The Dallas Mavericks took a huge step back in the 2016-17 campaign, missing the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Rick Carlisle’s men were dumped out of the post-season in the first round in the 2015-16 season, suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavericks made moves to improve their roster. First they locked down club legend Dirk Nowitzki to a two-year deal, while Dwight Powell also signed for same time period.
Chandler Parsons left Dallas after two years, joining the Memphis Grizzlies on a lucrative deal.
However, the Mavericks were more than compensated for his departure using the money saved to lure Harrison Barnes to the club.
He was deemed surplus to requirements at the Golden State Warriors following the signing of Kevin Durant and had enjoyed a strong first season in Dallas.
Barnes’ success was a rare positive as Carlisle’s side were unable to recover from their poor start to the campaign to miss out on the playoffs by eight matches.
The Mavericks displayed decent depth in their roster, but not even Barnes was able to break the 20-point barrier, with the club boasting the unfortunate title of the worst offense in the NBA.
With a lack of draft picks in recent seasons, there is little sign of relief coming through the ranks to supply the points needed to return to the post-season.
As a result, the Mavericks and Carlisle could be in a battle even to improve on their 33-49 campaign.
The Mavericks were under pressure from the off, suffering an overtime defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on the road, despite a 25-point performance from Deron Williams.
Barnes put in a solid out as he notched 31 points against the Houston Rockets, but his efforts were in vain as his side slipped to an eight-point defeat.
Three further losses would follow before Dallas finally secured their opening win of the campaign. Barnes rose to the occasion to score a career-high 34 points at the American Airlines Center to overcome the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime.
The 25-year-old followed that up with a 31-pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers in a comfortable win at the Staples Center, but Dallas spiralled on a run of eight defeats on the bounce to end November with a worrisome 3-14 record.
The damage done in the opening two months of the season meant that Carlisle’s men were playing catch-up and they were never able to find their rhythm. Wesley Matthews put in three impressive outings at the start of December to stem the tide, leading his side to victories over the Chicago Bulls, Pacers and the Denver Nuggets.
Barnes’ form had dipped after his solid start, but he returned to his best around the festive period. The Mavericks needed him to be clinical and he managed to guide them to close wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Heavy defeats at the end of the month left them with a 10-24 record, despite Barnes notching 25 points on his return to Oracle Arena in a loss to the Warriors.
January proved to be the Mavericks’ best month of the term, winning eight of their 14 contests. They began with an impressive win over the Washington Wizards on home soil as Williams enjoyed a strong outing with 21 points and six assists on the night.
A familiar pattern appeared to be developing as Dallas lost their next three matches on the bounce, but on this occasion Carlisle’s men were able to respond with three victories in turn.
Williams continued to be a key player, while Barnes and Nowitzki combined to deliver a one-point win over the Bulls on the road. The momentum built towards the end of the month, with another strong run of performances – winning four out of five matches, including back-to-back triumphs over the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
February was another solid month for the Mavericks as they claimed six victories in their 11 matches, beginning with back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and the Trail Blazers.
Carlisle’s men dropped the next two contests before Barnes inspired an overtime victory over the Utah Jazz, scoring 31 points, but the momentum was lost heading into the All-Star break.
Williams was released from the team during the break, although Dallas produced their best run of form in the aftermath of his departure, winning six out of their next eight contests. This included a four-game run of victories in their homestand.
However, the campaign was to end with a whimper as Carlisle’s side won only five out of their remaining 18 matches, although point guard Nerlens Noel did have time to make a small impact following his move from the 76ers.
Dallas will have been pleased with their recovery in the second half of the campaign. It would have been very easy for them to tank towards a horrendous overall record, but the club displayed fight to pull their way back up over the 30-win mark.
Although their offense was poor throughout the campaign, only three sides have a better defensive record than Carlisle’s men. Therefore the club have at least something to build on for next season, knowing that a slight improvement in the final third of the court could have them trending back towards the playoffs.
The Mavericks have not been active during free agency, but did use their first selection in the 2017 Draft on a points-scorer in the form of Dennis Smith Jr. The 19-year-old averaged 18.1 points per game at NC State last season and will have plenty of opportunities to thrive in his rookie term.
Therefore backing Smith at odds of +500 to be named Rookie of the Year with Bovada sportsbook would be a prudent option as he will be expected to contribute from day one.
It would be a surprise to see Dallas’ fortunes change dramatically in the 2017-18 season – which is reflected in their odds of +25000 with SkyBet to win the NBA Championship. It might be worth a small punt, but given the Warriors’ dominance it would not be prudent to back heavily.
Dennis Smith Jr To Be Named Rookie Of The Year