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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks visit the Kings

This may be a professional tank-off, but there’s still plenty to watch as Dallas travels to the West Coast.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (22-51) head west to take on the Sacramento Kings (24-50), the first game of a California back-to-back. The Kings, 6-7 in the month of March, sit at seventh in the reverse standings. The Mavericks, losers of five straight (3-8 in March), sit at fourth in a tie with the Orlando Magic.

With fewer than ten games left this season, outside of draft positioning, these last two weeks are all about finding some momentum for the young players on the roster and making decisions on players on the bench.

Harrison Barnes is shooting from far away

Recently HarryB has been given the green light to shoot from deep. Already this season Barnes has bumped up his attempts from three, averaging just over four attempts per game, the highest of his career.

Carlisle has spoken recently about an effort to get Barnes more time at the small forward position — perhaps foreshadowing the Mavericks’ thoughts on acquiring a four through the draft or in free agency — and with that move, it means more time on the perimeter offensively. Some of this is possible because of the addition of Doug McDermott, who is similar in size and can play both forward positions, and the return of Dorian Finney-Smith. Either way, the Mavericks want Barnes re-acclimating himself to the small forward position, and with that, shooting from long range.

Harrison Barnes has responded positively. He’s made it known in the past that he likes playing the three, and it’s clear he’s comfortable there. And in March, his shooting numbers are showing signs. Over the month, Barnes has shot a solid 18-of-43 (42 percent) from deep, and gone 11-of-21 over his last three games, a scorching 52 percent. Expect Barnes to continue shooting. Hopefully he’s finding rhythm to build on.

DSJ finishing strong

Count Dennis Smith Jr. as another guy posting positive numbers late in the season. His advanced shooting stats still don’t look great, and that’s fine, no cause for major panic. But it’s nice to see he’s fought through some of the rookie slump in February to produce near the end of his rookie campaign.

Over his last ten games, DSJ is averaging 18.5 points and 5.3 assists, which includes a rough return from injury against Houston where he scored four points on 2-of-12 shooting. As he concludes his first pro year, Smith Jr. is seeing a slight bump in production. It’s a reassuring sign, especially when you see fellow rookies like Lonzo Ball having a tough time as of late (averaging seven points per game over the last seven games).

Over the last nine games, Dallas plays five teams with losing records. Look for DSJ to continuing building momentum toward the offseason.

RFA Decisions looming

Regardless of Cuban’s public statements about not tanking after this season, this was always going to be a major summer for the Mavericks. They are one of a handful of teams with major cap space at a time where most franchises are handcuffed by contracts from two years ago. They will also have a top-ten draft pick and plenty of options to fully enter the next era of Mavericks basketball. A significant part of that process looks to be restricted free agency.

Even before the Mavericks sit down and make decisions on whether to pursue the oft named Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker or Clint Capela (all restricted free agents, and 75 percent of them likely to stay put), the Mavs have two important restricted free agents of their own to decide on: Yogi Ferrell and Doug McDermott. Both players are most likely settling in to career bench roles, but each has the tools to be key pieces for competitive teams in the future. Expect attention for them on the open market.

Yogi is showcasing well lately, averaging 14 points per game over the last 10 days with an expanded role this month. And as for Dougie McBuckets, all he’s done is shoot a blistering 54 percent from three since joining the Mavericks, with a true shooting percentage of 63 percent (good for 13th in the league over the course of a full season). Eighteen games is a small sample size, but it’s clear he plays well with the Mavericks. These two are the sort of players rebuilding teams need to lock in to take the next step toward being competitive. Expect them to be major factors this summer, as the Mavs close out the year.

How to Watch

Tip is set for 9:00pm Central and can be watched on FSSW, the FoxSportsGo app, or NBALeague Pass.