The “Kobe Challenge” was started by the Black Mamba himself this summer when he gave out unsolicited goals and tasks to athletes and celebrities. For example, he challenged Isaiah Thomas to make the All-NBA Team...
... and Giannis Antetokonmpo (who, in Kobe’s defense, did solicit this advice) to be the MVP of the whole League.
Some of these challenges are obtainable and some seem extremely out of reach. In this week’s episode, we issue every player on the Dallas Mavericks a Kobe Challenge that can (for the most part) be quantified or measured, beginning with the least likely Maverick.
Challenge: A simple “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” would seem to suffice.
But a real challenge would be to play 50 games, which he hasn’t done four times in 10 seasons.
Maalik Wayns, Gian Clavell, PJ Dozier, Brandon Ashley, and Maxi Kleber
Challenge: Make the (or a) team.
All of these players are on the fringes now, and the next few weeks will determine their fate on the Mavericks and maybe in the League. Earning the team’s second two-way contract seems too low to be a real challenge, but it should absolutely be the goal for Dozier and Clavell.
Challenge: Make the Mavs sign you to a standard contract.
Players on two-way deals can only be brought up to the NBA Club for 45 days per season, but if Motley proves he’s worth everyday playing time, then he could be converted to a standard contract. It’s a long shot, but [insert Kobe saying about things being hard... MUSE CAGE...OUT].
Challenge: Lead the league in rim protection.
This is a little more difficult to quantify, but Defensive Field Goal percentage of shots within six feet of the basket seems like a good metric. Here are the top three from last season:
- Joel Embiid: 44 percent
- Draymond Green: 48 percent
- Rudy Gobert: 49 percent
Mejri’s Defensive Field Goal percentage was 54 percent last season, only five percentage points lower than Gobert and 10 lower than Embiid.
Challenge: Play 82 games.
During his first two seasons in the NBA with the Pelicans, Withey played 58 and 37 games. In each of his two seasons with the Jazz, he played 51 games. At 27, it’s time for Withey to prove he can be an every day player (or not).
Challenge: Dunk on Isaac Harris. (Listen to the podcast for explanation)
Powell has amassed an immense amount of haters (we use Isaac as the physical representation of this) and he needs to respond. One thing he could actually do to deter some of the distaste is to make 50 threes this season. Last season Powell made only made 21 threes. In his first two seasons, he only made five total and only 33 in four years in college. The stroke is fine (in practice Dwight has beaten Dirk Nowitzki in three point around-the-world contests), but there’s something disconnected.
J.J. Barea and Devin Harris
Challenge: Help Seth, Yogi, and Dennis reach their goals.
The two veteran guards are on this team to help the younger guys grow. If Curry, Ferrell, and Smith Jr. succeed then, they have succeeded.
Challenge: Shoot 33 percent from corner threes
After an abysmal shooting performance at Summer League, it could be hard to see DFS improving on his shot at all. Last season he shot 41 percent of his threes from the corner and hit only 26 percent of them. Raise that 7 percent and he’d be a threat to spread the floor. Here are what some of the best 3-and-D players shot from the corner the last two seasons:
- Andre Iguodala: 37 percent in 2017 and 43 percent in 2016
- Nicolas Batum: 33 percent and 37 percent
- Trevor Ariza: 38 percent and 47 percent
- PJ Tucker: 36 percent and 45 percent
- Jae Crowder: 50 percent in DAL, 32 percent and 48 percent in BOS
Crowder improved his number 16 percentage points between his first and second year in Boston. It can be done.
Challenge 1: Take back the starting point guard spot
Challenge 2: Make 10 threes in a game
The “Mamba Mentality” would advocate for Challenge 1, but it’s hard to believe that aligns with the desires of any Mavs fans. If anything, any attempt by Ferrell to challenge Smith Jr. for the starting role would motivate both to improve more. This isn’t the challenge fans want, but it is the one they need.
Challenge 2 would just be awesome. Only 21 players have ever done this, including Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Chandler Parsons, Wes Matthews, and former Maverick George McCloud!
Challenge 1: Earn that max contract
Challenge 2: Average four “stocks” per game
Noel has enough challenges built into this season but only a few have ever averaged four stocks (a combination of steals and blocks).
Only three players have averaged two blocks and two steals per game.
Only one player has ever averaged one block and one steals per game.
Only 11 players have ever averaged three blocks and one steal per game.
Challenge: Join Dirk in the 50/40/90 Club.
In order to gain access to the 50/40/90 Club, a player must shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the free-throw line with a minimum of 300 field goals made, 82 threes made, and 125 free throws made.
Only Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (four times), Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Dirk have made the 50/40/90 Club.
Last season, Seth Curry shot 48.1 percent from the field on 338 made shots, 42.5 percent from three on 137 made threes, and 85 percent from the free throw line on only 85 made free throws. Curry would have to improve 1.9 percentage points on his FG% and five percentage points on his FT%, make 40 more free throws, and maintain his other marks from last season to join the club. Challenge accepted.
Challenge: Lead the League in three-point percentage.
Challenges are made to be hard. Last season Matthews shot 36.3 percent from three, and the league leader, Kyle Korver, shot 45.1 percent from three Matthews would need to improve his mark by 8.9 percentage points.
Challenge: Be an All-Star.
There’s hard, and then there’s the Western Conference.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Challenge: Never back down from an All-Star.
Enough has been said about DSJ winning “Rookie of the Year,” so a less concrete challenge seemed fitting—especially at point guard in the Western Conference.
Every night, Smith Jr. will face another All-Star caliber player: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic... that’s 12 out of the 30 starting point guards in the League.
Some nights are going to be rough, but Smith Jr. cannot back down.
Challenge: Pass Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list.
Dirk needs 1160 points to pass Wilt and move into fifth all-time. The only seasons he hasn’t scored that many points have been times when he plays fewer than 55 games
- 1998-99: 47 Games (rookie year)
- 2012-13: 53 Games (knee)
- 2016-17: 54 Games (Achilles)
After surpassing 30,000 points last year, another milestone is exactly what this team will need at the end of this season.
Five shows a week Nick and Isaac will be discussing the latest Mavericks news and rumors. From inside the locker room, the Locked On Mavs Podcast is an all-access pass to what goes on with your Mavs and the rest of the NBA.
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(We just can’t let the Warriors win more things…)