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Mavs Mailbag: let’s all practice some patience

It’s been an up and down two weeks of the season. It’s time to take a breath and see where we’re at.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

@iii_bankhead: 1) The 26 point meltdown in ATL was bad. Do you put blame on not having certain vets on the court, i.e. Harrison Barnes? Or, am I gonna have to see this all year? 2) Any info about whether we will be in the trade market this year, specifically the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes?

I don’t know that an absence of vets (like Barnes, or even Devin Harris and Dirk Nowitzki) is the main reason the Mavs have had some bad showings. The truth is, most of this roster is unchanged from last season. So while the stated goal for them has been playoffs, and they made some additions to the starting lineup...there’s still going to be a lot of ugly nights. Once Barnes is back to full game condition though, I think he’ll provide an option for getting a bucket when the team is in a drought. And can be a calming-level headed presence on the floor. As for Butler, no I don’t see that happening. The Mavericks will only make moves midseason if they think they can make a playoff push. Otherwise, they’re aiming for next summer.

@ArthursPudel: How is my take? This year should be all about developing Luka and Dennis and getting picks for the rest of the squad including keeping our own protected pick. I think this take will age well in the next weeks...

I think giving Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. time to develop together is a great idea. And should still be the primary focus of this season. But Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson aren’t shipping off the rest of the roster for young assets and picks. They don’t have the patience or desire to do so. Whether that’s short-sighted or not, the public can be the judge. But their intention is to build off what’s in place, and add players that will make them competitive now. I don’t think there’s any interest in taking steps back.

@TheTjMullins16: Is DSJ ever going to be a good shooter? Or should I just let that ship sail?

I guess you’ll have to define what the threshold will be to consider him a “good shooter”. Can he improve? I believe he absolutely can. Is he going to be a knockdown shooter from the outside? Probably not. But he just needs to do enough to make defenses honest. It will open up a lot of the floor for him when he does.

More than anything, DSJ needs to be better at the kinds of shots he takes: less pull-ups from three, fewer 18 foot two-pointers, and improved decision making in the lane. If he can shore some of that up, his efficiency is going to look a lot nicer. We saw that he can get hot just the other night against Utah (a stout defense in the league). But I can’t emphasize this enough: IT WILL TAKE TIME. Everyone needs to practice patience instead jumping ship on a nice young player.

@KlevisQeleshi: With Barnes back, what your true expectations about this team, and do you think the DSJ-Doncic duo is going to work in the future?

@rferree0: How much better are we going to get when Barnes comes back?

We’re going to combine these two questions in to one answer. Barnes is going to need time to get in to game shape, and then that might give us a clearer picture. Unfortunately, the Mavs don’t really have that kind of time in a stout conference. He gives them a reliable scorer, a solid defender, a versatile positional player, and some quiet leadership. But depth problems on the wings is still a major issue. And the Mavericks will still be asking a 19 and 20 year old to be the core of a team all season. So take expectations as you will. For me, that still adds up to around 35 wins, and like, 11th in the West.

And while it should take time, the DSJ-Doncic duo is workable. It’s going to require Smith to adjust some of what he does offensively. But they compliment each other in some fun ways that I don’t even think we’ve seen early in the season. Much like other questions above, it’s just going to take time and patience. And may require finding some other players that compliment their games a little better.

@MoonieGT: Anyone surprised how as a rookie Luka is getting foul calls? At least more than DSJ got as a rookie...

Doncic currently has a .297 free throw rate, which puts him seventh among rookies playing at least 15 minutes per game. You can tell he has experience at the pro level in areas like this, knowing how to leverage his body and force the ref to make the call. DSJ has obviously had issue with this, and doesn’t look to be improving much early this season. Hopefully that trends in a better direction.

**Winning Question of the Week:

@YaBoyStevieP: Which player’s development have y’all been more impressed with: Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, or Dorian Finney-Smith?

With the very up and down results in the early part of this season for the team as a whole, it’s nice to consider questions like this because there have been some bright spots for the Mavericks. All three of these players have played integral parts in the first two weeks. The growth Dwight Powell has shown since he arrived in Dallas is pretty staggering. Some of that is the Mavs finally focusing Powell’s role in to a few core tools, rather than making him something he’s not. But Powell has become pretty elite in a few key areas off the bench.

Dorian Finney-Smith has had a really nice bounce back from his injury riddled second season. Until this season he hasn’t had a three point shot at all, and it looks like he might be turning a corner there. His numbers dipped because of a bad shooting night in Atlanta, but he certainly looks more comfortable, and limits mistakes. And as of now, he’s the Mavs best perimeter defender.

Maxi Kleber has probably been the best surprise this season. He may turn in to the player the Mavs were trying to mold Powell in to. His three point shot looks great, and his defensive instincts and athleticism is badly needed. I don’t think there’s a wrong answer here. All three have been solid early.