June 3, 2016, 12:00 pm
Before this season began, there were rumors that Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban was considering throwing away the season to pursue a top selection in this year’s draft. After losing out on DeAndre Jordan the Mavs were left for dead by pundits and rival front offices, which seemed reasonable given the team’s situation at both point guard and center. Instead, Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki were able to drag a motley crew of journeymen and also-rans to the 6th spot in the Western Conference. Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened in Dallas.
Early last July the Mavs looked poised to join the Western Conference elite. During the moratorium period of free agency they secured verbal agreements from Jordan and Wesley Matthews, who the team hoped would join Dirk to form their next contending core. We all know what happened next, as Jordan’s indecision fueled an emoji war the likes of which the NBA and Twitter had yet to experience, concluding with Jordan returning to the Clippers.
The Mavs had to change course on the fly, upping their offer to Matthews and sending a second round pick to Milwaukee to acquire Zaza Pachulia. After Deron Williams was waived by the Nets the Mavs inked him to a two-year deal to round out their starting lineup. While each move made sense in a vacuum, a team that boasted a recovering Matthews and a handful of NBA afterthoughts as the only reinforcements for an aging Dirk didn’t exactly look like a playoff contender.
Enter Carlisle, who again reminded us why he should be considered among the absolute upper echelon of NBA coaches. Despite their rotation being littered with replacement level players the Mavs finished 5th in offensive efficiency, as Dirk turned back the clock and the team bombed away from deep. Things were shakier on the defensive end, where they finished just 18th, but the Mavs were able to secure a 42-40 record before losing to Oklahoma City in the first round.
It would be hard to oversell Carlisle at this point. Along with Dirk he’s been as critical for the Mavs sustained success as anyone, and he continues to perform minor miracles in maximizing the roster. On a fundamental level, Carlisle’s greatest skill is getting the most out of limited players to generate clean looks.
It’s easy to criticize the ways in which we wish certain players were more effective, but Carlisle focuses on what NBA abilities a player does bring to the court, regardless of his flaws. Pachulia offers almost no rim protection, and the Mavs sometimes suffered on defense as a result, but his ability to facilitate the offense from the elbows opened up the floor for Dirk and the rest of the Mavs.
Similarly, Matthews might not have had the same explosiveness in his first season back from a torn achilles tendon, but Carlisle built plays to free him for clean looks at the basket again and again. The list goes on and on, and at this point it’s safe to assume that any fantasy asset headed to Dallas will be set up to succeed offensively.
ADP: 68/52 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 45/29 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 53/31 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 75
At 37-years-old Nowitzki is no longer the top-10 player we’d grown accustomed to, but 2015-16 marked another impressive season in which he outperformed his draft value. After a down (by his standards) year in 2014-15, Drik bounced back as the driving engine behind Dallas’ elite offense.
His gravity alone unlocks so much for the Mavs, as opposing big men are dragged away from the paint to defend his historic shooting. Nowitzki might have lost a step or two, but he still baited defenders with viscous pump fakes and herky jerky drives, and finished off possession after possession with his lethal scoring. He finished the season with averages of 18.4 points, 1.6 threes, 6.4 boards, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and just 1.1 turnovers, and his defensive contributions helped to improve his fantasy impact from last season.
Early rankings are already advocating letting Nowitzki slide outside of the top-80. His upside might be limited as he enters his age 38 season, but that low a ranking seems like a mistake. Dirk has finished inside the top-30 for the 16 consecutive seasons, and as long as Carlisle is his coach he should continue to produce as a fantasy starter.
ADP: 38/67 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 119/116 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 88/78 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 61
Parsons made his season debut on November 1, 2015 after spending training camp and the preseason rehabilitating his knee after offseason surgery. His campaign started slowly, but he flashed his diverse game as the season went on. At his best Parson’s offers game changing versatility, stuffing the stat sheet in nearly every category. In those moments he functions beautifully within Carlisle system, spacing the floor for open treys and attacking the rim as a secondary ball handler.
Unfortunately, those moments have become difficult to count on. Nagging injuries limited his minutes, resulting in averages of 13.7 points, 1.7 threes, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.8 steals. Across the board he saw his lowest production in four years. Parson’s campaign was again cut short in 2015-16, as he underwent surgery to address the torn meniscus in his right knee on March 25 and missed the rest of the season.
If he had stayed healthy one could easily see Parsons justifying an early-round pick next fall, but that “if” looms large. His growing total of knee injuries is concerning, and he will have to prove he can stay on the court before fantasy owners are comfortable with him again. I couldn’t blame anyone for gambling on his upside next year, but I’m fine passing on Parsons until he puts together a full season again.
ADP: 89/93 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 104/86 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 123/102 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
After posting the best season of his career in 2014-15 Matthews struggled to find his form during his first year with the Mavs. This result shouldn’t be altogether surprising, as Matthews tore his left achilles tendon late in 14-15 and it isn’t uncommon for players to take 18-24 months to fully recover from such an injury.
