At some point, we’re going to have to admit the Mavericks have an eye for talent.
Dallas has its draft day woes for sure. Just look at Justin Anderson toiling away at the bench for another reminder. Yet somehow, the Mavericks find ways to scoop up young-ish misfit toys and turn them into serviceable basketball players.
O.J. Mayo. DeJuan Blair. Brandan Wright. Al-Farouq Aminu. Salah Mejri. Hell, even Monta Ellis to a certain degree. All dudes the rest of the league didn’t really know what to do with so the Mavs just shyly gobble them onto the roster.
All of these guys put in miraculous work with Dallas. Add Seth Curry to the list.
In all the free-agent spending bonanza, the Mavs nabbed the lesser-known Curry for $6 million — over two years. Even if Curry’s late-season explosion with the Kings was a mirage, NBA teams wipe their butts with $6 million. It was basically chump change.
It never really made all that sense. Curry was still raw, bouncing from team to team without getting any NBA game-action but he was always a good shooter and if you haven’t noticed, teams put a premium on shooting like it’s been banned by the government. Every team wants it and you never have enough.
Now that Curry is finally part of an NBA rotation, he’s showing out. He shot 49 percent from three in December, averaging 25 minutes and almost four looks from deep per game. When Andrew Bogut went down with his 500th leg injury, Rick Carlisle decided to go small and give Curry more run. It’s paid off. Curry’s continued his hot shooting from December and is now posting 54/56/81 percent shooting splits this month, averaging 11 points per game. The Mavs defensive and offensive net ratings get worse when he’s off the floor by a decent margin, according to NBA.com (minus-1.9 net rating on, minus-7.3 net rating off). He broke the 30 minute barrier for the fourth time this month Thursday night against the Heat and Carlisle clearly is starting to trust him.
He still has a ways to go — he’s barely played a full season’s worth of NBA games for his career. He’s surprisingly helpful on defense, though his size doesn’t help at off-guard, where he primarily plays. Curry is second on the team in deflections behind Wes Matthews and he genuinely hustles to his spots on defense with great consistency.
The Mavs probably need him to be a better passer, he’s averaging less than an assist per game this month. That’s why he is at his best playing next to another point guard like Deron Williams, so Curry isn’t expected to orchestrate an offense. Curry likes to score and he isn’t the greatest facilitator out of the pick and roll. The offense can die when he’s initiating fairly quickly.
Even with those warts, what a steal. The second year of that $6 million deal isn’t even a player option, so the Mavs will get another season of dirt-cheap production and can hopefully turn him into somewhat of a building block next to Harrison Barnes. The Mavs are eerily good at this. If only this led to better drafts. Onto the notes:
- I didn’t spend a lot of time in the intro talking about the actual game because I just wanted to gush on Curry for a bit but whoa boy, that was a crappy loss. The Heat are trying to win even less than the Mavericks and have a roster full of dudes I’ve legit never heard of. Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson are actual good NBA players but damn does that roster drop off after that. Miami is in full tank mode after Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have moved on and it was real bad to see the Mavs drop a game to a team that legitimately plays Rodney McGruder and Willie Reed, who I’m pretty sure are computer generated NBA2K players. I know the Mavs are also bad and their three-game win streak came against also bad teams but sheesh. At least Phoenix, Minnesota and Chicago have more than like, four real NBA players. Bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD loss.
- Dirk scored 19 points, but he should have had more. Starting at center, Whiteside wanted zero part of chasing Dirk out to the three-point line and Dirk had plenty of great looks from deep and his pet spots in the mid-range. He was 7-of-16 from the floor and of those nine misses, it felt like at least seven or eight of them were quality, open looks.
- Considering the Mavs played Dirk at center, they didn’t get too creamed on boards (lost the battle 40-33). Whiteside not getting double-digit rebounds in a game Dirk starts at center should really count as a win for the Mavs, I don’t care what the score is.
- There was a brief moment in the first half where I finally saw the potential of a destructive, switching Mavs defense. Before the season started I figured the Mavs would have a shot at a great defense even with Dirk because the Mavs had so many long, athletic wings in the rotation that could funnel ball-handlers into quality shot blockers in Bogut and Mejri. That notion went bye-bye pretty early on this season but for a handful of minutes on Tuesday, I saw what I envisioned: Justin Anderson and Dorian Finney-Smith at the forwards with Wes at the two and just havoc everywhere. All three of those guys switched everything and the Heat could not get any separation. The Mavs are one of, if not the worst three-point defensive team in the league and Miami started 1-of-8 from deep against that switching, long-armed defense. It was pretty neat.
- Of course the Heat finished 9-of-20 from three and Dragic hit 4-of-4 so that defensive flurry lasted just a skosh longer than one of my farts.
- Speaking of Dragic, it got me real damn sad seeing him light up any Mav who guarded him, including Wes after his heroics against Jimmy Butler. I really wanted the Mavs to go after Dragic in the Rondo season and it just seemed like Dragic wasn’t going to be available...until a bit after the Mavs traded for Rondo and the Heat swooped in. I doubt the Mavs could have bested Miami’s two 1st-rounder offer but hot damn how great would Dragic be with Carlisle and Dirk? His silky-smooth mid-range game reminds me of a tall J.J. Barea and he just snaked by every Mavs big in the pick and roll en route to his game-high 32 points. The Heat are bad, but Dragic is very good and they could have a short rebuild on their hands if they nail their upcoming potential top-5 pick with Whiteside, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.
- Carlisle has sort of shortened the rotation and it’s kind of...odd? I guess? The Mavs went 10-deep against the Heat, but no one on the bench played more than Mejri’s 19 minutes, while every starter got 30 minutes or more except for Dirk (who got 29). Part of that is the Mavs starters with Curry are gelling really well right now, but it’ll be nice when Barea is off his minutes restriction. Mavs could have really used his offense in the third and fourth quarters when things sputtered.
- No need to just repeat everything Austin said about Harrison Barnes in the recap, but I’ll leave one thought: pretty much every game I see Barnes do something and think “oh, I didn’t know he could do that.”
- Ever since I wrote a big to-do about Dwight Powell being a hugely valuable player thanks to his pick and roll game, he’s promptly been sent to Justin Anderson Island. Powell hasn’t cracked 20 minutes in a game this month and is shooting 50 percent from the field, down from his rim-rattling 62.9 in December. I thought Bogut’s latest injury would open things up, but with Dirk at center and ramping up his minutes and Mejri’s rim protection being valuable, I guess Carlisle just can’t find time. If only Powell could guard the rim. Sigh. I still feel like he could be useful in more bursts, especially with how anemic the Mavs looked on offense at times tonight.
- Oh, one last note about Barnes. At one point after a basket in the fourth quarter he was 7-of-10 from the floor. He finished 7-of-14. Barnes faded hard in the second half and I wonder if teams are starting to figure him out a tad. The Heat played with basically one big all night, which left a similar sized forward on Barnes most of the game. Dallas loves to exploit Barnes’ ability at the four against slower footed bigs or against overwhelmed guards on switches, but the Heat always seemed to have a 6’5 dude or taller in Barnes’ airspace during the second half. Credit the Heat for figuring things out and hopefully Barnes will keep working on his ability to create outside of the post. He had one free throw and two assists.