In addition to starting at three, Harrison Barnes figures to shoulder bulk of backup power forward minutes again this season

DALLAS — It was a position of need for the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, leading the front office to bolster the front line with a bevy of additions at power forward. Still, after seeing leading scorer Harrison Barnes thrive at the power forward position during the 2016-17 schedule while 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki battled a nagging Achilles injury, the Mavericks figure to look to the budding star again for lengthy minutes at the four this upcoming season.

Seeing Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games last season due to the injury, Barnes picked up the slack while sliding from his customary small forward position. Barnes then slid back to the small forward spot after the mid-season acquisition of center Nerlens Noel in a trade with Philadelphia on Feb. 23. But after seeing Barnes produce a career-best season across the board, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is confident that the 6-foot-8 versatile forward can once again handle a heavy workload. That said, Barnes is expected to be called upon once again this season while operating as a starting small forward and the primary backup behind Nowitzki.

“Coming into (last season), most people thought Barnes was a three that could play four. And what he’s showing now is he’s a true four and he’s a real offensive weapon at the four who can play three and who holds his own, despite being a little bit undersized at times,” Carlisle explained last season. “You know, any time Dirk is out there, it helps space the floor. And it’s going to give Barnes more room to operate.”

Emerging as the Mavericks’ No. 1 offensive weapon with Nowitzki out, Barnes finished last season averaging a team-high 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while making 79 appearances. He also connected on 46.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc, leading the Mavs in scoring 37 times last season after doing so with Golden State just six times in 307 games during his first four years in the NBA. Barnes set a new franchise record by reaching double figures in the first 43 games to begin his tenure in Dallas as well, showcasing his consistency on a nightly basis. However, after several offseason additions at power forward, the Mavericks will have plenty of options behind Nowitzki at the four spot.

Working out a trade this summer with Miami for the services of 30-year-old big man Josh McRoberts in exchange for former second-round pick A.J. Hammons, the Mavericks added a proven veteran to provide depth at the power forward position. The Mavs also inked German big man Maximilian Kleber, who figures to compete with McRoberts and three-year pro Dwight Powell for minutes at the four. Meanwhile, two-way contract signee Johnathan Motley and summer-league standout Brandon Ashley hope to contend for playing time this season in a loaded frontcourt. But it’s Barnes that is expected to shoulder the bulk of the minutes at the four behind Nowitzki after showing he could handle the responsibility last season. And according to the 25-year-old Barnes, he will be more than ready once again to take on the heavy burden at both positions this season.

“You know, (last year) I had to play a lot of four. Obviously, I’m capable of playing both positions. I like playing the three, but it’s whatever the team needs me to do,” Barnes proclaimed after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “Getting to the free-throw line more, rebounding and playmaking. There’s a lot of different things I can do to improve, and I plan to. That’s something I’ll be prepared for and ready for when that time comes.”

Unheralded new addition Jeremy Evans takes on heavy responsibility during Mavs’ training camp

DALLAS — Although he was one of the Dallas Mavericks’ unheralded signings this offseason, versatile big man Jeremy Evans has been handed the most responsibility early during the team’s training camp.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound Evans spent his first five seasons in Utah, coming to Dallas after averaging 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 10.8 minutes in 219 games. He also showcased plenty of raw athletic ability, winning the Slam Dunk contest at All-Star weekend in 2012.

Evans, 27, played collegiately for four seasons at Western Kentucky University, averaging 10.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 34 games during his senior year. He also left as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 224, making him attractive to Utah in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft before being selected with the 55th overall pick.

The Mavericks then inked Evans to a reported two-year deal worth the league minimum this summer, looking to use his rare athleticism to fill the void left by two of the team’s top contributors from last season. And while working the athletic big man at three different positions during training camp, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is already attempting to tap into Evans’ full potential.

