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Five Questions with Mavs Moneyball

Tim Cato gives us his Dallas Mavericks thoughts heading into the regular season finale

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen we have made it to the final game of the 2016-17 regular season.

A great season it has been. This has been one of the most statistically historic seasons of all-time. As we head into the playoffs, the MVP race is the most exciting in a generation. We could be heading for the third Warriors-Cavaliers Finals in a row, which has become the premier rivalry in the NBA.

But the NBA is more than a handful of teams. There are 30 NBA teams and they all have individual stories and goals from this season. The Grizzlies don’t have any award front-runners, they’re stuck in the 7th seed, and they’re not a championship contending team.

The Mavericks are capping off a rebuilding season with a superstar in his twilight and a draft pick in the lottery. Depending on how tonight’s games around the league fare, the Mavericks could finish as low as 7th or as high as 9th.

Both teams still matter. The Grizzlies are a below-average playoff team. The Mavericks are a mid-lottery level team. They’re still NBA franchises though, and their seasons should be celebrated, dissected, and remembered just like any playoff contender.

To recap the Dallas Mavericks’ 2016-17 campaign and take a peek towards next year, I asked the great Editor-in-Chief of Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation staff writer Tim Cato how he feels about Nerlens Noel, memorable moments, and of course, Chandler Parsons.

This will be the last game of the first year of the Nerlens Noel experiment. He's not guaranteed to be back next season, but based off of what you've seen this far, do you think the Mavericks should look to bring him back?

I'd put the chances of Noel returning somewhere between 99 and 100 percent. Dallas didn't trade for him at the deadline with plans not to offer him, and he's a restricted free agent. I just don't see a scenario where he doesn't return.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of experiments, the Chandler Parsons experiment! His injury history made Mark Cuban hesitant to extend the max offer, which looks smart in retrospect. What were your thoughts during the summer when Parsons left Dallas compared to now? Do you think he could have still been productive for the Mavericks?

Last summer, we didn't actually know how hurt Parsons' knee was. The meniscus tear was supposed to be a simple injury, like it usually is, but clearly it dragged out much longer than that. Clearly, Dallas knew enough to steer clear, and I don't think his surroundings -- whether he was in Dallas or Memphis -- would have affected whether he got hurt again. But I am rooting for him to have a healthy offseason and hopefully regain his form.

The Mavericks roster looks to be in flux from the outside. Dirk is nearing the end of his illustrious career and the young pieces that have been playing well are new and (relatively) untested. Is there anyone on the team you see being a building block or core player for this franchise?

With Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry and Noel, I feel like the Mavericks have three potential starters, all 26 or under, as they head into the future. That's a good situation to be in, especially when you consider how desperate they were and how devoid of young players they appeared to be just two summers ago after the DeAndre Jordan fiasco. Neither of those three are future superstars or number one options, but they're all quality building blocks for a playoff team that Dallas hopes to build.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have been one of the most successful franchises since 2000. They've made the playoffs nearly every season, won the conference twice, and won an NBA Championship. Even though it can't last forever, do you hold this team to the high bar that has been set for them by prior iterations, or do you grade them on a curve knowing this was a rebuilding year?

I do hold them to a very high standard, although certainly, a season like this one was going to happen eventually. I don't think any Mavericks fans fault them for it, and the only real complaints would arise if Dallas' malaise continues for several years. Fortunately, this team shouldn't be anything like that. They started 4-17, which ultimately killed any hopes of recovering for a playoff push, but this team since January or so has been excellent, and with most of the players returning next year, that ought to continue.

The Mavericks aren't making the playoffs, unfortunately. This will be the last game of the season, so to reminisce about the good times, what's been your favorite Dallas Mavericks moment of the 2016-17 season?

Dirk Nowitzki passing 30,000 points, without question. He's a special, incredible player, and I've been lucky to watch him as closely as I have over the past years.

Thank you to Tim Cato for answering my questions! Be sure to follow him on Twitter @tim_cato

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