With five rookies among others to evaluate, combined with the hope of getting lucky in the NBA Draft Lottery and the draft itself – and adding summer league and free agency into the equation -- this promises to be a very active off-season for the Mavericks. Then again, after stumbling their way to a 33-49 non-playoff record this season, the Mavericks know they have to reshuffle the deck and hope for better results next season.
The Mavericks have a team option on all five rookies, as well as a team option for $4.4 million on veteran guard Devin Harris.
“The continued development of our young guys is the biggest (off-season priority), and then we’ll focus on the draft immediately,” Carlisle said during Thursday’s exit interviews on the American Airlines Center practice court. “I’ve already looked at the top 15 prospects.
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“It’s a great draft, there’s great opportunity there. I don’t know which player, obviously, at this point we’re going to draft, but we’re going to get a good player. I’m really excited about it.”
As Dirk Nowitzki said he’ll return next year for his 20th season and didn’t totally rule out playing beyond that, Carlisle wouldn’t go into specifics as to what position the Mavericks hope to fill or what type of player they’re searching for in the draft.
“Nobody’s going to give you a straight answer on that this time of year -- just being honest,” Carlisle said. “If you look at our roster we do have certain needs, but at the same time if there is a player that can really be a star, there’s an awful lot of merit in just taking him and figuring it out from there.
“Between now and late June, we’ll collect a lot of information. We’ll interview guys, we’ll have workouts, we’ll figure out as much as we need to figure out and make the decision.”
The Mavericks also have to make decisions on which rookies – Yogi Ferrell, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jarrod Uthoff, A. J. Hammons and Nicolas Brussino – they think can help them and possibly become a rotation player. Finney-Smith made 35 starts, Ferrell was in the starting lineup 29 times, and Brussino proved to be a heady player.
“It’s going to be busier with player development internally than it’s been,” Carlisle said of the off-season. “We have a schedule in place.
“Our first-and second-year guys will be back in mid-May for a couple of weeks, then mid-June for a couple of weeks. We’re going to space out their workouts so that their bodies can stay fresh and then prepare them for the summer league.”
A team that had relied mostly on veteran players during Carlisle’s nine-year tenure in Dallas, the Mavericks have had a change of heart and believe they can get back in the playoffs – and possibly in the championship conversation -- if they can groom their own young players.
“One of the ways we get better is to get better from within,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to get the Yogis and the Finney-Smiths and the Brussinos and the Hammonds better.
“The first year there’s always going to be an increase in skill level and things like that. We’ve just got to be careful not to let these guys plateau.”
Ferrell was the most successful of the rookies. The undrafted point guard from Indiana University looked so polished after signing a 10-day contract on Jan. 28, that the Mavericks bypassed signing him to a second 10-day contract and instead signed him to a two-year contract.
In 36 games with the Mavericks, Ferrell averaged 11.3 points and 4.3 assists while absorbing the information spewed by Carlisle, who is known to be very rough on his point guards.
“He’s demanding, but I felt like I like that, especially even for myself,” Ferrell aid. “That just brings more of myself.
‘I want more from my teammates and for our team. So I’m just trying to do everything coach wants and what he’s asked.”
Noel, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, was acquired on Feb. 23 in a trade with Philadelphia. His athleticism, defense and shot-blocking abilities helped fuel the Mavericks as they plan to match any offer he’ll receive.
“It’s not really too much I can control right now,” Noel said, in regards to his free agency. ‘I’m just worried about just getting back to work and resting up for a little while.
“I love Dallas. In my short time here, I’ve really enjoyed it. I think there’s a lot to be excited for.”
Carlisle, who has now missed the playoffs twice in the past five years, hopes that excitement turns into more wins and a playoff berth next season.
“I’ve been around young teams, it’s exciting,” Carlisle said. “There’s a painful aspect to it when you’re having to rely on guys -- especially like we did this year-- undrafted guys to go out there and start and do these kinds of things.
“It’s just tough, but they learned a lot in a short period of time and the spirit has been really good this year.”