency have come in the pick-and-roll game, where he now ranks in the 79th percentile in points per possession at 0.891. When Parsons dishes off to a roll partner, the Mavericks are producing 1.429 points per possession, which ranks as the highest in the NBA among players with at least 20 passes to roll men.

This not only illustrates Parsons is continuing to get closer to the player we saw last year, but also that the Dallas offense is poised to potentially take a huge leap forward as his recovery process finally draws to a close. The Mavs still rely heavily on Dirk Nowitzki for his scoring production and impact on floor-spacing, but Parsons has the unique ability to attack the basket, shoot from range, and also create for others. Along with Deron Williams, that gives the Dallas starting five two dynamic players who can score in a variety of ways.

Don’t forget about Wesley Matthews, either, who had a terrific December shooting the three-ball (42.5 percent for the month) before taking a step back in January. However, in February, Matthews has connected on the long-ball at a 36.4 percent rate and has also passed the ball more effectively as well, generating 2.4 assists per game, his highest of any month so far this season. Just as Parsons is recovering, so too is Matthews, and if Dallas’ 2-guard can add his own element of creativity and ball movement into the mix, this Dallas starting five has the potential to be one of the best passing units in the league. Its combination of penetration, sharp ball movement, and dead-eye shooting has the chance to be very special.

THE OFFENSE WILL HUM

Here’s a bold prediction: The Mavs’ offense will finish in the NBA’s top-10 in points scored per 100 possessions.

OK, OK, that’s not too brave, given the club ranks tied for 10th already. But Dallas has placed in the top-third in 14 of the last 16 seasons, so history would suggest the force is with them moving forward. The friendly schedule should also give a boost, as the Mavs score 105.0 points per 100 at American Airlines Center as opposed to 101.8 on the road, according to NBA.com.

Given both the volume of home games between now and the end of the season, along with the continued upward curve both Parsons and Matthews appear to be enjoying, it’s safe to guess Dallas will climb in even higher in the offensive rankings. Defense wins championships, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to have a great offense, either.

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