Who doesn’t like the always-fun-to-root-for underdog?
And there’s no bigger underdog in the sporting world than the pint-sized NBA player.
That’s why it was heartwarming to see the Mavericks keep McKinley Wright IV, the 6-footer who was converted to a two-way contract over the weekend.
He joined the diminutive dozen.
By quick account of the 30 NBA rosters on Monday, which was cutdown day, it unearthed 12 players listed at 6-foot or shorter. And let’s be honest: a lot of them would need a phone book to eclipse the 6-foot barrier.
We bring this up because the Mavericks the day before the season opener announced that they were making it a baker’s dozen for short people, signing Facu Campazzo, as has been widely reported.
The Argentinian who played two seasons with Denver (and many more with Real Madrid) is 5-10 and has carved out a terrific pro career despite the gods of verticality working against him.
As J.J. Barea used to say, you need two things to succeed in the NBA when you are 6-foot or under – and Barea was 5-10. You need a special skill and a huge heart. And not necessarily in that order.
“The league doesn’t play as big, so maybe he does fit,” coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s a matter of being able to give something special and when your heart is big and your IQ is high, that helps you to be successful in this league.”
So even before we get to your weekly Mavericks and NBA questions, we’ll answer one for you (since we were a little light on inquiries this week). Here’s the list of players in the league that are 6-foot or shorter. Apologies if we overlooked anybody. Hey, they’re short and easy to overlook.
Jose Alvarado, New Orleans, 6-0.
Facu Campazzo, Dallas, 5-11.
Kennedy Chandler, Memphis, 6-0.
Chris Chiozza, Brooklyn, 5-11.
Aaron Holiday, Atlanta, 6-0,
Trevor Hudgins, Houston, 6-0.
Tyus Jones, Memphis, 6-0.
Kyle Lowry, 6-0, Miami.
Jordan McLaughlin, Minnesota, 5-11.
Chris Paul, Phoenix, 6-0.
Ish Smith, Denver, 6-0.
Kemba Walker, Detroit, 6-0.’
McKinley Wright IV, Dallas, 6-0.
And now, on with the mailbag.
Question of the week: What’s your thought on Spencer Dinwiddie and what would represent a big season for him? Kim W.
Sefko: The Mavericks need him to play 70-plus games. That would be a quality season. If he does that, the numbers will be there. He’s going to average between 15 and 20 points if he avoids any calamities. And that’s going to make him a good sidekick for Luka Dončić. And this leads nicely into our second question.
Question: I thought Spencer was going to run the 2nd unit, yet he started the last game? Kevin S.
Sefko: OK, let’s be straight with this. Dinwiddie is the starter in the backcourt with Luka until further notice. Now, when it comes to running the second unit, he’s going to do that most of the time, too, although the signing of Facu Campazzo will give Dinwiddie a break from those duties if he needs one. How does he lead the second unit and also start? It’s not that tough, really. He will start with Luka, then come out of the game in favor of Christian Wood (or Tim Hardaway Jr., perhaps) and sit out the last few minutes of the first quarter. Dinwiddie then will replace Luka at the start of the second quarter and play as the lead guard until Dončić returns midway through the quarter. The popular line of thought is that Jason Kidd wants either Luka or Dinwiddie on the court as the primary ballhandler whenever possible. It’s a sensible game plan. And, again, Campazzo will be available to fill some of those minutes, too.
Question: What can Campazzo actually give this team? He seems really small. Jeff S.
Sefko: Listen, size still matters in the NBA. But little guys who know how to play – and how hard they have to play – can carve out a home. Don’t expect Campazzo to instantly be the second coming of J.J. Barea. But he plays in similar fashion. He’s just not quite the shooter that Barea was. But he will give you the same hustle and toughness beyond his size that Barea had. It’ll be fun to watch.
Question: Are you surprised that a lot of observers have the Mavericks as a play-in team? Patrik.
Sefko: Not really surprised. The Mavericks lost their second-best offensive player from last season – twice. First, they traded Kristaps Porzingis to get Spencer Dinwiddie. Then, Jalen Brunson left in free agency. That’s a lot to come back from. Yes, the Mavericks did a good job of getting bigger with Christian Wood and JaVale McGee. But by the time the playoffs came around, Brunson was a beast, particularly when Luka was on the sideline. So critics have a way of zeroing in on that. And then consider what’s happened in the Western Conference. Minnesota is way better than last year, when they won 46 games and took Memphis to six games in the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans is going to be better, although I can’t see anybody jumping on their bandwagon without giving themselves a parachute just in case. Memphis is probably better. So is Sacramento and Portland. And of course, the usual suspects are still awesome. So the Mavericks are going to have to be better – a lot better – if they hope to avoid the 7-8-9-10 play-in spots.
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