“Well, he’s the only guy on the team that we’re having learn three positions, which is hard,” Carlisle said while praising Evans’ versatility following Thursday’s team practice. “It’s a daunting task, ’cause the five, the four and the three are all so different. The five and four are certainly more similar, but three is different than the bigger positions. So, you know, that’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to be a lot of reps. You know, (Al-Farouq) Aminu ended up doing that last year. It took a while for him to really get comfortable with it, and I suspect it’s going to take a while for Jeremy to get completely comfortable with it. But it speaks to the kinds of diverse abilities we feel he has.”

Evans primarily saw time as a backup power forward in Utah, averaging 2.4 points and 1.9 rebounds in 38 games for the Jazz last season. He also connected on 55.2 percent from the field, showing a rare ability to finish above the rim with regularity.

The Mavericks now hope Evans can fill the void of former big man Brandan Wright, who was moved in the five-player trade with Boston last season for the acquisition of four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. But as Carlisle points out, Evans is being asked do much more than just fill Wright’s shoes.

“You know, you’re always going to miss a guy like Wright. You know, particularly from a roll-and-finish standpoint. He’s a very special player, but this is a different year. We wanted to get a couple of younger, athletic guys like that. You know, Jeremy Evans and Maurice Ndour are guys we’re looking at to kind of feel that niche for us,” Carlisle explained.

He added: “I spent a lot of time with [Evans] this summer, so I feel like I got a good head start with kind of what I feel he can do. And look, we’re expanding what’s being asked of him. In Utah, he was playing mostly backup four, and he’d play occasionally five when they went small. But it was not very often. You know, we’re stretching out his shooting range to the three-point line. And he’s made a few threes in his career, but he hasn’t shot that many. And we’re having him learn three positions, so it’s a great opportunity for him. But it is a lot of work.”

Evans, a career 20-percent shooter from three-point range, says he’s up to the challenge, looking to expand on the role that Wright thrived in during his team in Dallas.

Prior to the mid-season trade, Wright averaged 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.7 minutes an outing while coming off the bench in 27 games for the Mavericks. More impressively, Wright connected on a staggering 74.8 percent from the field, developing a chemistry with Mavs sixth man Devin Harris in the team’s pick-and-roll sets.

Evans will now look to excel in a more expanded role, hoping to add a three-point shot to the above-the-rim finishes that Mavericks fans came accustom to seeing during Wright’s 3 1/2 seasons in Dallas.

“The past eight years I’ve been at the four and five. You know, back in high school, of course, I used to play (on the perimeter). But that’s a big change, especially for the NBA,” Evans explained while addressing his added responsibilities. “You build habits of running into the paint, rebounding and just guarding guys inside, and it’s tough taking a step outside against bigger and faster guys and guys at this level.

“It’s pretty tough, just because you want to come in and do what [Carlisle] asks and catch on quick, but basically I’ve just been trying to do what they ask of me. It’s tough learning (to play small forward). But as far as getting it down, I’ve just got to go over the plays and spend extra time with the coaches. You know, this summer and right now in practice, I feel tremendous as far as knowing that I’m going to knock (outside shots) down. If I shoot it, I feel like now I’m going to make it. So, I feel like now it’s a big change. The coaches, they’ve told me where I’m going to play, and I’ve been in positions where I’m going to shoot the ball. I’ve been comfortable, and I’ve just been taking the shots and knocking them down. I feel like that’s big, because they’re putting me exactly where they want me to be. I’ve just got to stay focused and stay under control, come out and keep working every day. That’s why we’re here to practice.”

Evans admits to being caught in a whirlwind early in training camp while attempting to grasp everything Carlisle threw his way. However, the lanky big man has been able to turn to a former teammate in Harris, who also played in Utah for 1 1/2 seasons after being moved from the then-New Jersey Nets during the ’10-11 campaign.

Harris says Evans is more than capable of thriving in Carlisle’s system, using Wright as an example of how effective the new addition could be this season. With that said, the veteran guard knows Evans has plenty on his plate while playing more on the perimeter, looking to make life easier on the newcomer when the two have been on the court together during practice.

