The Dallas Mavericks, a bad team, played the Minnesota Timberwolves, a better team, on Saturday night. The Mavericks, a bad team, played poorly. The bad team lost 112-99.
What else is there really to say? All the good vibes from the team last season when it played really competent basketball behind Dirk at center and Seth Curry in the starting lineup has been emptied into a dumpster and set on fire. The only noticeable change from last season’s roster is the drafting of Dennis Smith Jr. so while the Mavericks being 1-10 isn’t too shocking, the lack of joy from watching them has been.
Here’s what we...learned? I think we know a lot of these things by now.
Dallas can’t defend
Dallas entered the night one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA by any measure (26th in defensive rating before this game) and well, guess what? The Timberwolves didn’t have much trouble scoring!
The Wolves shot over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three. The Mavericks didn’t really do much to stand in their way, aside from a couple of forced turnovers. Karl Anthony-Towns had his way with whoever the Mavs were rolling out at center, Andrew Wiggins’ looks were way too clean and it just generally seemed like wherever the Timberwolves wanted to dribble, they got there without much resistance.
While Dirk is obviously a defensive disaster at center and Smith going through typical rookie-year bad defense, the amount of terribleness the Mavs look on that end is kind of remarkable. Harrison Barnes is a good defender, right? He’s strong as hell, can guard centers in the low post and switch out to shooters on the wing yet the Mavs defense doesn’t look any better when he’s on the floor. Wesley Matthews is a defensive dude, right? Salah Mejri, Nerlens Noel — it’s not like this roster is littered with unplayable defenders. This is bad for reasons that are truly unsettling.
Whether the good defenders are too hamstrung by the very terrible ones or everyone is checked out because whoa boy this isn’t fun, who knows because it’s early. All we know is the Mavericks couldn’t guard a chair right now.
And starting at center for the Mavericks *checks notes* Salah Mejri!
Salah had a badass game against the Pelicans the other night and was rewarded with the start. No real qualms there, although it’s hilarious when you consider Salah is a 31-year-old role player that will have nothing to do with this roster when Smith is regularly implanting dudes six feet under.
So in a vacuum, sure, why not. Start Salah. It’s not like Noel has looked great in the last week. Then Salah went out and did nothing in nine minutes. Noel got 14 minutes and Dwight Powell, who is also still technically part of the Mavericks young core and has a deal that will keep him on the team past this summer, only got burn in garbage time once the game was well in hand.
So, uhm, what’s the point of all this? The Mavericks are 1-10 and spoiler alert, the return of Curry isn’t going to change the fortune of where the franchise is currently headed. I’m obviously a Noel apologist, but if the Mavericks aren’t even going to play the other young big they’ve invested resources in (Powell) then what are we doing here?
I don’t know anymore. Dirk is playing 21 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are playing a lot and putting up shots and running a lot of pick and rolls. Wes gets to put up however many shots he wants in however many minutes he wants. Nothing matters anymore. The Mavericks are embracing rebuilding like a toddler covering its ears and yelling loudly to avoid eating its vegetables.
At least Smith got minutes in the fourth quarter with Powell. Baby steps, I suppose. More of that maybe when the game isn’t a trash fire?
Maxi Kleber should probably play more
He’s probably bad, but he’s basically like the inverse of Noel — every time he gets on the court good things happen and he puts up stats.
The Mavs are bad, so just roll him out there and hope the Mavericks stumbled into something. If not, the tank stops for no one.