Theo Pinson was one of the Dallas Mavericks’ most important players in the postseason, and he wasn’t even on the roster. The fourth-year guard out of North Carolina was just about out of the NBA when the Mavericks signed him to a two-way contract in January of 2022. Pinson was just an afterthought at the time, just another body to help absorb minutes after an outbreak of Covid-19 left the roster decimated.
Pinson didn’t see much time on the court, only appearing in 19 games, but he became instrumental in the Mavericks’ run to the Western Conference Finals by keeping spirits high from the bench.
“Theo has been our MVP,” head coach Jason Kidd told our own Luke Askew last season. “His spirit, what he’s done... he doesn’t play a lot, but he’s into the game. And we didn’t have that. That’s been a big part of our success internally. We needed someone to talk, and he’s doing it for 60 minutes because he’s talking in the locker room before the game, and then he’s talking after.”
Pinson only averaged 2.5 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game last season. Even though his impact goes beyond the court, he’s got to improve on those numbers this season to stick around Dallas. Fortunately, he’ll get his chance.
Can Pinson be a playmaker for the bench unit? The Mavericks need ball handler depth with the departure of Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks. Maybe Pinson can fill that void. His assist percentage in 2021-22 was only 15.9%. That’s not great, but he wasn’t exactly in a role to distribute, either. In college, Pinson averaged 5.1 assists per game his senior year. Maybe he can tap into that ability this season. The Mavericks don’t need him to be Chris Paul lite, just serviceable.
Best case scenario
Ideally, Pinson comes off the bench to score and distribute a little for the Mavericks’ bench unit. They don’t need much from him, simply 5-10 minutes per game of solid basketball. If he adds a consistent 3-point shot (33% last season), that would be even better. Pinson becoming more than just a body at the end of the bench, while still curating chemistry within the locker room would make him a huge addition to the roster.
Worst case scenario
There’s a timeline where Pinson can’t stay on the court due to defensive liabilities and an inability to hit shots. Maybe the offense just doesn’t click for him, and with a new season and a couple new faces, his impact on the Mavericks’ culture just isn’t as strong. It’s unlikely, but always possible. Team chemistry is such a odd thing, and easy to tip out of balance.
For Pinson, the goal is simple—play in 50-60 games this season while averaging around 10 minutes per game. If he does that, it’ll mean he’s been able to stay afloat defensively while contributing a bit on offense off the bench. Having a solid young player on the roster is something the Mavericks desperately need, simply for asset reasons.
No one expected Pinson to be such a valuable player for the Mavericks last season, especially in a playoff run where he technically wasn’t even on the roster. This year, there will be some expectations. He’s no longer on a two-way contract, and the Mavericks need a young guard to step up and contribute off the bench. Hopefully Pinson can thrive in that role.