Dallas Mavericks

Mavs Notes: Smith, Antetokounmpo, Centers, Curry

Despite Saturday night’s 32-point win over the Bucks, the Mavericks have struggled to find their rhythm early on this season, going 3-14 through their first seventeen games and finding themselves in last place in the Western Conference.

Despite the rough start, however, head coach Rick Carlisle is not going to let his star rookie Dennis Smith Jr. pick up any losing habits. According to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, Carlisle and Smith spend a lot of time together, one-on-one, going over film, both before and after games.

“He’s an important part of our team,” Carlisle said. “It’s gotten to the point where our winning is largely dependent on him playing well, which is a great compliment to him and what he’s been able to establish.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Saturday was a bittersweet night for the Mavericks. While they beat the Bucks handily, they were also reminded of what they missed out on after passing on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. As Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News highlights, it was owner Mark Cuban who ultimately made the decision not to select Antetokounmpo.
  • According to Carlisle, Seth Curry is not expected to be back on the court this week, tweets Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. There is no timetable for his return.
  • Despite having “a forklift full of centers“, the Mavericks are aware that the position is somewhat of a roulette wheel at the moment, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News“It’s a bit of a by-committee position,” Carlisle said. “The guys got to roll with it and understand the things they do may only fit in certain stretches.”

Not Enough Minutes For Five Centers

  • Moving Dirk Nowitzki to center has worsened the logjam in the middle for the Mavericks, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The other four centers on the roster, Salah Mejri, Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell and Jeff Withey have all gone through games where they didn’t get off the bench. The problem will work itself out eventually — Withey’s contract is non-guaranteed, Mejri has a player option for next season and Noel will be an unrestricted free agent next summer — but for now there’s frustration over a lack of playing time. “It’s almost like we went to Costco and got a forklift full of centers,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “They’re all good players, but there are a limited number of minutes and with more teams playing hybrid centers, it makes it even harder.”

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Southwest Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re finishing up our series with the Southwest division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Southwest teams:

Memphis GrizzliesMarc Gasol vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $101,105,736
Projection: Over the cap

Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Marc Gasol will earn a combined $78MM+ in 2018/19, so unless the Grizzlies trade one of those players, the team is extremely unlikely to create any meaningful cap space. If Memphis struggles and misses the playoffs this season, I could see trade rumors surrounding Gasol begin to intensify, but for now, we’re assuming the Grizzlies will begin the 2018 offseason over the projected $101MM salary cap.

New Orleans Pelicans
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $91,577,138
Projection: Over the cap

With nearly $92MM committed to just seven players, the Pelicans would need to account for cap charges for five empty roster spots. Once those cap charges are added to team salary, New Orleans is left with about $5MM in potential cap room, which is less than the value of the mid-level exception. So even if the Pelicans don’t end up keeping DeMarcus Cousins‘ cap hold on their books to try to re-sign him, they’ll likely function as an over-the-cap club.

San Antonio Spurs
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,410,994
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Spurs ultimately don’t have any cap room at their disposal for 2018. The team has three veterans holding player options, in Danny Green ($10MM), Rudy Gay ($8.8MM), and Joffrey Lauvergne ($1.7MM), as well as three potential restricted free agents (Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes).

It’s entirely possible that all three of those players with options turn them down, and it’s also within reason that the Spurs will let their RFAs go. Still, I’d expect at least two or three of those six players to remain in San Antonio. And if guys like Green and Gay are among those returnees, either on their options or on new contracts, then the Spurs’ cap space will evaporate in a hurry.

Houston Rockets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,123,448
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

Like the Spurs, the Rockets could create a modest amount of cap room by parting ways with all their potential free agents, but the more likely scenario will see them stay over the cap. Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza will be among the most coveted free agents in the NBA, and re-signing even one of the three would likely take Houston over the cap, or close to it. Re-signing two, or all three, could push Houston into luxury-tax territory.

Dallas Mavericks
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $41,269,318
Projection: Up to approximately $35MM in cap room

Based on their current team salary projections for 2018/19, the Mavericks could theoretically create up to $53MM in cap space. However, that’s probably an unrealistic estimate, since it doesn’t include Wesley Matthews‘ $18.6MM player option.

The 31-year-old guard has failed to make more than 40% of his field goal attempts in any of his three seasons with the Mavs, and his .359 FG% so far this season is his worst mark yet. He’s also averaging just 11.2 PPG despite playing 34.6 minutes per contest. Simply put, Matthews isn’t going to find an $18MM salary on the open market if he turns down his option.

As such, our projection for the Mavs assumes that Matthews will exercise that option, which still leaves Dallas with about $35MM in cap room. That would be more than enough to bring back Seth Curry and Dirk Nowitzki – if he doesn’t retire – and still have space left over.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mavs Sign Antonius Cleveland To Two-Way Deal

NOVEMBER 17: The Mavs have officially signed Cleveland to a two-way contract and waived Clavell, the team announced today in a press release.

NOVEMBER 16: The Mavericks will sign G League guard Antonius Cleveland to a two-way contract, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical. Current two-way player Gian Clavell will be released to make room for Cleveland.

Cleveland was in training camp with the Warriors before being waived in early October. He has been playing for Golden State’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz. A 6’6″ shooting guard, he went undrafted out of Missouri and played for the Trail Blazers during summer league.

Clavell has appeared in seven games with Dallas, averaging 2.9 points in about 9 minutes per night. The 24-year-old was voted Mountain West Player of the Year last season at Colorado State.

