We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Dallas Mavericks.
When it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, everything essentially begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki.
The future Hall of Famer is entering his 20th NBA season and still ranks among the tougher players to defend in the NBA.
But Father Time is gaining ground on the Nowitzki, 39, which is why the Mavericks have wisely added the kind of talent around him the past couple of years that should take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders and, just as important, put the Mavs back into contention for a playoff spot after failing to get there last season following a stretch of reaching the postseason 15 out of 16 years.
The Mavericks will look to bounce back from a 33-49 season, one in which injuries played a major factor in the team’s struggles.
Nowitzki appeared in just 54 games last season, averaging 14.2 points - the fewest he averaged since his rookie season (8.9 points).
Among the few Mavs to stay relatively healthy was Harrison Barnes, who led the team with 19.5 points per game average while appearing in 79 games.
Dallas had a solid season defensively and solidified their interior by trading for Nerlens Noel in February.
A restricted free agent this past summer, Noel and the Mavericks were unable to come to terms on a long-term contract. And without the benefit of an offer sheet, Noel had no leverage in getting the kind of near-max salary he was seeking.
So, he eventually signed a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer.
One of the main areas the Mavericks will look to improve upon this season is scoring after averaging a league-low 97.9 points per game.
Having better team health overall will help, as will the addition of high-scoring combo guard Dennis Smith Jr.
Selected by Dallas with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft, the 6-foot-2 guard did a little bit of everything in his lone season with North Carolina State, where he averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.
He was just as impressive in helping lead the Mavs to a 5-1 summer league record in Las Vegas, earning a spot on the NBA All-Summer League first team by averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Josh McRoberts (Miami); Jeff Withey (Utah).
Key losses: None.
Rookies of note: Dennis Smith Jr.
Expectations: 37-45 (third in the Southwest Division,10th in the West).
While the NBA offseason has slowed down a little bit, there's still plenty to talk about with the Boston Celtics. Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely quickly hit on the recent discussion on what the events would need to be for the C's to dream about trading for Anthony Davis. Also, while the roster seems to be in place, is Danny Ainge done? He told our Tom Giles last week that the team might not be done, and Sherrod throws out a player that is still available.
For this week's interview, we dial up Tommy Heinsohn to chat about the flurry of changes to the roster, including what he saw in rookie Jayson Tatum at Summer League. Also, Tommy talks about where Paul Pierce ranks in Celtics history.
The Celtics' two main targets in free agency are expected to be Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. But what if neither signs here . . . or what if the C's have other plans? This week, we'll look at some of 'The Other Guys' who might interest the Celtics: TODAY: Dallas' Nerlens Noel.
BOSTON -- When the Celtics had trade talks with Philadelphia last season, it was no secret they had their eyes set on Nerlens Noel.
The 23-year-old has shown tremendous potential as an elite, rim-protecting big man.
THE OTHER GUYS: POTENTIAL CELTIC FREE-AGENT TARGETS
The Dallas Mavericks saw those same qualities, which is why they engineered a trade for him last season despite knowing he would be a restricted free agent this summer.
And while he would certainly be the kind of player Boston would absolutely love to add to the mix, seeing the Mavericks go in a different direction seems highly unlikely.
But until he signs with the Mavericks or any other team, the Celtics can’t be totally discounted as a possibility if they strike out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.
WE LIKE HIM BECAUSE . . .
His proven body of work and his potential. Noel has shown flashes of being a decent player offensively, but he’s going to get paid handsomely this summer because of his defense and rebounding.
According to Basketball-reference.com, Noel has been among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive box plus/minus two of his three NBA seasons.
During the 2014-15 season, his defensive plus/minus was +4.5 (fourth in the NBA) and the following season it was +3.4 (eighth in the NBA).
And while his upside is viewed primarily through a defensive prism, his presence on the floor seemed to provide a much-needed jolt to the Mavericks offensively.
In his 22 games with Dallas, he averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds with a solid offensive rating of 106.1.
NOT CRAZY ABOUT . . .
You love Noel’s length and athleticism, but you wish he would add some weight to withstand the physical rigors of playing primarily in the post. In an ideal world, Noel will add another 10-15 pounds, which would put him weight-wise similar to another standout Maverick from a few years back, Tyson Chandler. But Noel’s narrow shoulders and pogo-stick thick legs will likely result in his current 228-pound frame not changing much in the near future. He will still be a factor defensively, but there will be nights when stronger, more physical centers will give him problems. Fortunately for him and the Mavericks, big men whose strength is well, their strength, are becoming scarce in this new age of position-less basketball in the NBA.
IN CONCLUSION . . .
Noel would look really good in a Celtics uniform, but there’s little to no chance the Mavericks allow him to get away. They've made it clear that re-signing the 6-foot-11 big man is their top priority. And short of Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry saying they want to become a Maverick, it’s highly unlikely Dallas will change course.
Four-year, $106.4 million. That’s the most a team outside of Dallas can offer the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Noel knows the Mavericks won’t hesitate to offer him a max contract, which would give him more guaranteed years (five), better raises (eight percent versus five percent) and a total package of $143.55 million, which is more than $37 million beyond what other teams like the Celtics can offer.
Again, something would have to go unexpectedly wrong for Noel to wind up on any roster other than the Mavericks.