Dallas Mavericks' 5 Most Positive Developments so Far This Season
A lot of Mavs fans seem to have mixed emotions about their team after 24 games. So, I've decided to cheer up as many as I can by detailing the five most positive developments of the the Mavs' season so far.
I selected these based on their importance in Dallas winning 14 of its first 24 games, but also based on their importance to the team making the playoffs in April.
So cheer up, Mavs fans. Here are the five best things to come out of the Mavs' young season.
Runner Up: Shane Larkin's Energetic Spark
The rookie guard out of Miami U almost cracked into the top five here. He hasn't lit up the stat sheet, as he's only averaging 3.6 points and 2.0 assists in 13.2 minutes per night, via ESPN.
But even in limited playing time, he's been one of the Mavs' more energetic players so far this season. He's also averaging 1.3 steals per game in those 13.2 minutes.
His overall numbers may not show it yet, but just watching him, he really does bring an uplifting presence to this squad. Although his slight 5'11'' 176-pound frame limits him somewhat, he does everything with max effort and plays bigger than he is.
Just give this kid some time. Eventually you'll start to see him produce up to his potential.
5. Dirk Nowitzki Is Still Producing at an All-Star Level
I've always said this: even at 35, Dirk Nowitzki is still the face of the Mavs' franchise. He's certainly still producing like it, averaging an impressive 21.1 points and six rebounds in just 32.7 minutes, per ESPN.
Nowitzki has scored 18 or more points in 17 of Dallas' first 24 games. Even more importantly: he hasn't played more than 36 minutes in any game so far this season. Coach Rick Carlisle is doing a fantastic job of keeping Nowitzki fresh early on.
Of course, Nowitzki is aiding his own cause by shooting 49.4 percent from the floor. He's also converting 42.4 percent of his three-point attempts, which is a career high.
Why does this come in at fifth on my list? Well, mainly because it's still expected that Dirk will produce at this rate. He's been "old" for a while now, and he hasn't shown a speck of decline in any part of his game.
Essentially, the Mavs are getting more out of Nowitzki for less. They'll need that to continue. Eventually, Dirk will have to log heavier minutes, especially later in the season when the Mavs are trying to win games to make the playoffs.
4. Brandan Wright Is Back
Yes, he's back. And boy did he announce his return with a bang.
In his first game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Wright was about as efficient as a guy could be.
He poured in 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting and six rebounds in just 19 minutes, per ESPN. He was viewed as a critical rotation player coming into this season, and he more than proved that status on Saturday night.
He brings energy, freakish athleticism and hustle defense—namely shot-blocking—to this team. Although he isn't a bruising body in the paint, his long and lanky frame can cause havoc for opposing players trying to create space.
Wright's return checks in at fourth, mainly because he has just played in one game so far since returning from injury. But he makes this list because he will be critical to Dallas' efforts to balance the scoring.
Remember, Dallas went 14-10 in 24 games without he and guard Devin Harris.
If they can count on 20 or more points per game between he and Harris, the Mavs should be in great shape.
3. DeJuan Blair Has Been a Bargain
For just $1.4 million, Blair his averaging 8.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in 21.4 minutes a game, per ESPN. As a major bonus, he's shooting 53.2 percent and averaging over a steal per contest.
Blair has been just what the Mavs thought he would be when they signed him to that one-year deal in August: a bulldog with a multi-faceted game.
I think Blair should be playing more than he is, but for the role he's currently in, he's been phenomenal. When he's on the court, the Mavs can count on crafty, versatile and efficient interior scoring. He hustles and plays tough defense despite being a bit undersized.
The Mavs found a gold nugget here with Blair. Hopefully, general manager Donnie Nelson will sign him to a multi-year extension after this season.
He's been nothing but positive for this team so far.
2. Balanced and Deep Scoring
One of the hallmarks of the Mavs so far this year has been their scoring depth and balance. Per ESPN, six Mavs players, including 36-year-old Vince Carter, are currently averaging at least 10 points a game. Blair, as good as he's been, is not.
This goes to show that the backcourt of Jose Calderon and Monte Ellis is doing its job: finding the open man, but taking the shot if it's open.
While Ellis and Dirk are usually the two leading scorers, a different guy seems to add 15, 16 or 17 every night.
So far, these Mavs remind me very much of the Denver Nuggets: a scoring machine by committee. The difference is, of course, that the Mavs have Nowitzki, whom I still consider to be a superstar.
Dallas will need this depth to keep up their offensive pace all season.
1. Monta Ellis
Well, what else or who else did you expect here? Monta Ellis has been the Mavs' best player by far over the first 24 games. He is, in my opinion, making a very strong case to be selected for his first ever All-Star game this season.
It isn't just that he's averaging 20.8 points and 5.6 assists per game, per ESPN.
It's that he's doing it all efficiently. Much more efficiently than many people expected. I said I would be overjoyed if he shot just 45 percent. He's one-upped that and is shooting a nice 46.8 percent and 36.5 percent from downtown.
He isn't at all playing like the ball hog he's been labeled as over his career. He's done a fabulous job of driving, drawing attention and then dishing to the open man for an easy basket.
He's obviously been able to shoulder the scoring load when he needs to. He has 15 games of 20 or more points, and five games of 25 or more, per ESPN.
And all of this for just three years and $25 million, mind you.
Now that Brandan Wright is back in the fold, and Devin Harris is nearing his return, Ellis should be able find a hint of scoring relief for a while.
If he can retain his efficiency and selfless play, Dallas could make some noise this season.