clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Slacking Off Episode 4: Found money in the couch cushions

Without Injuries, is Exum in the Rotation?

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Brent Brooks: The day after New Year’s feels like the right time for a new episode of Slacking Off. No shortage of ground to cover as David Trink and I welcome our colleague Matt Martinez for an off-the-cuff discussion of the Mavs, the NBA, and anything else that bubbles up. Welcome Matt!

Matt: How’s it going my guys, ready to talk Mavs, despite missing the last game. I’m kind of glad I did.

Brent: Before we talk about the trainwreck in Utah and the Xmas present in Phoenix, we have to address the elephant in the room. David, how did the MMB Fantasy Football league see a team back into the playoffs at 7-7 and then go on a rather historic, improbable run for the ages?

David: I don’t know, but I also don’t know how it wasn’t me.

Brent: I still can’t believe I pulled it off. Goes to show you that anything is possible when the games are played out despite going up against juggernauts on paper. Speaking of the improbable. Can we expect Simone Fontecchio to make an All-Star appearance this season?

David: If you can successfully predict which role player will go off against Dallas, you’d be a rich man.

Matt: The Mavs have the knack for turning the opposing team’s end of the bench into a 30-point monster, don’t they? Who else has Dallas offered that service to so far this season? Trying to remember. Naz Reid.

Brent: Fontecchio was fun to watch in the World Cup so I am a little less bewildered than I otherwise would be. I think this was a case of NYE celebration fatigue and the end of a road trip. That is the charitable read on the effort level.

Rewind a game before and the Mavs looked incredible against Golden State. Not to mention the elation from destroying Phoenix has not faded an ounce. This upcoming homestand is a chance to string some wins together and get a real read on the team. What will we know by the end of it?

David: Is there anything else to know? I feel like this team has a pretty cut-and-dry ceiling and floor.

Matt: We are getting to that point, for sure. 34 games in, the Mavericks seem to have taken one solitary incremental step forward from last year to this year, which isn’t bad. It’s what a lot of us thought would happen when we were putting together those pre-season prediction-type pieces for MMB.

Brent: David, you say the ceiling and floor are well-defined, can you expound on what those are for our readers?

David: Well firstly, let me clarify I am talking about this team when healthy. The floor is Luka, it’s a good team with a top-two player and someone that will give any team problems in a playoff series. Their ceiling is a team that can win a playoff series and from there, who knows what will happen. A lot of luck is involved in the playoffs. I don’t think anything other than a roster change will affect this.

Brent: There has been a lot of speculation after the OG Anunoby trade that Pascal Siakam is the next domino to fall. This might happen but it would not surprise me to see him resign in Toronto. The league has had several cautionary tales play out that title and money chasing does not always bring the happiness or legacy boosts that they are expected to at the onset. What do you think happens with Siakam and is all this buzz justified?

David: I don’t think anything happens with the Mavericks. They just have such horrid assets that they can’t afford him.

Brent: Is that true or are we too close to the team to properly assess the value? If a mock trade matching the eventual Irving deal last year was floated, wouldn’t there be a large contingent of Mavs fans saying there is no way Brooklyn would take it?

Matt: I agree with David on Siakam. I think he gets moved before the deadline, but I doubt it’ll be in a deal with Dallas. I feel like what Atlanta and Indiana can package for Siakam is better than what the Mavs can. Maybe Sacramento, too. Now, maybe not all four are going to be “in” on wanting to one-up one another, and I think the Mavs may bow out first. But on David’s side of the argument, I believe there are whispers out there that Toronto is “open” to moving Siakam, but they’d need to be floored by the package offered for him.

Last year’s Irving trade is an interesting comp here. It seems like that was a deal the Mavs were able to get done because Kai was something of a distressed asset. Don’t know if the Mavs can get there for a dude without the kind of well-publicized baggage Irving came with.

David: Considering what Toronto just got for OG Anunoby, I have to think the package for Siakam will be much larger. Don’t know how Dallas gets in on that right now.

Brent: Is there a lower-tier trade target you feel might be a sneaky good fit for Dallas that they may be able to swing for or is this offseason when the big move goes down and the fridge is not seeing any new groceries till then? A name that I saw some speculation on just demolished the Mavs - Jarrett Allen.

