It’s been an interesting first 55 games of the season for your Dallas Mavericks who got off to a hot start by going 9-4 early on but limped into the All-Star break by losing 6 of their last 10 games. The Mavs sit at sixth place in the Western Conference at 29-26 with a 2 game lead over 9th place Houston Rockets.
While the Mavs have stumbled lately there is some positivity to look at going forward, Dallas has gotten through what many will say to be the worst part of their schedule and are tied for playing the most games in the NBA at this point into the season. The Mavs have only two more back-to-back stints the rest of the season which bodes well for more opportunities to rest their veteran legs.
All this schedule talk is great but it means nothing if certain players don’t step up their level of play for the stretch run. I’ll list the players who need to improve and those who just need to stay the course.
Wesley Matthews: The Mavericks paid big money to get the iron man to come to Dallas ($70 million over 4 years to be exact) but outside of a good December where he averaged 15.2 points per game on 42% shooting on 3’s, Matthews hasn’t had many bow and arrows to shoot off. In January he averaged 11.4 points per game on 30.4% shooting from 3 point land, sub-par to say the least, not that February was that much better, 9.6 points while shooting 36% from 3.
Now Matthew’s defensive game is still there and he has been the Mavs best perimeter defender this season but you can see fatigue in Matthew’s legs the last few weeks. With that Achilles injury still lingering he’ll have benefitted from the All-Star break as much as anyone else on the team. The Mavericks need him to be hitting his shots at a high level, Matthews has proven throughout his career he can, now the Mavs need that consistency the rest of the season/playoffs.
Deron Williams: The Dallas native has had a nice homecoming this season and in many ways proven he can still perform at a high level on any given night. Deron Williams has been by many means the Mavericks best or second best clutch player down the stretch of games, most notable moment is his game winning 3 from the corner against Sacramento in double OT. Williams has done some of his best work in the fourth quarter and overtimes of games and been such a weapon with Dirk off that pick and roll. My only gripe with Williams is that he hasn’t been consistent with high performances, one day he can have a 20 point 6 assist game and then the next he goes for 4 points and 5 assists. This may be what we get from a veteran point guard whose had his share of injuries over the year but if he can provide more consistency it’ll go a long way for this Mavs team, particularly offensively.
Zaza Pachulia: The ‘throw away’ player the Mavs got after the DeAndre Jordan debacle has been anything but that. I’d say you could label him as Mr. Consistency this season as he’s averaging a double-double (10 points and 10.7 rebounds per game) and been a great fit in the locker room. Zaza isn’t the most athletic center but he uses his smarts and experience to get the most production he possibly can. I don’t really have anything negative to say about Zaza because he’s been much more than what Mavs fans had hoped for in the offseason. Zaza gives maximum effort every single night and needs to stay the course.
Chandler Parsons: Perhaps the most polarizing Mavs player this season, Parsons has had a slow start to the season but looks to finally be coming into his own over the last few weeks. Coming back from micro-fracture surgery is not easy by any stretch no matter how ‘minor’ it may be. Many doctors express that it takes at least a year for one to truly get back to 100%. So it’s very promising to see Parsons averaging around 20 points a game for the last 10-15 games. Now the goal is for him to maintain for the remainder of the season and maintain his aggressiveness. He’s been shooting over 44% from 3 point land this calendar year so now Mavs just need Parsons to maintain that build off that success the last few weeks. If this is a sign of him getting closer to 100% then he should fun to watch down the stretch.
Dirk Nowitzki: Dirk must really hate father time because he’s again proving why he’s so great as he’s having a great of a season as a one can expect from a 37 year old. Much like Zaza he’s been Mr. Consistency and once again been the focal point of the Mavs offense (whether that’s good or bad is another issue). I’m sure we can expect the same type of production from Dirk after the All-Star break and see him ramp it up the last couple weeks and into the playoffs as is normally the case. My hope for Dirk is more so relying on his teammates stepping up their game and allowing Dirk to have his minutes reduced before the playoffs role around. He’s averaging slightly more than he did last year, all those overtime games aren’t helping, and the plan is always to rev up his playing time come mid-April. Dirk’s been as efficient as ever and it’s been fun to watch.
Bench Play: This is where I think the Mavericks need the most improvement in the second half of the season. Hopefully Devin Harris returning helps whenever he does return to the court but even so the Mavericks need more help outside of their guards. Raymond Felton has been great this season and has revitalized his career in many ways and Barea has been solid during stretches throughout the year but the Mavs need more front court help. Charlie Villanueva has been tough to watch shooting the ball this year particularly from beyond the 3 point line, 25.2%, needless to say that needs to improve drastically. Justin Anderson is still going through some rookie growing pains which is normal although he has shown the last couple games that he’s not afraid to be aggressiveness, now it’s about efficiency. Dwight Powell is a solid young player off the bench that is very active and one of the more athletic Mavs players. For whatever reason Carlisle is up and down with Powell far as playing minutes goes but here’s hoping that we see more of Powell on a more consistent basis. Javale McGee and Salah Merji have had their moments as the backup center but we need more than just flashes of good basketball, here’s to hoping one of them can step up and become a regular in the Mavs rotation. One of the Mavs biggest weakness’ on the bench is someone to back up at the small forward position, Jeremy Evans hasn’t fit the bill, here’s to hoping Parsons can play 48 minutes per game, just kidding but really tho.
This Mavericks team isn’t perfect and has a lot of climbing to do before matching up with the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs but here’s to hoping we see improvement in the team’s play as a whole because when they’re on their A game they can compete with just about anybody.