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6 bold predictions for the Mavericks’ season

Will the Mavericks make the playoffs? When will Harrison Barnes become the guy they expect him to be?

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason is over. Thank God.

It’ll soon be time to pray that the Dallas Mavericks’ results in the preseason don’t translate to the 82 games that actually count. After all, Dallas went winless in last year’s exhibition period and made the playoffs, so how dare we go against Rick Carlisle’s wizardry when Zaza Pachulia was a real thing for part of last season?

But here we are. The Mavericks could field one of the best defensive teams in the league and have a bunch of young guys that could be promising assets come the second half of the season. That’s either ripe for wild hope or crushing disappointment.

Here are some predictions that will surely fail on a massive level. Or will they?

The Mavericks will be a top-10 defensive team

For all that’s been said about Harrison Barnes and his egregious offensive struggles in the preseason, he brings length and athleticism at the small forward spot. That’s something Chandler Parsons could not do.

Whether or not that warrants Dallas throwing a max contract Barnes’ way remains to be seen, but the prospects of Dallas being a top-third defensive team are good.

Adding Andrew Bogut and his rim-protecting ability is already an upgrade. Barnes’ length on the perimeter will be key, and I’d like to believe Wesley Matthews will be somewhat back to his old self now that he’s a year removed from that Achilles injury. Dallas gave up 102.6 points per game last year. That number should go down a point or two in 2017.

Of course, the play of Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams may hinder these chances, but Dallas has enough depth at those positions (such as Devin Harris and, maybe, Quincy Acy) to offset those deficiencies. Dallas will falter in offense but should be a strong defensive unit.

Seth Curry will set a career-high in minutes per game

I’m on the Seth bandwagon, and the Mavericks need as much shooting from the backcourt as humanly possible.

We’re going to find out right away if that late-season surge from Curry last year was the truth or an aberration, but the Mavericks have desperately needed a point guard who can shoot since parting ways with Jose Calderon.

The trio of Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea each have a bit of shooting ability in them, but they’re not lethal killers from behind the arc. They don’t have shooting in their blood. Curry literally does, and if he plays a consistent brand of good basketball throughout November, don’t be surprised if Carlisle takes some of Harris and/or Barea’s minutes and hands them to the young Curry.

Curry averaged 15.4 minutes per game last year and averaged just under 30 per contest in the last 11 games of the season (he shot 48 percent from 3 and averaged 15.2 points per game in that stretch).

Hell, he scored 13 in a quarter in a preseason game. Get hyped, would you?

If he does a fraction of that, those minutes are his. I think he can perform at that level and get close to 20 minutes per game.

Dwight Powell has his breakout year

He’s not going to average a double-double or score 20 points a night, but everyone rejoice because Dwight Powell is going to be good this year.

The definition of ‘good’: Shooting close to 55 percent from the floor, averaging 8.5 points, six rebounds and close to 20 minutes per game.

This is important for two reasons: 1) Carlisle finally trusts Powell as a constant rotation presence. He played in 69 games last year, but struggled to stay on the floor due to foul trouble and getting outmanned on the glass. Hence why he put on the extra 15 pounds in the offseason.

But 2) He’s been Dallas’ lone bright spot in the preseason. He’s played well as Dallas’ new backup center (with Salah Mejri continuing to recover from offseason knee surgery) with a couple of double-digit scoring performances off the bench. He’s playing with confidence and with more smarts. He needs to play up to his contract. Those kinds of performances will do it.

Harrison Barnes will struggle ... until January

Time for the elephant in the room.

Dallas’ new max player has not played like it in preseason. Fortunately, it’s preseason. But when you’re making close to $100 million and are a 10.1 point-per-game scorer in your career, the bullseye will be huge and people will be waiting with targeting rifles.

He’s going to be the guy. He’ll be the franchise. He needs to start playing like it right away, but it won’t happen for the first couple of months.

There’s something off about Barnes’ offensive game. Yes, he struggles creating a shot as is, but he’s not making open looks like he did in Golden State (for reasons that are obvious). But it could be a psychological thing. He’s gotten a lot of good looks in preseason but hasn’t knocked them down. Maybe his performance in the Finals is still rattling him (did you guys know the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead?) and he needs to get his confidence back. It could be a plethora of things.

I still expect Barnes to struggle throughout the first two months, much like Chandler Parsons did. But when 2017 rolls around, I’ll go on a limb and say Barnes starts developing into the guy the Mavericks expect of him, averaging about 17-18 points per game in a month’s span, grabs six rebounds and makes open looks again.

It’s going to be an adjustment period, but that should be fixed near the All-Star break. At least, we can hope.

The Mavericks will not make a move at the trade deadline

It’s more appealing now than it was last year. The Mavericks have assets they can trade, and rightfully so. Justin Anderson, Powell, maybe Seth Curry, etc.

There will be teams calling for those guys, especially if Dallas is in the playoff hunt. They’ll call for those guys because they want pieces to build around, and because they know the Mavericks want to do everything humanly possible to get Dirk Nowitzki in position to win a championship.

But for the second year in a row, the Mavericks stand pat and don’t pick up the phone in February. It’ll be tempting. The Mavericks want picks, pieces to build around, etc., and they’ll get calls for that. But the Mavericks should also realize it’s time to build with what you have and not go for the jugular and witness another Rajon Rondo collapse.

Sure, there are situations plausible enough to make a trade, but they’d have to be drastic in Dallas.

The Mavericks will make the playoffs

Funny how we’re talking about Dallas making the playoffs as a bold statement, but this is 2016 and the end is nigh.

If the Mavericks even clinch the eighth seed, that’ll be an accomplishment. It’ll be a bloodbath at the hands of Golden State, but it’ll be an accomplishment.

But going against Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki should never be permitted. Dirk should still be averaging around 18 points per game, and that’s a constant. I firmly believe come January, the Mavericks will have all the kinks figured out. Barnes will be good, Matthews will be a dangerous X-factor and Dallas’ youth will start to blossom.

Dallas wins between 42-45 games, makes the playoffs and steals a win or two from a top seed.