It’s been a whirlwind for the Dallas Mavericks the past few days as training camp concludes and the team heads to Abu Dhabi to begin preseason. The last time we saw this team, they were leaving the court with disappointment as the organization missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2018-19 season. The team has seven new players and the organization hopes to bounce back this upcoming season.
There is more balance to the roster as GM Nico Harrison brought in young defensive players to surround their stars Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. A new energy and youth is felt on the team watching the players compete against each other during practice. Mavericks now have six players on the main roster who are younger than 25 years old, with four of them in the starting lineup to begin preseason.
The big investment in rookies
Jason Kidd stated in media availability that OMax Prosper and Dereck Lively II will be in the starting lineup to begin preseason with Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving and Grant Williams.
“Excited to see how they handle it.. At the end of the day, both of them are doing the work and if you ask the rest of the guys, they’re fine with it.” Jason Kidd commented on the progress he has seen in the rookies.
Schematically, the players fit in the Mavericks lineup. A rolling big who can defend and a 3&D athletic wing, these are the prototypical players the team has been looking for in surrounding their stars. Lively II and Prosper are very mature, know their assignment is defense and have found their role within offense. The rookies share a bond of being drafted to the same team on draft night, which has grown into a friendship they can lean on. Lively II and Prosper live in the same apartment complex and hang out frequently off the court.
“We got drafted at the same time and everything we’ve been doing since that time, we’ve been doing it together because everything we’ve got to do is together. Me and Dereck have created a really good relationship with each other and we just lean on each other… he’s like my brother now.” OMax Prosper stated during Media Day about Dereck Lively II.
“He’s on my ass if I’m on bullshit, I’m on his ass if he’s on bullshit… I’m not alone and he’s not alone.” Dereck Lively II on his close friendship with fellow rookie OMax Prosper.
Are they ready to be in the starting up during the season opener? That is yet to be seen. It is quite shocking how fast they have positioned themselves for heavy minutes on a team that is clearly in win-now mode, after missing the playoffs. They have looked the part in practice but the anticipation awaits to see them play against players on other teams in preseason to make a true assessment if they are ready to be game one starters when the season opens.
They will have a great test ahead of them as the Mavericks open preseason in Abu Dhabi against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rising star Anthony Edwards and defensive prowess Rudy Gobert will give the rookies a measuring test to see where they are ahead of the regular season.
The areas of focus for Prosper will be the defensive matchups in iso, his ability to fight through screens, recovering in position, defending quick downhill threats and being able to switch on bigger players. His wingspan will help him be able to contest shots, get deflections and disrupt opponent’s offensive threats. Prosper will find open shots on the offense as Dončić is a floor general for creating open looks for teammates.
I look forward to watching Lively II’s improvement after the past couple months with Tyson Chandler helping him prepare for the season. I want to assess his screen setting, his positioning with space following Dončić and Irving, rebounding against bigger Centers, and finishing at the rim with contact.
The compliments from teammates and coaches have sustained throughout training camp on the rookies. Lively II’s connection with Dončić has also been mentioned a few times as something to look forward to in the season.
If they look out of place, there is comfort in starting Josh Green and Dwight Powell. It’s preseason, so it’s good to see what you have in the rookies and if they pan out and play to their assignments, you have two bright spots who balance your lineup and bring athleticism and defense.
THJ’s role this season
There was a sense of awkwardness when Tim Hardaway Jr. was asked about coming off the bench during Media Day and a possibility of him campaigning for Sixth Man of the Year.
“You guys heard it from him first” Tim Hardaway Jr. said with a moment of pause.
Jason Kidd was asked about this the next day and Kidd said he briefly spoke to him but he hasn’t got into details with him about his role but assistants have talked to him. Kidd wants Hardaway Jr. to carry the second group and stated there will be times throughout the season he may be needed to start games for the team.
“Looking at Timmy being a sixth man and hopefully he accepts that role.” Jason Kidd stated on Tim Hardaway Jr. during media availability after practice.
Tim Hardaway Jr. opened up during Media Day about last season and the uncertainty of him staying on Dallas Mavericks roster this season.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be here, if I’ma be honest with you.”
He said later in the press, he feels secure in staying with the Mavs now.
Hardaway Jr. played in 14 games with Dončić and Irving last season.
17.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.3 APG
52.0 FG% 54.2 3PT%
THJ post All-Star break after Irving trade:
Right Corner 3PT: 64.3%
Left Corner 3PT: 47.1%
Above the Break 3PT: 48.4%
Hardaway Jr. is primed for a great season since be in a shooter role. He has struggled in recent seasons when asked to create offense and has thrived as a spot-up shooter. With Dončić or Irving is setting up the offense as playmakers when Hardaway Jr. checks in the game, will find himself open a lot this season.
Grant Williams leadership
Grant Williams will take on a bigger role in Dallas as he is asked to be one of the leaders, a full-time starter and a star within his role as a 3&D player. I asked Williams about the opportunity he has to not only show himself but the NBA league-wide that he was meant for this role to help the Mavs succeed.
“It hasn’t really crossed my mind besides the fact that I have to go do my job. This team has asked me to be a leader asking me to be a guy you look to in consistency and that’s what I’m trying to put my mark as.” I can care less how everything else goes, I just want to do my job for this team for Coach Kidd, Kyrie and the guys who believed in me and brought me here.” Grant Williams on the opportunity in the first season with the Mavs.
Williams has the versatility the Mavs want and need on the defensive side of the court as he has the foot speed to switch on guards in pick & roll defense and the size and strength to defend post players bigger than him. On the offensive side, Williams can make shots beyond the arc and will have real estate in the corner shooting with the gravity pull Dončić and Irving possess.
Williams stats as a starter in Boston last season (23 total games)
10.8 points (49.7 FG% 45.1 3PT%)
Williams was vocal with the team after practice before the team departs to Abu Dhabi. His leadership is needed with a lot of new players and it was something lacking last season.
Overall, the vibes I saw throughout training camp was great as the organization took a reset and looks to step in the right direction this season.