Have you ever worn a jacket or pair of jeans from the back of the closet and discovered a $20 bill hiding in a pocket? That’s found money and it's a fantastic feeling. That’s exactly what the Dallas Mavericks need this season.
Can the Mavericks have a solid season with their top 8 rotation players? Theoretically, yes. However, sources of untapped - or even unexpected - potential from players already on the roster or invited to camp can raise the potential of this team well above its already sturdy floor.
The draft is the books, free agents have their new homes - so while there will be tons of trade talk in the months ahead, let’s rummage through the proverbial couch cushions looking for coins.
Luka’s Hook Shot
Training camp is giving us a glimpse at Luka’s new toy - a hook shot.
Granted this doesn’t appear to be Kareem’s legendary sky hook - but it doesn’t need to be. If Luka can use this shot as a change-up pitch in the lane, it's going to be a lot of fun to watch...unless you are guarding him. If opposing scouts see a few of these sweet hooks go down, it will give defenders on the Mavericks’ schedule one more wrinkle to account for.
Keep an eye on Luka’s comfort level with this shot. Is he only using it only when it will be largely uncontested or as a late shot-clock/quality defender escape valve? Is he using it inside of 5 feet or will he start to expand its use to the 5 to 10-foot range? Last year Doncic’s midrange shots only accounted for 8.8% of his scoring per 100 possessions. If Luka can edge his midrange efficiency up closer to how deadly he is close to the basket, those MVP chants will only get louder.
If you’ve never heard of Tyler Dorsey before the Mavericks signed him, you’re forgiven.
Now 26, Tyler spent the summer as something of a literal wingman for Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Greece national team. In the opener against Croatia, Dorsey dropped 27 points - including 18 points in the first 13 minutes of the game. In the second game against Italy, he caught fire from deep going 6 of 10 from behind the arc and finishing with 23 points.
Drafted 41st overall in 2017 by the Hawks, Dorsey’s NBA experience is minimal to this point - just barely over 100 games in parts of three seasons. So why did the Dallas front office see in Dorsey as worthy of a two-way contract? Quite simply, the potential for instant scoring off the bench if he proves to be an on-demand flamethrower.
Through two preseason games, Dorsey’s shot looks a bit shaky but that’s a small sample size. If he plays well with the Legends, expect him to serve as depth should the need arise.
Josh Green, playmaker
Through two preseason games, we have seen some of the 2022 version but the new and improved Josh Green has always had flashes. The Mavs need the preseason hype to be real and translate into valuable minutes spelling Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock off the bench. Those two played way too many minutes down the stretch last season as the Mavs jockeyed for playoff positioning. By the time the Warriors series was underway, the lack of a reliable third wing option was painfully apparent.
While Christian Wood is the biggest ceiling raiser on the Mavericks roster, Josh Green is a close second. He has an opportunity to re-contextualize the 2020 draft if he can become a reliable 9th or 10th man off the Mavericks bench. The first ten games will tell us rather quickly if his offseason work with Kyle Lowry has transformed his game with an infusion of confidence and upgraded decision-making.
If Green’s shot and overall offense game blossoms to match his defensive prowess, teams will no longer be able to sag off of him and/or use their center/greatest defensive liability on him without receiving a dose of payback from the young Australian.
While Green is (officially) on the shortlist for backup playmaker minutes, his best function is as a secondary creator later in the shot clock - not as a pick-and-roll triggerman. Can Green show more poise when the outcome of a given possession is up to him? Will he take an open shot with resolve after he missed the last two or three?
The Mavericks need this to happen so it might seem like a stretch to call this one unexpected but it certainly is untapped potential. Count me as bullish on Green in what will be the age equivalence of a senior college season.
McKinley Wright IV
Wright averaged 14.2 points on 46.7% shooting, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game during his four-year career at Colorado. After going unselected in the 2021 draft, Wright latched on with Minnesota on a two-way deal last season but barely saw any action in just three NBA games. The majority of his time was spent with the G League Iowa Wolves - including a 25 point/15 assist effort. He had a very nice 10 assist, zero turnover outing in the first preseason game against the Thunder.
A distant long shot to make the Mavericks' actual roster, Wright offers something unique among non-roster camp invitees - a penchant for being a facilitator. At just shy of 6 feet tall, he doesn’t fit the mold of big guards the team seems to prefer, but an exception could be made if he impresses the Mavs’ brain trust over the next ten days.
Can the Dallas Mavericks training camp invitee with the most presidential-sounding name show enough in training camp and preseason to secure the remaining two-way contract slot?
Most NBA fans now know the name Theo Pinson for this play and others like it as the leader of the Dallas “bench mob” last season.
Pinson has been lauded as a locker room culture bulwark yet there is reason to hope he can be more on the court than a designated trash talker.
Pinson showed flourishes of playmaking ability at UNC. In his senior season, he became the first Tar Heel and the eighth player in ACC history ever to average at least 10 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a season.
As he enters his fifth NBA campaign, Theo doesn’t have to worry about the two-way player shuttle back and forth to the Legends. However, he does have to capitalize on his minutes whenever they materialize. His performance early in the season can make the difference between the front office deciding Pinson is a key bench piece versus expandable trade fodder. On a team thirsty for ball-handler options, showing that he can help run the offense in blowout scenarios may well embolden the coaching staff to find more minutes for Pinson.