And after forming a chemistry with Wright during their time together, Harris hopes his time with Evans in practice will translate to the games when the regular season gets underway.

“Well, I’ve played with Jeremy in Utah, so I know what he’s capable of. For him, it’s about getting the right timing, because he’s playing multiple positions,” Harris said. “You know, he’s playing some three and some four, so he’ll get it. It’s just more about us being on the floor at the same time and kind of reading one another. You know, he’s got to read my faces a little bit better and kind of figure out what I want when I see different situations, but I think he’s definitely getting better. He’s also asked to do something he’s never been asked to do. He’s on the perimeter a lot more, so I think that’s where his focus is right now.

“[Wright] was my go-to. He was like my bail-out guy and a guy I could always find on the court. We struggled a little bit with (not having Wright), but I think we have something similar with Jeremy.”

Mavs to take strength-in-numbers approach to filling Shawn Marion’s void

DALLAS — For each of the past five seasons there was no question who the Dallas Mavericks would turn to on the defensive end of the floor to help engineer one final stop with the game on the line.

Leaning on four-time All-Star Shawn Marion, the Mavericks had the luxury of turning to their lockdown defender to help shut down the likes of four-time MVP LeBron James and reigning MVP Kevin Durant at the small forward position. Marion’s defensive prowess also allowed Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to utilize cross matchups while sliding the 6-foot-7 versatile forward onto smaller guards when needing a key stop.

However, with Marion signing in Cleveland this summer during free agency, Carlisle and the Mavericks will now have to look elsewhere for reliable perimeter defense, hoping that newcomers Chandler Parsons, Al-Farouq Aminu and Richard Jefferson can all help fill the void.

“Well, Marion was a great player for us and we’ll certainly miss a lot of the great things that he did. But, you know, we feel like we can cover it with strength in numbers now,” Carlisle said Tuesday during the Mavs’ introductory press conference for their new additions. “Chandler is a solid defender. Al-Farouq, you know, coming to our team now, is going to be you of our better perimeter defenders because of his quickness and length. And we’ve got to prepare our guys for those moments when it comes down to one possession one way or another in these games with such slim margins. And when it comes down to that one stop, you know, our guys are going to be ready. Al-Farouq is going to have to be ready and Chandler is going to have to be ready. Richard Jefferson is a new guy … and another guy who’s in the mix, too. The roster looks a lot different, but we still have a lot of the same things that we stress and a lot of the same ideals.”

Sliding into the starting lineup after spending his first three seasons in Houston with the rival Rockets, the 6-9 Parsons will assume Marion’s role in the first unit. He joins the Mavs after producing career-high numbers last season with the Rockets, averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists an outing. But, as the former Florida standout and 38th pick in the 2011 draft admits, his new role will also come along with much more responsibility.

“I’ve just been getting stronger,” Parsons said in anticipation for the new season, “staying in the weight room, getting faster and then just learning from guys like Tyson [Chandler] and these older veteran guys. And we have a great staff that really emphasizes defense. Where I’m coming from, you know, offense was always our main goal. So, now, we’ve got to win games and win championships on the defensive side. I’m totally locked in and dialed in to do that.”

In addition to Parsons, the Mavs also added veteran support with the inking of the 34-year-old Jefferson to help fill Marion’s void. In his 13th season, Jefferson averaged 10.1 points and 2.7 rebounds while starting 78 of his 82 appearances for the Utah Jazz. He’s now expected to add depth to the three spot, backing up Parsons and giving Carlisle a trusted veteran to turn to for stints this season.

Meanwhile, Aminu will be waiting in the wings to add support off the Mavs’ bench this season, likely playing a multitude of roles in Carlisle’s defensive system.

Suiting up in 303 career games during his first four seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans, the lanky 6-9 Aminu brings with him averages of 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists.  Last season, Aminu also started 65 of his 80 appearances for the Pelicans and averaged 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds, giving the Mavericks yet another young contributor in their second unit.

