On Nov. 25, the Mavericks felt like a totally different team from the one they are today. Chandler Parsons was still slugging through minute restrictions. JaVale McGee was just about to return, but we didn't know what he would provide. The Salah Mejri experience was still waiting patiently on the bench, while nobody knew Dwight Powell would be a Rising Star at All-Star weekend in Toronto. Man, that one might be the defining moment of the Mavericks' season, in my humble opinion.
Anyway, on Nov. 25, I made five predictions. The piece was called "5 bold predictions that'll happen for the Mavericks by All-Star weekend," and looking back, they weren't actually necessarily the boldest predictions. Ah well. I still put my neck out for you guys, making predictions that went into permanent record on the internet.
Fortunately, these predictions held up pretty well. Here's a look back at all five, with the original predictions in quotations and some reaction underneath.
1. Dwight Powell falls out of the rotation, even briefly
With JaVale McGee's return, this one is inevitable. McGee won't immediately barge into the rotation -- as evidenced by his absence in Tuesday's game -- but he's destined for it down the road. That's why the Mavericks signed him and they still desperately lack the athletic, rolling and shot-blocking that his best case scenario self can provide.
Powell's been playing out of position at center all season and there's only so many minutes to go around in the front court. There will be times where Chandler Parsons is a better option playing small ball at the four and times when Carlisle opts for Charlie Villanueva for reasons unknown. Powell's also a young player bound for some inconsistency. He may disappear in a second half and conspicuously pick up a DNP-CD in the following game. That's not to say he'll stay out for good and a few solid practices later he's a prime candidate to force his way back into the rotation. But I'd be shocked if he played every game from now until the All-Star break.
Here's a good start! Although Powell was the only person representing the Mavericks in Toronto, playing in Friday's Rising Stars Game, he wasn't able to stay as an every game rotation player. In 2016, Powell received a DNP-CD twice and played fewer than five minutes three other times. Parsons playing small ball four has become commonplace in the Mavericks' offense recently, and against bigger matchups, Carlisle tends to prefer added size at center. But like I predicted, his falls out of the rotation have been brief, because Carlisle really does love his hard-working mentality.
2. Wesley Matthews' shooting numbers fail to improve
Matthews' career averages are 14 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the floor and 39 percent from behind the 3-point line. Through his first 13 games in Dallas, he's at 11 points on 35 percent and 33 percent shooting.
I don't see a quick return to those career numbers anytime soon. We've talked on end about how terrible an Achilles tendon rupture really is and we're seeing it manifest itself on the court. Matthews is "healthy" and he's back, but his recovery continues every day and every time he's on the court. By the All-Star break, hopefully he's shooting a bit better and can truly look like the Matthews of years past in the season's final two months. But until then, just continue to understand how slow of a process this will be.
At the start of 2016, it looked like this prediction would end up being very wrong. In fact, in December, Matthews' shot looked about as good as it ever has as he hit 42 percent from the floor and from behind the arc. But Matthews couldn't keep the good times rolling into January, and here we stand, with the Mavericks' max-contract shooting guard shooting just 38.4 percent and 34.8 percent from the field and from behind the line, respectively.
I can't help but think the franchise-record 18 games the Mavericks played in January played into this. The Mavericks went just about a full month without two consecutive days off, which is absolutely crazy. Without his usual conditioning and still not at 100 percent, Matthews desperately needs the break. Hopefully coming out of it, he'll find his shot and be exactly the player the Mavericks expect him to be. I'd expect that.
3. Chandler Parsons averages 20 points in January
The gradual on-court recovery of Chandler Parsons stands alone as the most frustrating part of the Mavericks' young season. Watching his minutes yo-yo around, playing short spurts before he's yanked away again, is difficult for fans. It's harder for Parsons, as you can imagine, who felt as if he could go for 30 points weeks ago. Yet despite the struggles, you see the Parsons who dominated the second half of last year shine through. There's moment where his 6-foot-9 Swiss Army knife abilities look as sharp and utilitarian as they did months ago.
January is still six weeks away. In six weeks, Parsons' minutes restriction should be gone for good. Since the season started, he's been itching to break free of this rehabilitation shell. Give him that chance at long last and I see him taking full advantage.
It's not quite 20 points, but the second half of January and the beginning of February showed Parsons look mostly like the offensive player Dallas knows he's capable of being. From Jan. 18 to Feb. 1, Parsons scored at least 16 points in all nine games, including 30- and 31-point performances. For January as a whole, Parsons finished scoring 16.1 points on 51 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from behind the arc. Not bad, but not 20 points per game. Way to make me look bad, CP, smh.
4. The Mavericks' defensive rating falls below average
Somewhere between No. 16 and No. 20 best in the NBA, most likely. Last week, the Mavericks were rocking a defensive that was nearly as good as the Golden State Warriors. They've now dropped out of the top 10 and are allowing 100.5 points per 100 possessions, which is the No. 11-best rate in the NBA. In reality, they're a middle of the pack team, probably slightly below average, and I expect that by the All-Star break that will manifest itself.
On the flip side, Dallas' offensive rating is No. 12. I believe that should rise several spots, at least, before Drake makes us wish every All-Star weekend took place in Toronto.
What would you know, the Mavericks boast the No. 17-best defense in the NBA. With a 103.3 defensive rating, Dallas is sandwiched between the Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers, and unfortunately, I don't see much room for improvement here.
Let's face it: Zaza Pachulia, while doing more than the Mavericks ever could have asked him to, just doesn't have the foot speed to jet around defending rolling big men and still recover for weakside help. Among centers averaging 20 or more minutes, Pachulia is dead last in blocks. And there's really nothing Dallas can do about that, so ah well.
On the flip side, the Mavericks have the tenth-best offensive rating in the league, also at 103.3. I actually think they can be even better than that, honestly, but with Matthews' inconsistency and Dirk's careful energy conservation, this is a good enough start before they really let loose post-All-Star break.
5. Dallas hits 15 three-pointers in at least three games
The Mavericks broke the 15 three-pointers mark in five games last year. Not surprisingly, four of those five came in the first two months of the season, before Rajon Rondo arrived on the scene and turned a historically good offense into something resembling more of a carnival game. This season, Dallas has only hit 10 or more 3-point shots in four games, but with Parsons' minutes increasing and literally every other shooter on the roster except Dirk Nowitzki underperforming, you'd have to expect that to balance out.
How do you get it to balance out? By catching fire for a few nights. There are 40 games between now and the All-Star break and making 15 triples a few times would quickly correct those open shots the Mavericks are really struggling to make.
This prediction is a little cheap, looking back. It's just playing the law of averages, which, as you can intone from the name, is a law. It's proven. Given all the shooters the Mavericks had, how poorly they had started and how many shots they take, this was bound to happen. Oh well, don't care, still counts as a proper prediction.
Thanks to the fact that they lead the league in overtimes played, Dallas has SIX instances of hitting 15-plus triples. Three of them game due to the extra period -- Dec. 23 vs. the Nets (16-of-34), Jan. 18 vs. the Celtics (16-of-34) and Feb. 9 vs. the Grizzlies (15-of-30). The other three in regulation were Dec. 26 against Chicago (16-of-33), Dec. 6 against Washington (16-of-31) and Jan. 24 against Houston (15-of-30).
So I was spot on, sort of, just didn't account for the overtimes. Ah well. Livin' and learnin', yanno?