For years, Dallas Mavericks followers have been complaining about their favorite team’s needs to overhaul their roster and get younger so they can try and keep up with the Joneses of the NBA.
Well, that time has arrived.
Quietly over the past year, the Mavericks have been adding young players to their roster. The trend has been so heavy in that direction that of the players on the Mavericks’ 15-man roster, 10 are 26 years old or younger, and six are rookies.
It’s the most rookies owner Mark Cuban has assembled on one team since he purchased the Mavericks from Ross Perot Jr. on Jan. 4, 2000.
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It’s a lot of young guys, but we’re built for it right now.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on the makeup of his team
“It’s a lot of young guys, but we’re built for it right now,” said coach Rick Carlisle, who is not accustomed to playing a lot of rookies. “We need it.”
The veterans who make up the youth movement are fourth-year center Nerlens Noel (22), fifth-year forward Harrison Barnes (24), third-year forward Dwight Powell (25), and fourth-year guard Seth Curry (26).
The older veterans are Dirk Nowitzki (38), Devin Harris (34), J.J. Barea (32), Wesley Matthews (30) and Salah Mejri, who, despite being 30 years old, is just in his second NBA season.
Nowitzki, in his 19th season with Dallas, has been here the longest. It’s Harris’ fourth year in Dallas, Barea’s third and second for Matthews.
Even the Mavericks’ leading scorer – Barnes – just arrived last summer when he signed a four-year, $94 million free agent contract.
The Mavericks’ 15-man roster has 10 players 26 years old or younger, including six rookies, the most on a Dallas team since Mark Cuban bought the club in 2000.
“That was the goal, right?,” said Cuban, referring to getting younger. “We’ve been saying we’ve been trying to rebuild without rebuilding.
“We just pushed forward a little more quickly this year. Signing Harrison was a great help, and obviously hopefully making the trade for Nerlens will be a big push too.”
Nine players were playing basketball elsewhere this time last year. And the oldest of that bunch is Curry.
The youngsters, meanwhile, aren’t just sitting and occupying space on the roster.
▪ Barnes left the Golden State Warriors after four years and is the central figure in the offense.
▪ Ferrell has been given the keys to the offense, and the Mavericks are 7-3 since he replaced Deron Williams as starting point guard.
▪ Curry, another starter, has watched his career blossom since he signed a free agent contract last summer.
▪ Noel was acquired last week in a trade with Philadelphia and is considered the game-changing center of the future.
▪ Finney-Smith has quickly become a lock-down defender while his offense continues to improve.
▪ Powell has proven his worth as a rebounder and defender, and increased the range on his jump shot.
▪ Mejri has enjoyed moments as a solid shot-blocker and rebounder, and is slowly spicing his game with some offense.
The Mavericks’ young players tallied 74 of the team’s 96 points – including 29 by Curry and 24 from Barnes – in Monday’s seven-point win over the hot Miami Heat. Carlisle hopes his youngsters are on point again Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. when the Mavericks visit the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena.
We need an infusion of youth badly and we have enough of a veteran presence there to offset any challenges. If you have a whole locker room full of young guys, that’s a recipe for a bunch of losses.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
“We need an infusion of youth badly and we have enough of a veteran presence there to offset any challenges,” Carlisle said. “If you have a whole locker room full of young guys, that’s a recipe for a bunch of losses.”
With Monday’s victory over the Heat, the Mavericks (24-35) have won 13 of their past 21 games and are just two games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. And their young players are making major contributions.
“It’s good that we’ve got a lot of young legs, so cardio shouldn’t be an issue,” Barnes said. “But we just got to grow on the fly.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys out here who can play. We just got to put them in the right situations and just compete to win.”
Mavericks at Hawks
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, FSSW