David: He’d be amazing, but not sure how we would get him nor if Dallas wants to move Lively to the bench.

Matt: The name I was thinking about looking into, seeing what real reporting was out there on his trade prospects, is PJ Washington. In the next few days, I hope to do some rummaging to see if there is any there, maybe write or aggregate something on the possibilities.

David: Andre Drummond would be a funny acquisition, considering the history of fans wanting him. This time, however, I think he’d be a great backup here.

Brent: Another interesting name is Alex Caruso given where the Bulls are right now. Maybe paired with Drummond?

David: Again, I’m not sure the Mavericks can get both.

Matt: People keep saying wing. Isn’t inside a bigger deficiency the Mavs need to correct right now?

David: I think their biggest problem is at backup big, yes.

Brent: When you look at the on-off numbers for Lively, it sure feels that way but the other side of that coin is how little they are getting from the 4 spot in the lineup overall - Grant Williams cooled off after a hot start, and is now coming off the bench. Jones Jr is more of a three but Kidd doesn’t have a true alternative at the power forward spot with Kleber out. Speaking of backup bigs - Why was Richaun Holmes written off as fast as JaVale McGee - is he as bad as the lack of minutes would indicate?

Matt: He has had a couple of moments, but I don’t know how to analyze it when he can’t get consistent minutes. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t have ANY problem giving a few of Dwight Powell’s minutes to Holmes. It’s something I’d at least like Kidd to suss out, but he doesn’t seem keen to.

Brent: The real reason I ask is this. A quick thought experiment.

Imagine Josh Green and Kyrie Irving have remained healthy all season. Would Dante Exum have been given the same chance to prove his value with meaningful minutes every game for an extended period without those injuries? I realize no team has a 13-man regular season rotation but it seems as though Kidd locks in on a rotation to start the year and is often informed on what he is missing out on simply by having his hand forced by injuries. The same thing happened last year with Christian Wood - and while Exum is a better player, the dynamic has been largely the same in how they came to receive a larger role.

And if your answer is no, Exum would still be a 10 or 11th man on the bench if everyone had remained healthy - how do we know what Holmes getting 15 minutes a night would mean if it is never tried before he is shipped out or the season ends? I don’t know that he would be better than Powell but I have seen enough to know it couldn’t hurt.

Matt: I don’t see how Exum could have been anything BUT 10th or 11th in the rotation if Irving and Green were playing every night — your point is well taken. Exum getting worked into that theoretical lineup is WAY more out of left field than saying, “You know what Dwight, we’re going to see what Holmes can give us tonight,” based on what Powell has or hasn’t given us so far this year.

David: There’s also a lot in practice and such that we don’t see, but I have to say I think Holmes would give better minutes than Powell.

Brent: On the plus side, Exum is like found money. It is fun to watch his decisiveness and movement style of play.

Matt: Heck of a redemption story. There and Back Again, the Dante Exum Story.

Brent: His story and how the year is playing out for him make me think about how often lottery picks are the equivalent of college sophomores and juniors. Watch enough college ball and doesn’t take long to see the chasm between the college game and the NBA. Yet, that development Exum received playing overseas probably wasn’t happening in his first merry-go-round through the league. He was able to develop his shot, and his playmaking and become a very confident player. It makes me wonder how many draft busts simply needed to stay in college all four years to have the best chance to succeed.

Matt: Jalen Brunson, anyone?

David: It’s probably a good amount. Just look at Jalen Brunson, not sure his career would be the same if he had come out early. Same wavelength Matt.

Brent: How is it gonna feel to see Jalen go to his first All-Star game? Bittersweet for sure.

David: He belongs in New York. I have no hard feelings.

Matt: I wouldn’t say I have hard feelings either, but ... I would have loved to have made that work here. I guess it was always going to go down a certain way. He is just so good.

Brent: None here either. I simply believe that overcoming his departure during Luka’s contract became and remains the central question of Maverick basketball. Nico and his team had a great offseason but they have to keep up the good decisions to recover from a disastrous one that was made before they got here.

David: Definitely. If you believe in a soul-team for a player though, Brunson just feels like a Knick. Back to the point about staying longer in college, I think Josh Green could have benefited from that. Or maybe it’s me that would benefit because Dallas wouldn’t have drafted him.

