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Friday, 22 September 2017 06:00

Dallas Mavericks vs. Boston Celtics: CLNS Celtics Newsfeed's 2017-18 Season Preview

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Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Dallas Mavericks | Powered by CLNS Media

2016-17 Round-Up: Last season continued a slow but steady downward trajectory for the Dallas Mavericks, finishing 33-49 and out of the postseason for just the second time since the 1999-00 season. The team simply lacked the necessary components to consistently compete in today’s NBA.

Lack of explosiveness in the backcourt: The team brought back old heads Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea (it feels like Harris and Barea have been on the Mavs for about 15 seasons), while unknown rookie Dorian Finney-Smith played in a team-high 81 games, with 35 of those coming as a starter.

The Mavs simply didn't have the players capable of getting to the rim, evidenced in their league-low marks in free throws per game(18.5) as well as points in the paint per game(32.8). You could say Dallas was doomed from the beginning. By Dec. 16, Dallas sported a 6-20 record, and although the team rebounded to play around .500 the rest of the way, it resulted in a wasted season for future hall-of-famer Dirk Nowitzki.

Suiting up an incredible 24 players last season, the Mavs were able to unearth a couple of diamonds in the rough.

Undrafted out of Indiana University, Yogi Ferrell proved -- if anything -- to be a valuable scoring guard off of the bench moving forward. And Seth Curry (Steph’s younger brother), after years of bouncing around the league, finally found a home, posting great shooting splits (48/43/85) and holding his own on defense with intelligence and body positioning.

After melting down in the 2016 NBA Finals, Harrison Barnes signed with the Mavs for 4 years, $94 million (Barnes’ former team, Golden State, opted to go with some guy named Durant). Barnes bounced back, putting together his best individual season as a pro. At 25-years old, Barnes (similar to Kyrie Irving) still hasn’t reached his full potential yet.  

The player Dallas hoped Barnes would team up with -- Nowitzki -- posted his worst season since his rookie year. For the first time in his career, Nowitzki looked like a liability when he was on the court (the Mavs posted the worst rebounding numbers in the league due in large part to Nowitzki’s lack of mobility).

Dallas brought in Nerlens Noel during the trade deadline in an effort to pair Nowitzki with a defensive ace. During their 208 total minutes together, Noel and Nowitzki posted a net rating of six points.

Offseason Grades: B+

The Mavs didn’t make any wholesale changes, but they should be improved, nonetheless. The key haul is Dennis Smith Jr., an uber athlete who very well may end up being the steal of the 2017 draft. After being highly recruited out of high school, Smith underperformed during one up-and-down season at N.C. State.

Noel might as well be a new addition, giving that he played in a mere 22 mostly meaningless games. After a strange standoff this summer as a restricted free agent, Noel finally gave in and signed a one-year contract.

The team also brought in bigs Josh McRoberts and Jeff Withey.

Training Camp Questions: Although there appears to be no ill-will between the two sides, can Noel put his mind to playing an effective and healthy full season? The Mavericks will need him and Nowitzki to get used to playing next to each other more. Can Smith Jr., carry over the momentum from his impressive summer league (he averaged 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.2 steals and made it to the All-Summer League first team)?

What will Wes Matthews look like as he continues to separate himself from his brutal achilles rupture from a couple of seasons ago?

Will the starting point guard spot be handed to Smith Jr., and will the notoriously fickle -- but great -- Rick Carlisle let him look for his own shot?

Nowitzki is ironically the big question mark. After signing a two-year deal this offseason, this will be Nowitzki’s 20th season. How much -- if anything -- does he have left in the tank?

Next Move They Make: If Noel plays out of his mind and the two sides can’t agree to a long-term extension, the team may be wise to move on from him. Noel has enjoyed inconsistent health and is still a raw scoring threat at best.

The team could also look to move on from Nowitzki...only kidding.

How They Beat The Boston Celtics: The Mavs would certainly be underdogs in any matchup with Boston, however, Nowitzki has enjoyed great success against the Celtics. How much success?

Well, in 34 career games against the Celtics, Nowitzki owns an average of 25.8 points per game, his highest individual mark against any team in the league.

Noel has typically played an active game against the Celtics, while Barnes could conceivably play Gordon Hayward to a draw. The big mismatch would come at point guard if Smith Jr., was forced to check Irving. Smith Jr., undoubtedly possesses the confidence, but a player of Irving’s caliber would absolutely turn him around in circles.

Trending: The Mavs have the unfortunate task of digging themselves out of the Western Conference, a dubious task for the majority of teams. There are at least a few building blocks Carlisle and Co. can continue to develop, including Barnes, Noel, Curry and Ferrell. The biggest factor is how good Smith Jr., can become.

The Western Conference is too stacked at the moment, however, and the Mavs are too barren with talent to be deemed a rising stock.

Final Record/Standings Prediction: 38-44 10th in the Western Conference

Carlisle is one of the best in the business. He’s squeezed the most of his rosters, going all the way back to his days coaching in Detroit. He’ll have his work cut out for him. Smith Jr., represents the Mavericks’ first top-10 pick since Nowitzki, and perhaps its greatest hope in getting back them back to contender status again. Considering the point guard talent in this league, he’ll certainly take his lumps in year one.

Carlisle will need to do his best balancing act between developing the youngsters (ie: Smith Jr., Curry, Ferrell, Dwight Powell) and competing to win with reliable vets (ie: Barea, Harris, Matthews, McRoberts).

On top of balancing between winning now or later, the status on just how effective Nowitzki will be remains up in the air. The team allowed the fourth-least points per game on defense last season, but largely struggled to score the ball, posting the 23rd lowest offensive rating in the NBA.

The sledding will ultimately prove to be too tough as the Mavs remain in the playoff hunt until the last couple of weeks before bowing out.

Cory Prescott

Cory Prescott is the Editor at Large for Boston Celtics coverage on CLNS Radio. 

Cory is a graduate of Susquehanna University, graduating with a degree in Communications - Journalism.  While at Susquehanna, Cory spent three years as the sports editor for the school's weekly newspaper.  He also worked for the Crusaders Athletics Communications Department.

Following graduation, Cory spent time writing for the Maine Hockey Journal, as well as Boston Sports Then & Now, in addition to his own blog, Brain Freeze.

A native Mainer, Cory has been residing in Boston for the past few years.

Follow Cory on twitter @CLNS_Prescott.