Dallas Mavericks: Rick Carlisle is Making a Case for COY

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is making a strong case to win his second Coach of the Year award. This season might be his most challenging one yet.

Ever since the Dallas Mavericks climbed to the top of the mountain and defeated the three-headed monster in the Miami Heat, the Mavericks have been for the most part a shuffling project that forces Rick Carlisle to showcase his almost unfathomable coaching abilities.

It’s mind-boggling that he hasn’t won Coach of the Year since the 2001-02 season. One might say he is due for another award; this season is one of his best cases to do so.

Let’s go back to last summer and relive the Mavericks “failed” offseason. They missed out on Hassan Whiteside and Mike Conley. Then gave a max contract to Harrison Barnes, which in a way helped the Golden State Warriors land Kevin Durant.

The Mavericks then got Andrew Bogut from the Warriors, at the time considered one of their best acquisitions of the offseason. The Mavericks also took a chance signing Seth Curry to a two-year, $6 million deal.

If you listened closely, you could hear Rick Carlisle crack his knuckles in the distance as soon as the free agency period ended.

On the opening night, they had a decent showing offensively when they went up against the Indiana Pacers. Five Mavericks reached the double-digit mark; to make it sweeter three of those players were in the 20-plus margin.

Dirk Nowitzki even gave Harrison Barnes the shot which ultimately helped the team to take it to overtime, where unfortunately, they lost.

It’s never a good thing to lose, but at least you saw chemistry on the court which the team can build on. However, just like any drama, the twist is near.

Ever since the first game of the season, Rick Carlisle has been busy picking up the pieces of a roster that resembles an area of destruction that feels like it could only be caused by Mother Nature.

There has been a total of 90 games missed between Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Devin Harris, and J.J. Barea. That statistic alone would cause most franchises to panic and press the reset button.

The team began their seasonwith a 4-16 record to begin a (what you assume would be) a doomed 2016-17 campaign. Most teams would have gone into reset mode; the Mavericks of course don’t ever consider that an option (unless it’s after winning the NBA Finals).

Immediately Rick Carlisle put on his “let me show the world why I’m one of the three best coaches in the league hat” and goes to work.

Usually you don’t see any young players getting much burn on a Rick Carlisle team. Perhaps, that’s because the Mavericks don’t get the young-stud free agent they so frequently go after. This year Carlisle is putting his young players in position to make a name for themselves.

One of those players is undrafted free agent Dorian Finney-Smith.

Finney-Smith’s season averages aren’t anything that a casual NBA fan would a tweet about, but he has shown he can guard some of the best players in the league. His defensive ability alone has earned him minutes.

Finney-Smith’s off/on stats also show that his defensive skills do make a difference on the team.

His best month offensively was December. He shot about 44.6 percent from the floor on 92 attempts. His three-point game was pretty good as well with him averaging 36.8 percent.

That’s not saying Carlisle is the sole reason Finney-Smith is putting up these numbers, but what Carlisle did is put the undrafted forward in a position to succeed.

As positive as the Finney-Smith story is, with all due respect, it has nothing on the Yogi Ferrell surge that has given the Mavericks the spark they need to make the playoffs.

He is measured at 6’0:, per Basketball Reference, but from watching him at home it looks like he is a few inches taller than me. At the end of the daym that number is irrelevant compared to the games Ferrell positively influenced by being on the court.

Since his arrival to the Mavericks they are 6-3; with three of those wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz. Those aren’t walk-in-the-park contests, not even for the elites such as the Warriors.

Ferrell’s tenure with the Mavericks is still fresh, so no need to get too into the moment. It’s safe to say he will be important to the franchise even if we don’t know what that role will be.

It’s obvious the team trusts him, he already has seven more starts with the Mavericks than he did with his time on the Nets. As bad as the Nets are, Yogi Ferrell never started for them and averaged just 15 minutes a contest.

Rick Carlisle is one of those coaches that changes with personnel and it is truly showing this season.

Nowitzki starting at center isn’t groundbreaking, but the fact Rick Carlisle did it while Andrew Bogut was still healthy speaks volumes.

The Mavericks needed something to get them going and Bogut wasn’t producing like the Mavericks thought he would, thereby forcing Carlisle’s hand to put the Australian center with the second unit.

The Mavericks are 12-8 in their last 20 games with Nowitzki starting at center, which gives them a chance to stumble into the playoffs, with the race for eighth place in the Western Conference not exactly a clash of titans.

Carlisle took a risk that could have hurt the locker room and so far, it’s paying off.

Carlisle is adding another impressive coaching performance to his resume. As bleak as the season began, the Mavericks are in a playoff race that no one saw them in the first two months of the season.

The players have produced, but Carlisle molded the game plan and is the mastermind that deserves majority of the credit. Carlisle is a top-three coach in the league and this is season another testament to that.

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