The Grizzlies head to Dallas tonight to take on the former team of a few Grizzlies. So, to help get you ready for the game, I got together with Rebecca Lawson, Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Mavs Moneyball, to get her thoughts on the Mavericks’ season, their big trade, and the future of the franchise.
Rebecca provided some great insight. Check out her answers below!
1. My first impression of the Noel trade was that it was a big win for Dallas. What were your thoughts on the deal when it happened and how do you feel about it a few games in? Are you okay with moving on from Justin Anderson given that the Mavs will likely have to end up paying Noel big money?
We as a staff and fan base assumed the Mavs would just make a nice, quiet trade of Andrew Bogut or Deron Williams for picks and be done with things. NOPE. Boy, were we surprised and crazy excited. And after a couple games of Nerlens Noel - who has barely had a chance to learn Rick Carlisle's complicated schemes - we are in heaven.
Noel elicits comparisons to Tyson Chandler, who was the best center the Mavs have ever had. His rim-running skills have been sorely needed in Dallas, he's a great compliment to Dirk/Harrison Barnes....and the best part is he's only 22! I think everyone understands the big money involved after this season, and we're all fine with that for someone who is a potential franchise-changing player.
Justin Anderson had struggled to earn minutes this year behind undrafted rookie Dorian Finney-Smith, who has Anderson's same skill set and seems to be a better player. Anderson could go on to have a great career, and he was well liked in the locker room, but ultimately was extraneous with Finney-Smith playing well.
2. Dallas started out the season poorly, but they've slowly climbed the standings. Do you want them to make the playoffs or try to improve their draft position, and where do you see them finishing when it's all said and done?
This is such a hard question, and the fan base is divided on it. Personally, I always want the Mavs to win, especially with Dirk still playing. A date with the Warriors and a first round exit might not seem appealing when it means sacrificing a chance at the lottery, but there are so many fun storylines to be had there (Curry vs. Curry! Barnes vs. his former team!) that I'd be okay with it.
I appreciate the #TeamTank position, even if I don't personally subscribe to it. If there was ever a season to have a good draft pick, it's this one, where the point guard class is deep. The Mavs won't tank though, at least not in the traditional sense. Both Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban have acknowledged publicly that the rebuilding phase has begun this year, and that while they aren't trying to lose, throwing younger, unproven guys out there has a sort of built-in number of losses. But winning with those younger guys has learning value, too.
At the end of the day, I think the Mavs will finish just outside the playoffs at 9 or 10. They just aren't consistently good enough to compete with some of the teams ahead of them. But either way, that first round pick conveyed in the Noel trade is protected 1-18 (thanks, Sixers!) so they'll be able to use it.
3. I know it's a tough topic, but what are your expectations for Dirk's future? Do you think this will be his last season or do you think he's got another year (or two) left in him?
Dirk signed a two year deal going into this season, and even though he's struggled through an early nagging Achilles injury this year, absent any sort of major injury, I do think he will play one more season. He had a pretty great season last year, and while he's shown a bit of age this season, he still commands a lot of attention defensively and is the center (both literally and figuratively) of Dallas' offense when he's on the court. Having younger guys on the team this year has been an interesting change and one that has allowed him to impart his experience in a great way, especially with Harrison Barnes.
Next season will most likely be his last, though. Twenty years -- all with the Mavericks -- is a nice round number that means a lot to him.
4. What are your thoughts on Harrison Barnes' first season in Dallas? Do you think with Noel and Ferrell around him, plus moving on from Bogut and Williams, that the Mavericks have improved their future outlook, and if so, how much?
Harrison Barnes has been a very nice surprise from what most Mavericks fans expected. While his advanced stats may not tell a compelling story, he's improved across the board and has been loads of fun to watch. Rick Carlisle moved him to the 4 earlier this season with Dirk out, and has left him there (and moved Dirk to the 5), which seems to be a more natural position fit. It's been eerie to watch Rick run a lot of the same plays for Barnes as he has traditionally for Dirk. Barnes should easily be a strong contender for Most Improved Player at the end of the season.
Barnes may not be a franchise cornerstone, but he'll be a very nice foundation piece -- and even better, as you alluded to, the Mavericks are making the right moves this year around him. They are getting younger all around, adding trade-able assets, and they have Dirk around for another year to help mentor these guys. Even before the Noel trade, I would have said the Mavs have already improved their future outlook, but with Noel AND Barnes, the future is glaringly bright.
5. I am contractually obligated to ask about Chandler Parsons. Based on the way this season has turned out, it appears the decision to move on from Parsons was the correct one, but how did you feel at the time?
When healthy last season, Parsons was putting up career numbers, and most of our staff -- including me -- was dismayed that Cuban didn't even offer a deal. But with his outspoken nature off the court, he alienated a lot of Mavs fans who were happy to move on from him. With the information that has since come out about why the Mavericks didn't offer him, and with how great Harrison Barnes has been, I am eating my words like crazy.
Obviously the Mavericks knew something about his health that we didn't, and with Parsons' injuries and the publicity he's garnered this season...no thanks. I do wish him the absolute best, though, and if he can ever stay healthy, Grizzlies fans may yet end up happy Memphis made the deal. He's a really fun player to watch when he's on.
Thanks again to Rebecca Lawson for taking part in our Five Questions series, and be sure to follow along with her on Twitter @beccaaftersix, as well as @mavsmoneyball, as the Grizzlies and Mavs get ready for their Friday night showdown.