And-Ones: E. Okafor, Perkins, S. Brown, Wood

Two NBA veterans have been among the most impressive G League standouts early in the season, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Emeka Okafor, 35, has spent the past four years recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. He joined the Sixers for training camp and opted to stay with the organization’s affiliate in Delaware. He is averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and is shooting better than 60% from the field.

Kendrick Perkins was the Cavaliers’ final roster cut and went to Cleveland’s affiliate in Canton. He is averaging 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds through three games. He has dropped weight and may still be able to help an NBA team at age 33.

There’s more news from the NBA and the G League:

  • Today is an important day for four players who were claimed off waivers during the offseason, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The BullsDavid Nwaba and Kay Felder, the HawksNicolas Brussino and the BucksDeAndre Liggins are all now eligible to be traded.
  • The Sixers used the remainder of this year’s cap space for the renegotiation/extension with Robert Covington, leaving just eight teams with cap room, according to Marks (Twitter link). They are the Bulls [$15.1MM], Mavericks [$12.5MM], Suns [$8.9MM], Pacers [$6.1MM], Kings [$4.3MM], Nets [$3.4MM], Hawks [$589K] and Magic [$549K].
  • Veteran guard Shannon Brown has been claimed from the G League player pool by the Wisconsin Herd, tweets Chris Reichert of 2 Ways and 10 Days. The 31-year-old last played in the NBA in 2014, when he appeared in five games with the Heat.
  • Christian Wood has joined the Delaware 87ers as a returning player, according to Reichert (Twitter link). He played 13 games for the Hornets last year and ended the season in the G League.
  • International stars are having a greater impact on the NBA than ever before, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Many of the league’s best young players hail from overseas, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis, both considered early-season MVP candidates, along with Ben SimmonsAndrew WigginsJoel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. Ziller credits former commissioner David Stern for his focus on expanding the league to overseas markets. That strategy not only created more revenue, it exposed the NBA to an international audience and created a new reservoir of players.

Mavericks Exploring Upgrade Opportunities

The Mavericks entered the day with the worst record in the league and the franchise is looking to make improvements. Coach Rick Carlisle alluded to the team’s unbalanced roster being a primary reason for the poor start and he indicated that the team is in the market for anybody who can help them, as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News relays in a series of tweets.

“It’s almost like we went to Costco and got a forklift full of centers. Carlisle said.

Dallas has five centers on the roster, including Nerlens Noel, who has seen just seven minutes of action over his last three games. Dirk Nowitzki playing the majority of his minutes at the five this season only compounds the issues and it’s easy to envision the team making a move.

The Mavs are closely monitoring the G League and the waiver wire, though the combination of lackluster available options and a full roster may delay any movement. Sefko notes that the team may have to wait on bringing in significant talent until December 15 —the date when many offseason signees become eligible to be included in deals.

Nerlens Noel Appears Likely To Play Elsewhere Next Season

Cuban Hopeful Nowitzki Will Play In 2018/19

Dirk Nowitzki is off to a slow start this season, with most of his numbers at their lowest mark since his rookie year. However, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN that he’s hopeful this won’t be Nowitzki’s last season suiting up for the Mavs.

“I hope so,” Cuban said when asked if he thinks Nowitzki will return for the 2018/19 season. “I think there’s a really good chance he is [coming back], because he wants to break the record for years with one team and be that one guy. Not many people have that opportunity. … He’s still having fun.”

In more than 1,400 career NBA regular season games, Nowitzki has averaged an impressive 21.6 PPG and 7.8 RPG with a .473/.381/.879 shooting line. So far this season, his averages have dipped to 10.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG with a .414 FG%, though he’s still making nearly 40% of his three-point attempts.

While Nowitzki acknowledged that his health and the state of his body will dictate when he retires, the 39-year-old expressed a desire to play one more year after 2017/18, noting that the Mavericks’ place in the standings wouldn’t affect his decision, MacMahon writes. Dallas is 2-12 so far this season, matching the Hawks for the NBA’s worst record.

Nowitzki is currently in his 20th season with the Mavs, tying Kobe Bryant‘s record for most seasons with a single NBA franchise. If he can return for the ’18/19 season, the German big man would hold that record on his own.

No Apparent Rift Between Noel, Carlisle

  • Nerlens Noel‘s lack of playing time doesn’t mean there’s a rift between him and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. Noel has played just eight minutes over the last three games but he can work his way back in the rotation by playing hard-nosed basketball, Sefko continues. Noel will get a chance to rejoin the rotation in the near future, Sefko predicts.

Latest On Nerlens Noel's Role

Even if Dallas honors its perceived obligation to Dirk Nowitzki and continues to feature him at the five, there are plenty of minutes available to Nerlens Noel behind him. One of the problems, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes, is that the Mavs have one of the most imbalanced rosters in the NBA with a whopping seven centers on the payroll.

While Noel is, on paper, the best option to slot in behind Nowitzki, he hasn’t earned the trust of head coach Rick Carlisle. Suddenly, the 23-year-old long-term Mavs building block that was allegedly offered a four-year, $70MM contract in the summer is watching Salah Mejri take his minutes.

Tjarks spoke with Carlisle about Noel, gaining insight into why the Mavs haven’t made more of an effort to develop the big man in his first full season with the franchise. Noel’s defensive inefficiencies and struggles to fill the exact role requested of him have contributed to the current standstill.

  • In another article about Nerlens Noel‘s role with the Mavs, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes that the big man isn’t on a specifically short leash. “There’s no doghouse here,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “There just isn’t. It’s pretty simple. You compete and if you earn minutes, you get minutes. You got to compete. And our guys have to have an edge. No one’s given anything. That’s how we have to do things. The situation is we have a lot of tough opponents, record’s not good right now. Competing is what it’s all about.
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