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Johnathan Motley showed promise in limited time this season

The Mavericks big man had some bright moments towards the end of the season that showed us what he’s capable of.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back

After signing Johnathan Motley to a two-way contract last summer, the Dallas Mavericks watched the undrafted big man from Baylor put in work for the Texas Legends for the majority of this season. In Frisco, Motley averaged 22.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in a little over 32 minutes per game. He also shot 56.6-percent from the field. Those numbers were impressive enough to get him selected to the All-NBA G-League Second Team.

Because two-way contract players can’t spend more than 45 days with their NBA teams, we only got a small sample of what Motley could do in the big league. In 11 games played for Dallas, Motley put up 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, shooting 53.3-percent from the field. In his four games as a starter, Motley averaged 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in nearly 32 minutes per game, including an impressive 26-point, 12-rebound performance against Andre Drummond, who is considered one of the elite centers in the league.

In that same game against the Detroit Pistons, the Mavs found themselves down by three points with the clock winding down. Motley hit a three to tie the game, showing that he has a nice stroke from deep, as well as a little bit of ice in his veins.

This wasn't the first time Motley hit a clutch shot against the Pistons. Last summer, Motley hit a last-second shot to beat Detroit, winning the Orlando Summer League championship for the Mavs.

Obviously, we shouldn’t jump to any unrealistic conclusions about Motley’s potential just because he had some good performances at the tail end of a lost season, but it was nice to see a small sample of what the guy is capable of, given an opportunity. It’s also nice to know that he has no problem hitting big shots in pressure situations.

Contract status

As mentioned above, Motley is currently on a two-way contract with the Mavs. Unless the Mavs decide to sign him to a new deal this summer, next year will be very similar to this one, with Motley spending the majority of his time in the G-League with the Legends. However, after next season, the Mavs will have to make a firm decision on whether they want to keep Motley around or not. Motley will be a restricted free agent after his current 2-year, two-way deal is expired.

These contracts were implemented to help NBA teams develop prospects in the G-League for one or two years without the risk of any other teams swooping in to sign them. You can read more on how two-way contracts work here.

Looking forward

With the emergence of Dwight Powell this past season, and the Mavs’ decent chance to draft another big in this year’s NBA Draft, it’s unclear where Motley might fit on the roster. However, you also have to take into consideration that Nerlens Noel is an unrestricted free agent and Salah Mejri is a restricted free agent this summer. So depending on what happens with those situations this offseason, the Mavs might be a little thin at the center position before it’s all said and done. In that case, Dallas may consider signing Motley to a new deal that would keep him with the team full-time going forward.

We need to see more from Motley to accurately gauge his ceiling, but from what I saw in limited time this past season, I think that he could be, at the very least, a very serviceable role player for the Mavs for many years. Motley went undrafted after leaving Baylor, but it wasn't because he didn't have the skill. It was because he was medically red-flagged by many teams for a concerning knee issue. Before his knee injury in the NCAA tournament, Motley was considered a potential late first-round draft pick. Motley’s knee issue hasn’t been a problem so far, and in turn, the Mavs look like they’ve lucked out and found themselves a nice roster piece as they continue this rebuilding process. I’m excited to see what “Money Mot” can do in his second season with the Mavericks.