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Yogi Ferrell is smarter than the av-er-age D-League call up

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The Mavericks keep being fun thanks to their new 10-day contract sensation and other notes from the big upset.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is Yogi Ferrell, who signed a 10-day contract with the Mavericks on Saturday, handling Kyrie Irving in the pick and roll.

This is Yogi Ferrell, who started his first game on the road against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and put up nine points, seven assists and no turnovers in 36 minutes and a win, splashing down a clutch, pull-up three-pointer against the reigning NBA champions.

Yogi Ferrell is a thing and it is the most wonderful thing to have happened to a Mavericks team that has experienced a lot of bad things this season. He topped his debut with a 19-point, five-rebound, three-assist, four-steal performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night, and the Mavs have won two in a row against two of the best five teams in the NBA. Maybe two of the top three.

Ferrell has stepped in for a Mavs team missing Deron Williams and J.J. Barea and despite having less than 24 hours to learn the offense before Sunday, he looks like he’s been here all season. Ferrell has two turnovers in 74 minutes of action against two really good teams. It’s incredible.

It helps that Ferrell isn’t being thrown to the wolves with his situation. Having Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Wes Matthews and an unconscious Seth Curry isn’t the worst way to learn the ropes as a point guard. He has some help, even if he is pulling a few rabbits out of hats.

There are three things that are making Ferrell fit like a glove instantly — he’s hitting jumpers (4-10 from three), not making dumb passes (two turnovers in two games) and he’s playing some dynamite defense. Ferrell is small at a generously listed 6’0, but he’s pretty stout and pretty quick as well. He’s been a pain in the ass to try and screen the last two games — bigs just can’t get a solid pick set on him and Ferrell squirts through the gap almost every time. That’s letting him hound ball-handlers in the pick and roll and get some steals when guards get flustered that they don’t have a clear path to the rim. Ferrell being a pest in the pick and roll is a godsend to Dirk, who really can’t step out and bother the ball-handler. Ferrell is doing it on his own.

That he wasn’t overwhelmed against Irving spoke volumes to his poise on the defensive end and maybe the Mavs have caught onto something — Ferrell is a four-year college player, much like fellow defensive stalwart Dorian Finney-Smith. Defense is one of the hardest things for young players to learn and Ferrell and Finney-Smith have a leg up thanks to their college experience. Irving shot 7-21 from the floor tonight and had six (!) turnovers. Yogi was picking his pic-a-nic basket all night.

This is really fun. The Mavs should be tanking, but they aren’t and hell, whatever. They say the reason to embrace the tank is because you’re not going to remember a bad team getting it’s 30th, 31st, 32nd or 33rd win compared to ending the season with their 21st, but thanks to Yogi I’m definitely going to remember the Mavericks 17th and 18th wins this year. Just a hunch. Onto the notes:

  • Ho-hum, another 20+ point night for Harrison Barnes. Barnes can’t seem to get his three-point shot working, but he worked all the other parts of the floor tonight en route to his team-high 24 points. He also got to the free-throw line and was really active off the ball, cutting hard and getting fouled after a Cavs player fell asleep and recovered late. I love Barnes being able to make an impact on the game without having the ball in his hands, or doing it in ways that aren’t just post-ups and iso-jumpers. Although he was still damn good at that tonight.
  • It’s easy to fall in love with Barnes’ scoring production, but I’ve been so impressed with his well-rounded game on the other end. He’s a strong rebounder (he had 11 rebounds tonight) and such a versatile defender. There was a sequence in the third quarter where Barnes was guarding Tristan Thompson, switched onto Kyrie on a pick and roll, walled off Kyrie’s path to the rim, let Ferrell recover to Kyrie and then switched back to Thompson before Kyrie could dump off an easy pass. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that, carry the scoring burden on the other end and then have to box out one of the best offensive rebounders in the league when he goes back down on defense. Barnes is a special talent and if the Mavs keep unlocking parts of his offensive game, his ceiling is going to be higher than we ever could have imagined. Hell, even if Barnes doesn’t progress at all from where he is right now, right now is pretty good. You can build around what he is right now.
  • The Mavs have really active hands and are super feisty. They got 11 steals tonight and have been doing a great job digging into the post, trapping a bit more on pick and rolls and using their length and youth to their advantage. It’s hard to be aggressive when Dirk’s the rim defender on the floor, but Dallas is taking more chances with their athleticism and turning up the pressure when needed.
  • Speaking of Dirk, he only had four shots tonight (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and made three of them. Just goes to show how much Dirk impacts a game just by standing on the floor — Dirk was a plus-24 on the night, grabbed six boards, guarded the rim as well as he can and spread things out for Barnes, Wes, Curry and Ferrell to go to work. Dirk was the only starter not in double-figures, and I’m kinda stunned he only had one assist. Dirk was pinging the ball all over the court and moving it well.
  • Andrew Bogut missed the game with another hamstring injury and the Mavs didn’t miss much. Dwight Powell got more burn with Bogut gone and Mejri limping around, and he took advantage with 14 points on 6-11 shooting. He shot two threes and they went about as well as expected (NOT WELL). Powell was a monster inside, and his finishing this year is staggering compared to years past. Powell’s offense was welcome on a night where Devin Harris didn’t have his shot falling. Powell scored 14 of the Mavs 16 bench points. Please trade Bogut now. He is a good player who isn’t needed on this team.
  • I really like Curry when he has another ball handler on the floor with him. He doesn’t have the handles to be a lead guard right now, and he’s so much smoother when he’s able to play off ball. Curry is very comfortable doing damage against a scrambled defense after another guard runs a pick and roll and swings it to Curry.
  • There’s a ton of talk about the Cavs needing a playmaker and while that’s definitely still true, I almost wonder if Cleveland needs a backup big more. Thompson wasn't effective in his 26 minutes thanks to foul trouble, and the Cavs only other big to get minutes was Channing Frye, who isn’t really a paint presence, since Kevin Love was out with an injury. Dallas matched Cleveland on the boards, which isn’t good for the Cavs when you consider how bad the Mavs are at rebounding. I’m sure when the rotations shrink in the playoffs in won’t matter, especially with Love healthy, but the Cavs could really use a pick-and-roll big who can guard the rim just in case Thompson gets hurt or gets in foul trouble during a deciding playoff game.