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Jarrod Uthoff is primed for better things in 2017

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The rookie forward joined the Mavs late in the 2016-17 campaign, but could have a larger role next season.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back

I wrote a little about Jarrod Uthoff prior to the 2016 Draft, where I noted that his prospect stock was a little volatile. He had an unusual though productive college career. After originally joining Bo Ryan at Wisconsin and redshirting his freshman year, Uthoff decided to transfer to a school that better fit his skills. There was a bit of drama surrounding the move, as Coach Ryan initially tried to bar Uthoff from transferring to an extensive (a few dozen) list of schools. Ultimately, Uthoff chose Iowa, his home state.

Uthoff played three seasons with the Hawkeyes. His last saw him become the first option on offense and respond by averaging over 18 points per game. Uthoff was also a prolific shotblocker and three-point shooter, ranking fourth in school history in the former category and 10th in the latter. It was this diverse skill set that interested me, and while I thought he’d go in the early second round, he went undrafted before being scooped up by the Toronto Raptors.

He played in just one preseason game for the Raptors and was assigned to their D-League team to start the regular season, where he took a few weeks to really grow accustomed to the speed of the professional game. After being traded to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Uthoff broke out, averaging over 17 points and nine rebounds and shooting over 50 percent from three (as well as 90 percent from the free-throw line).

It was this play that caught the eye of the Dallas front office, and on March 9th, Uthoff signed the first of two 10-day contracts that eventually led to a multi-year deal similar to the one Dallas gave fellow undrafted players Yogi Ferrell and Dorian Finney-Smith. Uthoff saw limited action with the Mavs, but did manage a pair of double-digit scoring efforts, including a near double-double against the Suns.

Contract status

Uthoff has a team option for the 2017-18 season at the minimum, approximately $1.3 million. Dallas will have the ability to let the draft and free agency play out before making a decision on that option, and early word is that they want Uthoff to play in the summer league, possibly along with Ferrell and Finney-Smith. Throw in second round draft pick A.J. Hammons, and potentially a top 10 pick in this summer’s draft, and that could be one dangerous summer league team, and maybe the only one ever(?) to feature a starting lineup composed entirely of players who have played or will play for the actual NBA affiliate.

Looking forward

You would be forgiven if — despite all I’ve said so far -- you’ve never even heard of Jarrod Uthoff and are dubious about his chances of sticking in Dallas. And you could be right. However, depending on how the roster looks in three months time, I’m picking Uthoff as my dark horse candidate to emerge as a spot rotation guy next season.

Uthoff demonstrated in college and in the D-League that he can shoot, and that skill alone makes him valuable when you look at the rest of the Mavs’ recent second units. Once Seth Curry graduated to the starting lineup, Dallas had zero marksmen off the bench. What’s more, while the Mavs look fairly okay at center, they could really use some combo-forwards to mix and match with Harrison Barnes. Finney-Smith greatly exceeded expectations but was still a little overexposed at times. That Wes Matthews played so much at small forward tells you how dire the positional need is there.

Coming out of college, I thought Uthoff profiled best as a stretch 4 whose shot-blocking prowess could mitigate the lack of rebounding. What I found interesting was some hints from Carlisle that they view him possibly also as a big wing, and while Uthoff isn’t an outstanding ball handler or passer, he did look comfortable attacking closeouts from the three-point line, and with his size he can do some damage inside, as well.

There’s a lot of time between now and October, but for Jarrod Uthoff, something better just might be over that horizon. His signing was clearly more about getting a look for 2017-18 than anything else, so don’t be too surprised if he sticks around, and it wouldn’t be the strangest thing to ever happen if the best undrafted signing of this past season turns out to be not Yogi, or DFS, but this guy.