Faster play and an unexpected X-factor for Mavs in early preseason

Preseason usually has little bearing on how things will shake out during the NBA’s full 82-game schedule. Last season, for example, Harrison Barnes shot so poorly that many feared he was broken. Barnes was fine and ended up averaging almost 20 points per game once the regular season rolled around. While you shouldn’t place too much weight on preseason performance, there are a couple of developments worth paying attention to.

Early on, the Dallas Mavericks appear to have a spring in their step. Head coach Rick Carlisle expressed his desire to increase the pace of play on Media Day, saying, “We’re going to play faster, that’s my plan.” Through two preseason games, the Mavs are doing just that. Now, two games isn’t a metric to judge future success by any means but the team has a pace of 103.21. That’s the 18th fastest pace in the league which isn’t all that remarkable. However, when you look at the pace of 94.16 the Mavs posted last season, which was second to last, it’s almost blistering.

A few factors point to why the Mavs are playing faster. The first is emphasis. Carlisle’s will shall be done. The team is also healthy. A season ago, injuries dealt blows to a number of players, sidelining guards like Deron Williams, J.J. Barea, and Devin Harris, leaving the team scrambling to replace them and forcing it to slow the game down and play more in the halfcourt. That’s not the case with this team. This season’s roster features a number of players Carlisle considers playmakers who keep the ball moving and push the tempo.

LINK: Mavs preseason schedule

One such player, who is turning heads, is Gian Clavell. Fans might not be familiar with Clavell, though. He made the training camp roster after playing hard and putting up good numbers with the Miami Heat during Summer League. Through two preseason games, the Puerto Rico native is making the most of his opportunities. 

Clavell is averaging 11.5 points on 61.5 percent shooting – including 58.4 percent on 3-pointers, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2 steals. Beyond the numbers, Clavell is playing with confidence. He steps into his shot, finds teammates, and, most importantly, doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s only committed one turnover in 32 minutes of action. His play has earned the praise of his head coach.

“He’s making a strong statement here in these two games,” Carlisle said Wednesday after the Mavericks’ 118-71 victory over the Chicago Bulls. “He’s a fiery competitor, he’s unafraid, and he’s a gamer. He wants the ball and he attacks. And he’s pretty good on defense. I was impressed on Monday night when he got off to the slow start but did not waiver from his approach of being aggressive and then he got the ball in the basket. He basically kind of sparked us to a comeback and a win in that game and tonight he hit shots early and that was good.”

That morning, Carlisle said that Clavell’s play is giving him a chance at making it in the NBA. However, it might not be with the Mavericks. Currently, Dallas’ 15-man roster is full. However, the team does have one two-way contract left available if they want to retain him. It’s not just the Mavs that are paying attention to Clavell, though. The whole league is watching.

Preseason might not matter like the regular season in terms of record keeping. But for emphasizing a style of play and for players fighting to make a roster, it means a considerable amount. A faster tempo and the emergence of Clavell are just two storylines to follow so far. More will undoubtedly emerge as the season draws closer. 

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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