Washington at Dallas
Time: 7:30 PM (CT), NBA League Pass
Spread: WAS -2
Odds c/o 5dimes
Dallas, while probably out of realistic contention for the 2018 playoffs, has several reasons to be excited about the progress of what has to be called one of the stranger rebuilds in recent history. While still clinging to what is left of Dirk Nowitzki’s career, the Mavs are nevertheless in something of a tank mode, bent on developing their young talents and positioning themselves for another high pick in the 2018 draft. And that is not all bad. The No. 8 overall pick from the 2017 draft has thus far panned out brilliantly for Dallas, as Dennis Smith Jr. is becoming a household name on a horrible team, which is something of a task in and of itself.
Smith has only been getting more aggressive and better as his rookie season has worn on. Over the Mavericks last five games (three of which were losses), he has averaged 18.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 43 percent from the floor. His three-point stroke still leaves some room for improvement at just 32 percent on the season, but what he lacks in marksmanship he makes up for with extra-worldly athleticism.
Smith’s highlights should keep him on everyone’s radar until the Mavericks build a team around him, but in the meantime, it is difficult to ignore what he is doing already. Smith had 25 points on 11 of 18 shooting in the 105-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets Tuesday, and while outside of swingman Harrison Barnes, not much surrounds him, he does look to have the makings of a true superstar to cede Nowitzki after he finally decides to hang it up.
Dirk still has started all 45 games this season, but he is just playing 25 minutes a night and averaging a very humble 12 points and five rebounds per game. Perhaps the most telling part of his decline, however, has not been the reduction in minutes and usage, but the fact Nowitzki is shooting just 46 percent from the field and attempting just under 10 shots per game. While his guile and skill should enable him to remain at least this effective a little longer, there is no delusional Mavericks fan that is waiting nor expecting him to return to the MVP-caliber play by which his career became known for.
Nevertheless, Barnes (18.7 points per game) and Smith should keep Dallas relevant once Dirk does retire, and the Mavericks may ultimately look for a front court replacement this year in the NBA Draft. It is a rebuild certainly that has more promise than others around the league, despite the fact it is hard to just call it a rebuild while rostering a Hall of Fame talent, still. The L.A. Lakers just rebuilt that way, however, so to say it is entirely uncharted ground would be a bit inaccurate, too.
The Wizards have dropped two straight and four of its past six, to fall to 25-20, but there is not much intrigue or mystery behind this team. It is still a team highly dependent on its backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and a team still bereft of depth on the bench, for the most part.
Wall and Beal really have done all that could be asked of a backcourt. Beal leads the team in scoring at 23.7 points per game and Wall is good for nearly 20 a night, in addition to his 9.3 assists, but Otto Porter is still falling short of expectations and
Kelly Oubre Jr. is not radically improved from his rookie season a year ago. The Wizards ultimately need to add another superstar to take any sort of monumental jump toward contention, and it may be that the team is able to make a play at
DeMarcus Cousins to reunite him with his former Kentucky teammate Wall.
Outside of that, there is no reason to expect this team to do much more than be a “pretender” with the glaring holes in its roster, and the overwhelming mediocrity at 3 of the 5 positions on the court. Marcin Gortat is a good center, and one of the best in the pick and roll, but Markieff Morris is an erratic head case and the Wiz’ bench is overall just poor. Jason Smith has returned to earth some two years after his breakout season in Orlando, which now can be totally labeled a fluke, as he led the league in mid-range shooting that year.
The Wizards are still the Wizards, to be terse and dismissive of the team, once again.