And with hopes of seeing the 24-year-old continue to develop, the Mavs have big plans this season for Aminu at the defensive end of the floor.

“Al was the first call I made when free agency hit,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said.

Cuban added: “He’s been the last two years the best rebounding small forward in the NBA. It’s not even close. You know, it’s kind of like Shawn Marion. Not to compare the two, but sometimes just going to a new location takes you out of the perception that your former team had of you and puts you in a new position to succeed. And I think Al is just going to be a stud. He literally was one of the first calls I made during free agency, because we were hoping that we could get him as kind of a young stud defensively that we can put in. And we think in our system that he’ll be able to produce offensively much better.”

However, with Marion no longer in the fold, the mission of improving at the defensive end will now become a team responsibility, according to Carlisle. And after ranking 20th in the league while allowing 102.4 points a game and 22nd with a 108.7 defensive rating even with Marion on the team last season, the Mavericks will certainly need to improve on that said of the ball during the ’14-15 campaign in order to contend for the championship.

“Offensively, I like our team,” Carlisle confessed. “It’s really going to depend on two things: getting rid of or keeping down catastrophic turnovers that turn into un-defendable baskets, ’cause that affects your defensive numbers, and then it’s how well we’re able to develop a group edge and toughness about the defensive end. Even though we may not have the best individual defenders from top to bottom, this is the challenge where we’ve got to do it as a team.”

Chandler Parsons’ Team USA experience bodes well for Mavs in ’14-15

DALLAS — If history holds serve, the Dallas Mavericks could get the best production from new addition Chandler Parsons of his young career after he competes to make the USA Basketball National Team this summer.

Steadily upping his numbers since being taken with the 38th overall pick by Houston in the 2011 NBA Draft, Parsons was an attractive piece to add to the puzzle for the Mavericks’ front office last month during free agency. The 6-foot-9 Parsons started all 74 of his appearances last season for the Rockets and averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals an outing. He also connected on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 37.0 percent from three-point range.

But, with a chance to represent his country this summer during the FIBA World Cup, Chandler could begin to tap into the potential that the Mavs’ brass saw while inking the restricted free agent to a reported offer sheet of three years worth $46 million.

“That’s incredible,” Parsons said last month after receiving word that he was one of 19 players that were invited to Team USA’s training camp in hopes of making the 12-man roster.

He added: “That’s a huge goal of mine, and I’m extremely flattered and honored to be invited to [training camp]. I hope to go there and make the Dallas Mavericks proud, make my family proud and just compete as hard as I can and put myself in the best possible situation to make that team. And then, whatever happens from there, I’ll deal with it then.”

The Mavericks have been in this position before, trading to acquire center Tyson Chandler from Charlotte prior to seeing him help lead Team USA to the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Chandler then proceeded to anchor Dallas’ defense en route to the 2011 NBA title, using his national team experience to springboard him to All-Defensive Second Team honors.

The Mavs now hope the 25-year-old Parsons can make a similar leap, looking to lean on the versatile forward during the 2014-15 season to boost an offensive attack that already features 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and guard Monta Ellis. And if Parsons has his way, this summer could be the beginning of much bigger things in seasons to come.

“I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of how good I can be,” Parsons said. “I’m an extremely hard worker, and I’m just going to keep getting better every single day. You know, I’m happy in Dallas and I’m very comfortable here. I knew all the guys pretty much before I even signed the contract, so I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement. You know, I signed a three-year deal with a player option my third year right before I’m going into my prime, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen after the second year or third year, but I look forward to being here a really long time.”

Parsons will now try to earn a spot on the national team when he competes with Team White in Friday night’s intrasquad scrimmage, which will air at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.

New Mav Chandler Parsons looks forward to bigger role in Dallas

Welcome to Dallas, Chandler Parsons.

It was a three-day wait for the Dallas Mavericks’ front office after signing Parsons to a reported three-year, $46 million offer sheet in an attempt to steal the restricted free agent away from Southwest Division rival Houston. However, after Houston opted not to match the offer on Sunday, the Mavericks did finally get their man, announcing the signing of the 25-year-old small forward on Tuesday just hours after officially re-inking 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.

