Preseason basketball is a mess. Dudes with non-guaranteed contracts given the green light to do their best Kobe impression, raw second-round rookies looking like they’ve never held a basketball before and vets just trying to get out of the way so they don’t get hurt.
It’s largely a trash fire. BUT there can be some things to take away, especially for a team with as much roster turnover as the Mavs. There are roster spots to be decided, young players looking for bigger roles and recently-acquired veterans looking to establish new ones.
So let’s go down the list of the 10 things we hope to know once this preseason is over:
1.) What Harrison Barnes is capable of when dribbling a basketball
We’ve been over this before — Barnes’ role in Golden State has him woefully unprepared to be more of a lead dog with greater offensive responsibility. His off-the-dribble sample size is smaller than a DC movie’s Rotten Tomato’s score.
However, when Barnes did put the ball on the floor in pick and rolls, he shot it well, despite the laughably small number of attempts. Steve Kerr and the Golden State coaching staff pushed Barnes to work on his game despite his role being pegged in behind Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. These games don’t matter and the defense will be softer than in the regular season, but it’ll be nice to see what to make of Barnes’ on-ball prowess under Rick Carlisle and in the Mavs system.
2.) Wesley Matthews is OK
Please. Please eight-pound, six-ounce, newborn baby Jesus let Matthews be alright. Let him show up to preseason looking svelte, springy and smooth...well about as svelte, springy and smooth as a basketball man can be a year and a half after Achilles surgery.
Wes showed signs last season — the nova-night in Washington, the post-up scoring against the Clippers — but they were few and far between. He was a shell of his Portland self last season, which was totally expected considering the injury and the somewhat short rehab he went through to get back on the court.
The hope is that a normal off-season for Wes, one that isn’t filled with grueling rehab and physical therapy, will let Wes be Wes once this season rolls around. So Wes, for all of our sakes, take it easy this preseason. Relax and just knock down some threes. We want to believe.
3.) Justin Anderson is the truth
Anderson is perhaps the most tantalizing young player the Mavericks have had since Josh Howard. He’s the oasis in the Mavericks depressing draft desert.
In limited burn last season, Anderson proved two things: he is built like a truck and he can chase you down on the break like LeBron.
I feel pretty good about Anderson’s ability to keep doing that, so let’s hope this preseason he can come out and knock down some damn threes before we start worrying that he’s just a more athletic Jae Crowder (which wouldn’t really be that bad). Do that, show some improved spacial awareness on offense and we’ll be peachy. Anderson doesn’t have to do too much on this team, so hopefully preseason will be allow him to look more natural than he did as an overwhelmed first-option during Summer League.
4.) Seth Curry’s place on this team
The lesser Curry raised some eyebrows from the fanbase when he signed. We were perplexed — did the Mavericks actually sign the youthful dude with upside over the kinda washed-up vet who provided feel-good moments in the playoffs? They did!
Curry hasn’t had much NBA service time despite bouncing around the league for the last couple of years. In fact, he owes pretty much all of his contract to a late-season spurt in March and April — a 15-game sample in which he shot the lights out and looked like a capable ball handler in the pick and roll.
Obviously Curry won’t get a lot of time with the vets, and the Mavs will give him a bit of an extended look as a first and second option this preaseson, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he can thrive in Rick Carlisle’s pick-and-roll flow offense. Skeptical fans, have your fears soothed — Curry is not Anthony Morrow, Wayne Ellington or John Jenkins. The man has some off-the-bounce spunk and can make plays in the pick and roll. A stand-still, spot-up stiff he is not.
5.) The backup big situation
The Mavericks gave Dwight Powell a four-year contract when I’m pretty sure they were bidding against themselves. Salah Mejri is dirt-cheap but also a swat-machine who was easily the Mavs best center by the end of the season after Zaza Pachulia passed his expiration date.
Then there’s Quincy Acy, a surprisingly capable forward who might be a better version of Powell. Or at least, the stretch-four Powell. Oh and the Mavericks drafted A.J. Hammons, who has all the tools and just has to work on his attitude. JOY. Those guys always seem to thrive under Carlisle.
So hopefully we’ll have a better idea of the pecking order after this preseason. Powell needs to show some range outside of three feet. Mejri needs to show some more balance and strength in his defense, and Acy needs to prove his three-point shooting from last season wasn’t a mirage. I guess Hammons just needs to prove he likes playing basketball *shrug*.
6.) That Andrew Bogut is still healthy
Seriously, just stick Bogut in some bubble wrap and keep him glued to the bench. We already got a good summer preview of what he’s capable of.
7.) The Mavs’ “Death Lineup”
Have you heard? “Death” lineups are in vogue this fall. Anybody who’s anybody has a team with a proper death lineup, basically a small-ball fivesome that can switch, defend, run and shoot with position-less players.
I doubt we’ll actually learn about the Mavs version of the lineup this preseason, but maybe Carlisle will wheel it out in doses. The lineup should be Deron Williams-Wes Matthews-Justin Anderson-Harrison Barnes-Andrew Bogut.
With Bogut’s minutes likely limited this preseason, I’d imagine we’ll see tweaks to that possible lineup with either Powell or Mejri in Bogut’s place. That’ll be a fine sneak peek and what’s to come and it’ll be interesting to see a Mavs lineup that can possibly keep up with the pace of the league’s rapidly changing standards.
8.) Who is on the end of the roster
The Mavs have 12 dudes who are locks to be on the roster (Dirk, Barnes, Bogut, Wes, Williams, Harris, Barea, Anderson, Powell, Mejri, Curry and Acy) so that leaves three spots open.
There are plenty of non and partially guaranteed contracts after those 12. Those final three spots will be picked from a group of Nicolas Brussino, Kyle Collinsworth, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jonathan Gibson, Hammons, Keith Hornsby, Jameel Warney and C.J. Williams.
Collinsworth, Finney-Smith, Gibson, Hammons and Warney all got looks on the summer league team, so they’ve got the leg up. Hammons is a near lock because of his contract and being a draft pick, and Finney-Smith and Gibson perhaps have the leg up on the other two spots.
To be honest, I know very little about these dudes. So let’s just lock them away on the court, Hunger Games style, until three are left and go from there.
9.) That Kyle Collinsworth is nowhere near the roster
OK, I lied. I know one thing about one of those dudes, and it is that Collinsworth is not a good point guard. Please avoid.
10.) Dirk is ready to go
No preseason knee flareups, OK big guy?