The Mavericks last played just over 21 weeks ago, but who’s counting? (Me.) We survived an entire summer, and training camp is just around the corner. But before we start pulling apart camp news, preseason games, and the oh-so-close regular season, let’s look back on the winners and losers from the Dallas Mavericks offseason.
Winner: The Mavericks and Dennis Smith Jr.
There were arguments for 10 or 11 high quality lottery talent players in this year’s draft. With Dallas sitting at ninth on draft night, they actually weren’t going to have much choice from that group. Especially at the point guard position. So when Dennis Smith Jr. fell to them at ninth, it felt a little bit like luck. Or destiny.
Yes, the Mavericks still could have screwed up the pick, or traded it away. But early indications are that the Mavs-DSJ relationship has a lot of home run potential. Of the rebuilding teams, there isn’t a better organization to pair with DSJ. With what looks to be the point guard of the future on the roster, the Mavericks may finally have a core building block for the next era of the franchise.
Winner: Doyle Rader’s McRoberts Fan Club
Early in free agency the Mavericks made a move, trading A.J. Hammons for Josh McRoberts and a pick. Not exactly the splashiest of summer moves. But for the “One Man Josh McRoberts Fan Club” Doyle Rader, it was an early birthday present. Doyle has a history of championing McBob, like a single brightly lit candle in a dark barren wasteland. Hey, sometimes you love who you love. Who’s to say if McRoberts will ever be healthy, or ever see playing time with the Mavs. But at least we can be happy for Doyle.
Loser: The Ding Fan Club
Unfortunately for the Ding Fan Club things will have to be put on hold. Ding Yanyuhang joined both Mavericks Summer League squads, and he came in with some anticipation, having just won Domestic MVP in the Chinese Basketball Association. But for those outside the Mavericks’ sphere, he came out of nowhere. For anyone watching the Vegas Summer League it was clear that he was a fan favorite. He definitely wasn’t ready to make the Mavs 15-man roster, but there’s no doubt he has some potential. And Mark Cuban isn’t against opening up avenues to new fan bases and revenue streams (we’re looking at you, Satnam!). He won’t be in Dallas this season. But at least we had this summer together, Ding.
Winner: Summer League Mavs
Speaking of summer league! The Mavericks participated in both the Orlando and Las Vegas leagues, and it was a blast. They won the Orlando league, going undefeated, and made a deep run in Vegas (only losing once, to the Lakers). We got to see Dennis Smith Jr. in action (which was everything we wanted) with a couple of the other young guns in the organization.
Summer League in general has certainly grown in its popularity and spectacle, but the Mavericks have rarely been part of the hype. Having players like Yogi Ferrell, Brandon Ashley, Johnathan Motley and Dorian Finney-Smith out there competing with DSJ had a lot of us excited.
Winner/Loser: The Lovers/Haters of plan powder
(Secret Winner: Mark Cuban’s checkbook)
The Mavericks warned us it would be a quiet free agency. I’m not sure if any of us thought it would be this quiet. In many ways it was great. Too often the Mavericks either spent a lot of money grabbing older players to fill the roster, or have swung for the fences and missed. But ultimately, this summer will eventually be judged by whatever happens with Nerlens Noel, and what sort of success they have next summer in free agency.
For those that like the idea of the front office hoarding cap space for some major spending next summer, this was the summer of your lives. But for others who feel like this might just be another track on a broken record titled Plan Powder, this could end up being another nightmare.
With a lack of activity (and never having to spend big on a certain young center) the secret winner of this summer was Mark Cuban’s checkbook. But he better start warming up his pen now for next July.
Winner: Dennis Smith Jr. and Under Armour
Following a common thread throughout the offseason, Dennis Smith Jr. “bet on himself” and waited to sign any deal with a shoe company until after summer league. And it paid off. Early reports suggest that he was initially being offered deals for under a million per year to rep a certain brand - but after proving himself this summer Under Armour came calling, offering a reported 3-year, $6 million contract.
I’ll be honest and say I’ve never put on a pair of UA basketball shoes, and have never loved how they look. But from a business standpoint Smith Jr. looks to have made a great decision. According to nbashoesdb.com, the list of players with Under Armour is pretty small. And none of them possess the high flying ability DSJ does. If he continues to grow, there’s plenty of shoe potential for DSJ. Oh also, here’s Smith Jr. dunking over Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank:
Winner: The people of Wurzburg
Maybe it’s because he’s a relative unknown. Maybe it’s because it was the summer of DSJ and Noel. For whatever reason, the signing of Wurzburg native Maxi Kleber flew under the radar. There’s some around the organization that feel Kleber can come in and contribute, which is a bonus. But the story of a young player coming from the same town as living legend Dirk Nowitzki and signing with his team toward the end of Dirk’s career is pretty great. Kleber was five years old when Dirk entered the league. FIVE. I’m all about this.
Loser: Whoever has to replace rims at opposing arenas
This is a bit premature, I know. But I don’t envy any equipment manager or facilities worker that’s tasked with replacing all the rims that Dennis Smith Jr. is about to destroy this season. The best part of Mavs twitter has been seeing DSJ pop up in all sorts of gyms putting on private dunk contests. We’ve done our best to share them when we see them, but here’s a better compilation:
Dennis Smith Jr. has crazy bounce pic.twitter.com/MGC9EwZ8Ic— HoopMixtape (@HoopMixOnly) September 1, 2017
Winner: Basketball buddies
(Secret Winner: Harrison Barnes’ wedding)
If ever there was a TV writer looking to make a basketball-based sitcom (I don’t know why they’d want to do that) I’d like to see dry, cranky, stone-faced Rick Carlisle on it. And this summer I think we saw some potential co-stars in young Mavs Dennis Smith Jr. and Nerlens Noel. In what might be the most underrated clip of the summer we got this during summer league:
Not to be outdone, we got this gem from Dallas Morning News reporter Brad Townsend:
The secret winner of this summer might be Harrison Barnes’ wedding (congrats HB!). Not only did we get Steph Curry doing the LeBron dance, but we also have stories of Carlisle (who was MC, and played piano) calling out Ronnie2K of NBA2K about player ratings, in a room full of players. If Carlisle doesn’t get his sitcom, maybe he should just go on tour. Long live the summer of Fun Rick!
Winner/Loser/TBD: The Mavericks and Nerlens Noel
(Secret Loser: Anyone representing a restricted free agent)
Outside of Dennis Smith Jr., this is what the summer comes down to. It’s been dissected and debated plenty over the last couple of weeks. It was a tough market for restricted free agents this summer, no doubt. But the bottom line is that a deal needed to get done, and both sides are to blame for the fact that it didn’t. The Mavericks look to be in a solid spot right now – listening to Mark Cuban (who was pretty candid on the radio earlier in the week), it seems like things are good entering training camp. But the true verdict on this is yet to be determined.