Parsons will now try to learn from Nowitzki as the two join forces in Dallas, looking to lead the Mavs back to being a championship contender.

“I was very excited,” Parsons said when asked about signing with the Mavs on Tuesday during a conference call with members of the Dallas media. “I’ve always respected the Mavericks organization and I do think Mark [Cuban] is the best owner in sports and Rick [Carlisle] is one of the best coaches in the NBA. So, it’s going to be a great experience for me to come here and be a part of this. They have high standards of winning championships. Dirk, obviously, was one of my favorite players growing up, and I’ve developed a close relationship with him throughout the years. So, it will be amazing to be able to play with him. And I love the core we have here with Tyson [Chandler], Monta [Ellis] and Dirk. I think we have a chance to do some special things here, so I was definitely excited and I look forward to getting things started.”

Parsons continued to expand his game during his three seasons with the Rockets, quickly making a name for himself after being taken with the 38th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Last season, the 6-foot-9 swingman put up career numbers across the board, starting all 74 of his appearances and averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals an outing. He also connected on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and 37.0 percent from three-point range, giving Carlisle another lethal scoring threat to team with Nowitzki and Ellis on the offensive side of the ball.

And with hopes of reaching his prime in the coming seasons, Parsons freely admits that he could one day take the reins from Nowitzki as the Mavs’ go-to scorer.

“The system is very similar to Houston,” Parsons said while highlighting Carlisle’s offensive philosophies. “It’s got a little bit more structure to it, but it’s a lot of up and down, a lot of pick-and-roll, a lot of transition. So, it’s perfect and tailor-made for my game. And it’s going to be awesome playing on the other wing as Monta, ’cause he absolutely can flat out just score the ball. Obviously, Dirk is one of the best ever and we can put him in multiple situations, and Tyson can finish everything at the rim. And you’ve got a little bit of everything with Raymond [Felton] and Devin [Harris] and Jae [Crowder] and Brandan [Wright], so we’re going to have a deep team and we’re going to have a good team going forward. I’m really just looking forward to getting into camp, getting to know these guys and starting to create that chemistry as soon as we can.

“I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of how good I can be. I’m an extremely hard worker, and I’m just going to keep getting better every single day. You know, I’m happy in Dallas and I’m very comfortable here. I knew all the guys pretty much before I even signed the contract, so I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement. You know, I signed a three-year deal with a player option my third year right before I’m going into my prime, so it’s definitely a great opportunity for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen after the second year or third year, but I look forward to being here a really long time.”

Hoping to learn from Nowitzki now on a daily basis, Parsons will try to form a bond with the franchise player while soaking up his knowledge of the game. With that said, Parsons also hopes to develop a niche of his own in Dallas, looking to unlock aspects of his game as he tries to emerge as a go-to player for the Mavericks for seasons to come.

And with Nowitzki serving as his mentor, Parsons will set out to help lead the Mavericks back into title contention during the 2014-15 season while once again quieting his own naysayers.

“[Nowitzki] is such a smart player. You know, he’s an unbelievable tutor,” Parsons said. “He’s such a student of the game. And everything that he does, I’m just going to be a sponge and absorb everything. I look forward to getting in the gym with him, getting there early and getting shots up with him. … It’s not often you get to play with one of the greatest of all time, so I look forward to absorbing any info I can and we’re definitely going to be bouncing some things off each other for my time here.

“I’m definitely a team guy and I’m all about winning. I put the team before myself … but I have goals individually as well as for the team. I’m going to keep working, I’m going to keep proving people wrong. My whole career people have doubted me. They didn’t think I could go [Division I in college], they didn’t think I’d be drafted and I was a second-round pick. But I’ve always kind of been that underdog, and I play with that chip on my shoulder to continue to prove people wrong. I’ll continue to do that here, and I look forward to it.”