The difference between Matthew’s breakout campaign and this season was basically half a three per game and a sizeable dip in his shooting percentage. He averaged 12.6 points, 2.4 threes, 3.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and one steal, but only shot 38.4% from the floor on 11 attempts per game.
Matthews will be a player to watch over the offseason, as there is reason to hope he regains his old form as he recovers.
Currently Matthews is being ranked outside the top-100 on several sites, and while that ranking matches his finish from this season he might be worth the gamble in the later rounds of your draft. It isn’t often that someone taken after the first 100 players are off the board offers the upside Matthews has displayed in the past.
ADP: 109/86 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 106/130 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 82/101 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 65
It seems like a distant memory now, but as recently as three seasons ago Williams was a consensus top-25 fantasy player. How times have changed. He wasn’t able to rehabilitate his value in Dallas, but Williams did settle into the role-player phase of his career.
On the whole Williams’ value was largely determined by your league type, as he was barely on the standard league radar if you counted turnovers. Averaging 2.3 turnovers per game isn’t awful, but when a player is only providing low end numbers across the board it can kill what little value remains.
Williams finished the season averaging 13.7 points, 1.5 threes, 2.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 0.9 steals. He should hold onto that level of production as long as he’s in Dallas, but keep in mind that he’s also a drain on your field goal percentage, as he averaged just 41.2% from the floor in 2015-16.
ADP: 140/147 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 109/115 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 126/129 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
Pachulia was a solid value in 2015-16, stepping into the Mavs starting center spot in the wake of the DeAndre Jordan fiasco. As previously mentioned, Pachulia offers little as a rim protector (averaging just 0.3 blocks per game), but chipped in across the board in just 26.1 minutes per game. He averaged 8.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 steals per contest, making him a valuable addition for owners who snagged him in the later rounds of their drafts.
ADP: 86/102 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 222/218 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 184/180 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 55
While Lee’s numbers on the season leave a lot to be desired, he reminded owners why he was worth a flier during his time in Dallas. In 25 games with the Mavs Lee averaged 17.3 minutes, 8.5 points, seven rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.6 blocks while making an impressive 63.6% of his shots from the floor. Those totals were enough to keep him on the standard league radar down the stretch, as he ranked 130th on the player rater over the season’s final three months. Lee is a free agent this summer and his next landing spot will have a dramatic impact on his value for next season.
ADP: 140 / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 144/153 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 178/192 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
To the surprise of many Felton put together a healthy campaign in 2015-16, providing just enough for fantasy owners to remain ownable in most leagues. Felton played 27.8 minutes as the Mavs first guard off the bench, and finished the year averaging 9.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.8 threes and 0.9 steals. His shooting wasn’t great at 41.1%, but his contributions in assists kept Felton in the streaming conversation for much of the season.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 169/182 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 190/212 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
Barea showed flashes of solid play but still couldn’t break on to the standard league radar this year. Averaging 22.7 minutes, 10.7 points, two boards, 4.1 assists and 1.3 treys, he didn’t offer much beyond threes and dimes. Barrea will continue to be an important part of the Mavs’ rotation next season, but it would take an injury to one of their starters to make him worth considering on draft day next fall.
ADP: 140 / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 212/215 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 215/216 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64
Harris, Felton and Barea cannibalized each other this season, and each of them will continue to provide middling returns as long as all three are on the Mavs. Averaging 20.3 minutes, 7.6 points, 2.2 boards, 0.8 treys, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game, Harris showed some good versatility but he’ll need more playing time in order to be relevant in most fantasy leagues.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 241/225 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 287/260 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 69
While he didn’t see a lot of playing time, Powell showed some promise in his rookie campaign. He averaged 5.8 points, four rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.3 blocks in just 14.5 minutes per contest. As he develops Powell could become a reliable source of defensive stats, so keep an eye on the Mavs rotation early next season.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 332/324 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 332/256 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 34
Mejri offered little to fantasy owners in his first NBA season. Averaging 12.8 minutes, 3.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks he failed to make an impact in standard leagues. If you find yourself desperate for blocks next season he might be worth considering, but outside of that he can safely be left on the waiver wire.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 339/333 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 309/295 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 34
McGee returned for 36 games after sitting out the majority of his previous two seasons, and his impact was minimal at best. Averaging 11.1 minutes, 4.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game he showed off his potential as a rim protector, but at 28-years-old it seems unlikely McGee ever puts it all together.
Despite earning yet another playoff spot this year, the Mavs will likely be aggressive this offseason. Between Carlisle’s track record integrating new pieces into his scheme, and the looming pressure of Dirk’s twilight, it seems all but a lock that the team will pursue every angle to improve their roster. How successful they are in luering a star to Dallas remains to be seen, but as long as the team has Nowitzki and Carlisle they should remain competitive out West.