Brent: We have talked about this before David. Success is not always winning a championship but instead tethering good decisions to create windows. Just returning to the playoffs and having young sources of optimism on the roster is a great season outcome given the previous year’s reality check. And yes, I agree on Josh Green - if he had stayed all four years...this would be his rookie season. Something to think about.

Matt: Yeah, that’s right.

David: This is me realizing Josh Green was a one-and-done. That’s baffling.

Brent: Matt and David - what is bringing you each the most joy watching the Mavs right now?

David: Got to be Luka Doncic and Dereck Lively. Luka is all-time great and Lively has been so good and fun to watch. I enjoy watching them play.

Matt: That pick-and-roll set between them was immediately awesome, from the first game of the season. One of basketball’s simplest staple plays can be so joyful when it’s executed the way those two do. Really, it’s all predicated on Luka being a magician, but when they hit on the lob once or twice, then defenses adjust to that, so Luka goes one trick further in his bag. And by the fourth quarter, he’s on trick No. 5, and it’s just amazing to watch.

David: Having a pick-and-roll partner who can’t be attacked on the other end is so important.

Matt: Honorable mention on the joy front to Dante Exum, for sure.

Brent: And if you will recall the post-draft chatter on Lively was how he might not be ready for screen setting at the NBA level. His work ethic has shined through because his success this season is not all talent - you can truly tell he soaks up what he is being taught like a sponge. Luka said “he listens to me” and the way he said it spoke volumes both about Lively and maybe how there have been times when Luka’s frustration could be tied in part to not being listened to.

David: It’s amazing to see, I’m glad I was wrong about him.

Matt: You can tell Luka has stepped up in terms of leadership this year. He’s always been a superstar, compelling to watch, and all that. If he can command his troops like 75% as well as the greats we’re starting to say his name alongside because of his gaudy stats, man. That’s when he’ll be recognized as the best player in the NBA. (okay a title wouldn’t hurt, either).

Brent: Here’s my source of joy on top of what we have already mentioned - Derrick Jones Jr. Here is a guy best known before this year for his dunk contest performance and someone who struggled to carve out a core role consistently. I give Jason Kidd all the credit in the world for starting him over Josh Green right off the bat this year. Jones is a player I hope Nico can keep beyond this year. His 3P shot has been a very pleasant surprise and his defense is a notch or two above peak Bullock in terms of on-ball deterrence.

Matt: Those hops. That’s joy right there.

David: I agree. The Mavericks have a lot to be joyful about this year despite what X might have you think.

Brent: We could chat for another hour about the toxicity of social media. Giving everyone in the world a megaphone sounds great on paper and then it happens. As our resident optimistic curmudgeon, I am writing something soon that touches on that. But it seems like I have gone from a youngster to an old man wishing for the way the world was in a flash.

Matt: I am an old man yelling at clouds sometimes, which then sometimes makes me over-correct. Like how I wanted to be optimistic heading into yesterday’s game at Utah.

Brent: David is younger than us Matt but I already sense he has yelled at a few clouds already.

David: Plenty, I grew up online. I’m always yelling at clouds.

Brent: Let’s wrap up with one recommendation. What is a movie or TV show you’d suggest is worth checking out?

Matt: Primo on Prime Video, Rolling Stone recently called its first season one of the year’s best. It’s the first show from Shea Serrano, a noted Spurs fan. It’s set in San Antonio about a Latino family where the protagonist’s five uncles are heavily featured. Very funny. Lots of good vibes.

David: I am personally going to watch the Percy Jackson series. I read the books as a kid and have heard it’s good.

Matt: What’s your rec, Brent?

Brent: Believe it or not, it is a basketball movie. The First Slam Dunk is an anime that was listed as the number-one film of the year by Chris Stuckmann which had me seeking it out. Not the easiest find from a streaming standpoint and I hope that changes soon so more people can enjoy it. It was amazing.

Matt: Heck yes! I just got into One Piece after the Netflix live-action version came out, speaking of anime.

Brent: Saw The Boy and The Heron in the theater. Pure Genius. Just wish they had kept the original title - How Do You Live? Thanks for sitting in for this chat Matt. A pleasure as always David. and...Go Mavs!

Matt: Absolutely, y’all be good!

David: Thanks Brent! Thanks Matt!