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When will the rebuilding Mavericks free Johnathan Motley?

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Motley is limited to 45 days with the Mavs. How many does he have left and when will he join the team again?

Dallas Mavericks v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cavaliers, Spurs, Warriors, Rockets, and Pelicans are the only teams in the League that have a higher roster age average than the Dallas Mavericks (28.2). Dallas sits at 6th highest in the league. Even without Dirk Nowitzki’s outlier age of 39, the Mavs average age is still 27.4 which would only leave them tied with Oklahoma City for 7th oldest roster.

This season has been painted as a rebuilding season, but it’s hard to rebuild without pieces that will last. All season, the struggling Mavs have been moonlighting as a young team while only employing one truly young player: Dennis Smith Jr. is the only player on the Mavs roster under the age of 24 with a chance at getting some playing time. (RIP Nerlens Noel.)

There’s a big difference between inexperience and youth. The Mavericks have more of the former.

Harrison Barnes has a lot of experience and is relatively young for an NBA player but his timeline is about 6 years ahead of Smith Jr.’s. Yogi Ferrell and Maxi Kleber have found nice roles in the rotation but Ferrell is almost 25 years old and Maxi is going to turn 26 in about 10 days. Besides Smith Jr. and Noel, Ferrell is the youngest full-time player on the roster. If this rebuilding season is going to play out like last season (awful start, small improvement, elimination from playoffs, play young guys) then it’s hard to tell who else should start to get more playing time.

Rebuilding teams are normally young, the Lakers (6), Suns (5), Kings (5), and many other teams all have multiple players under the age of 23 that have played 20 or more games this season. The Mavs still only have one. Even most of the Mavs players on Two-Way Contracts have been 23 years of age or older: Gian Clavell (24), Kyle Collinsworth (25), Jalen Jones (24), Antonius Cleveland (23). Except for one…

Johnathan Landus Motley. The 6’10” big man from Baylor is a spritely 22 years old and went undrafted in the 2017 Draft. Some experts had him projected as high as a late first round pick. Just two days after the draft it was reported that the Mavericks signed Motley to a two-way contract.

Motley has played in 20 of the Texas Legends’ 26 games this season and is posting some of the best numbers in the whole G-League.

Motley Per Game Stats

Stats Per Game
Stats Per Game
Points 21.9
Rebounds 11.2
Off. Reb 3.9
Assists 1.9
Steals 1.2
Blocks 1.5
FG% 54%

His 21.9 points per game are the eighth most in the G-League; he’s also shooting the highest percentage of any player averaging 20+ points per game. His 11.2 rebounds per game are second most. And there are only seven other players averaging at least 1 steal and 1 block per game. By the way, of those eight players, four of them have spent time in prior seasons with NBA teams. (Bruno Coboclo, Christian Wood, Cleanthony Early, Derrick Jones Jr.)

Motley is racking up numbers every day, but he’s also receiving glowing reviews from his well respected head coach.

“Not only the numbers that he’s putting up, but he’s getting better at things that don’t show up on the stat sheet: his pick-and-roll defense, his understanding of where to be, weakside help situations, and being able to be more vocal on the court,” said the Texas Legends Head Coach Robert MacKinnon to Mavs.com. “Those are things that young players generally don’t come into the game with, and he’s getting better and better at it. We’ve been extremely happy with his progress, and hopefully the Mavs are, too.”

The highlights have been almost as impressive as the numbers.

On top of all that, Motley was selected 1st Team All-Showcase in the recent G-Leauge Showcase where he averaged 23.5 points, 16.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, and 3 steals per game.

Filling up the stat sheet? Check. Performing off the stat sheet? Check. Highlights? Check. Motley appears to be doing everything possible to earn time with the NBA club. So why has he only played two minutes in a Mavs jersey so far?

Initially, it seemed like the Mavericks were satisfied with keeping Motley in the G-League until the end of the season, but in early December the Mavericks posted this Highlight video trailer saying they were going to “Unleash the Mot” and he was called up to join the Mavs.

Officially, Motley has spent 9 days with the Mavericks and, again, only logged TWO MINUTES. Players on two-way contracts only have 45 days they can spend with their NBA Team over the course of a season. (That time also includes travel and practices days.) The eyebrow starts to raise when a rebuilding team in need of developing actual young talent brings up a player with limited availability and couldn’t find any minutes in six of the seven games he was active.

Johnathan Motley has 36 days remaining with the Mavericks for this season. Days “outside of the [G-League] season don’t count toward the 45 day maximum” and the Legends final game is on March 24th—17 days before the end of the Mavericks season. If the plan is for Motley to spend all of his two-way days at end the season, then he would start on February 17th—less than a month away.

Signs point to Motley remaining in the G-League until that date, then playing the final 24 games with the Mavericks. And the rebuilding Mavericks can’t afford to waste any more of his days.