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What If: 2017-18 Josh McRoberts can teach playmaking skills that the Mavericks desperately need

Oh yes, it’s McRoberts time

2017-18 Dallas Mavericks Media Day Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s note: There are a few new faces in the Dallas Mavericks front office. While there were no big splashes in their first free agency they did add a piece or two that should make an impact. But we can always ask for more. So we as a staff took some time to ask: if we could add any former Maverick from the post-title years to the 2021-22 Mavericks who would it be and why? I mean, what else are we supposed to do with this down time before training camp? Also it’s in Doyle’s contract to write about Josh McRoberts whenever he wants.

The Dallas Mavericks certainly don’t have a shortage of big men on the roster. Heading into the 2021-22 season, they carry six players listed at 6-foot-10 or taller—Moses Brown, Willie Cauley-Stein, Maxi Kleber, Boban Marjanovic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dwight Powell. They all bring something unique to the team, but something they’re all lacking is the ability to set up their teammates on offense.

Even though Luka Doncic is the team’s primary playmaker, having a big man that can pass the ball is a valuable commodity. Once upon a time, the Mavericks had one of the league’s best passing bigs. In his hayday, he shredded defenses with adroit dimes. Although injuries slowed him down by the time he landed in Dallas, 2017-18 Josh McRoberts’ court vision and veteran experience would be valuable on today’s Mavericks.

Where McRoberts would help

McRoberts only suited up for two games in his one season with Dallas, playing just six minutes before being waived in February. A string of foot injuries kept him on the sidelines. When he did play, however, it was glorious (to me). Transporting this version of McRoberts to the modern Mavs, given his on-court limitations may not make sense from a playing stand point, but under new head coach Jason Kidd, he could assume a role as a player/coach like Jared Dudley was with the Los Angeles Lakers last season.

At the peak of his career, McRoberts was an outstanding point forward for the Charlotte Bobcats. He averaged 4.3 assists per game during the 2013-14 season. He also averaged 8.5 points on 43.6 percent shooting from the floor and 36.1 percent from deep—a modern stretch-four. Even though his body betrayed him over the course of the next several years, his vision never waivered.

His role would therefore be to help Dallas’ big men study film and look for opportunities to find open teammates, whether they’re spotting up in the corners or cutting to the rim. The Mavericks’ bigs didn’t turn the ball over much last year—in the regular season or the playoffs—but the ability to get the ball out of their hands faster when a double-team comes can slice apart defenses, allowing Dallas to find a great shot.

Where McRoberts would need to improve

Obviously, being able to play basketball is important for professional basketball players. McRoberts of old proved that he was more than capable of playing at a high level, if underrated and overlooked. But his inability to stay healthy really curtailed his career. It’s why he only suited up for two games with Dallas in what would be the final year of his career.

To his credit, though, McRoberts worked hard to get back into game shape while with the Mavericks. Then head coach Rick Carlisle praised his work ethic, saying that he wore out the exercise bike on his way to recovery. Still, it wasn’t enough for him to stick around. But he made progress nonetheless.

“He came in coming off three fractured bones in his foot—in the same foot—and he’s walking out of here healthy, the healthiest he’s been in two years,” Carlisle said at the time. “So, that’s a big credit to him and the work that he’s put in and of course our training and medical staff.”

Perhaps if 2017-18 McRoberts had a bionic foot installed—anything is possible in 2021—he could have more impact on the floor.

Why McRoberts would be a great fit

There’s been a lot of vitriol and negativity directed at Kristaps Porzingis since he came to Dallas. Through it all, he’s remained steadfast and dedicated to his work. McRoberts never had the same profile as Porzingis, but he knows what it’s like to play through multiple injuries. Even though his final version may not see playing time, McRoberts’ veteran mentorship would go a long way, not just with Porzingis but with all the other bigs on the roster.

Injuries may have cut McRoberts’ career short, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t contribute today. His experience and court vision is exactly what the Mavericks need on the bench as he can help develop the playmaking skills of players up and down the roster. That is exactly what the Mavericks need in order to take the ball out of Doncic’s hands for a few additional plays per game.