DALLAS — Opting not to make a big splash in free agency this summer after missing the playoffs during the 2016-17 campaign, the Dallas Mavericks feel like they’ll return to the court a better team this upcoming season simply by fostering their young talent and building continuity with the returning players on the roster.
Ravished by injuries last season, the Mavericks finished on the outside looking into the playoffs following a 33-49 campaign. The lackluster season placed the Mavs in the NBA Draft lottery for the first time since 2013, allowing the organization to select rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round. Now, the Dallas front office hopes Smith can immediately step in and help the Mavericks return to playoff contention. And according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, adding Smith to an emerging young core that already features 25-year-old leading scorer Harrison Barnes made it a successful offseason.
“I mean, we like what we have. You know, we’re not going to rush out with Dennis, Nerlens (Noel) and Harrison as a super young core,” Cuban explained in June of the decision to stand pat this summer in free agency.
“I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on, grow with and hopefully surprise a lot of people,” he added. “You know, once we have a better feel, we can talk about adding. But we’re not out there looking and saying, ‘We have to go find something.’ I think Dennis is going to be able to come in, play and hopefully have an impact his first year, and we don’t want to take anything away from that.”
Seeing 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games last season while being hampered by a right Achilles strain, the team got off to a sluggish 4-17 start without its leader. The Dallas offense also suffered without the No. 6 scorer in NBA history on the floor, ranking near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories all season long.
The Mavericks ranked 30th by producing just 97.9 points an outing last season and 27th while dishing 20.8 assists a game as a team. Dallas also finished with an offensive rating of 103.7, ranking 23rd in that department. Injuries certainly played a role in the Mavs’ offensive struggles as Nowitzki, veteran guard J.J. Barea and versatile backup Devin Harris all missed lengthy periods of time. But with Nowitzki healthy and re-signed for a 20th campaign, the Mavericks should see much more offensive success this season. And while plenty still hinges on the re-signing of the 23-year-old Noel, a restricted free agent, Cuban is confident that improved health and continuity with virtually the same roster could lead to more wins during the ’17-18 season.
“We had a lot of injuries last year, and the bad news is we had a lot of injuries that impacted our season,” Cuban confessed. “The good news is we ended up with Dennis. And I think with Dennis and a little more time together with Nerlens and our young core, I think we have an opportunity. You know, we made a run last year, and it didn’t pan out. But I think we’ll be a lot better.”