The Dallas Mavericks have a younger core than usual, led by rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., heading into the upcoming NBA season.
Smith, 19, is expected to start for Dallas during his first year in the league. He is already considered one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year. He may be joined in the backcourt by Seth Curry.
While he has not yet been given the starting gig, head coach Rick Carlisle says Curry will be the most likely candidate.
Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes will be the leading forwards for the Mavericks.
This means league veteran Dirk Nowitzki will likely become a full-time center for Dallas next season. Where does that mean for Nerlens Noel, who signed a qualifying offer to return to the Mavericks on a one-year deal?
Carlisle spoke during the recent media day about what his role will look like next season (via ESPN):
“I basically said to them that I’m not sure that he’s going to start. At this point in time, Dirk at the 5 position is probably the best scenario for Dirk and for our team, and I just don’t think that Dirk is a guy that’s going to come off the bench as long as I’m here. So there’s a very good chance that Nerlens will come off the bench. Look, he said he’s good with it.”
Noel said he was locked into “having a great year no matter what” when asked about a reserve role for his team.
During his first two years in the league, Noel averaged 30.8 minutes and 29.3 minutes per game. However, his playing time has decreased the last two seasons to around 20-22 minutes per game.
Last year, Dallas was last in the NBA for points per game. This lineup gives the team a better opportunity to score more often considering Noel averages just 10 points per game in his career. Smith can become an instant threat to score for the franchise.
With Noel on the court, the team had a slow pace with an effective field goal percentage of 52.1 percent and a 55.5 true shooting percentage. The Mavericks scored just 1.077 points per possession with him on the floor.
He does, however, add significant value for rebound percentage as well as key defensive metrics. When he does play, he will need to maximize his opportunities on both sides of the ball – especially heading into a contract year.
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