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Mavericks bridging eras

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Are the Mavericks building around a 40-year-old entering his 21st season or a 19-year-old rookie?

Yes.

Dallas has refused to begin a season tanking as long as Dirk Nowitzki holds off retirement. With that plan, it made sense to trade up for No. 3 pick Luka Doncic, the most polished player in the draft. He might contribute immediately while leading the Mavericks into their next era.

The trade for Doncic – which sent the No. 5 pick (Trae Young) and a future first-rounder to the Hawks – only further clarified Dallas’ position. The extra first-rounder is just top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected the following two years and unprotected in 2023. That limits downside in the surrendered pick’s value, but those protections are too light to deliberately tank under. The Mavericks can’t shoot for a top-five pick. They must try to be as good as possible this season and send Atlanta the worst pick possible.

So, Dallas got over its feud with DeAndre Jordan. Three years after Jordan infamously reneged on his pledge to sign with the Mavericks, he declined his $24,119,025 player option with the Clippers and signed with Dallas for $22,897,200 on one-year contract. He should help plenty at center. With the Mavericks’ first-round pick likely gone and Nowitzki inching closer to retirement, this season is too important to hold onto years-old grudges.

Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they likely didn’t make enough upgrades to make the playoffs. They were underrated last year and should be even better this year, but this Western Conference is loaded.

Dallas lost Yogi Ferrell to the Kings in yet another reneging saga and brought back old favorite Devin Harris instead. The Mavericks also guaranteed minimum salaries for Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber and signed several other players to guaranteed minimum salaries – Salah Mejri, Ryan Broekhoff, No. 33 pick Jalen Brunson and No. 56 pick Ray Spalding. Filling out the roster this way has become the norm in Dallas.

Of course, the Mavericks also finally got around to re-signing Nowitzki to a one-year contract worth $5 million, the same amount his declined team option would have paid. It is his team, after all.

Unless its Doncic’s.

Offseason grade: B

Joel Embiid out with left knee soreness for Game 3 vs. Nets

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The Philadelphia 76ers will be without Joel Embiid on Thursday night as they take on the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of their first round series.

Embiid is battling left knee soreness and although he had a statistically-important performance as the Sixers took Game 2, it was obvious he was in some kind of reduced state of ability.

Veteran center Greg Monroe will start in Embiid’s place, but it will be hard for the Sixers to match Embiid’s production. The Cameroonian star is Philadelphia’s best player, and the 76ers are a hot and cold team.

Not having Embiid on the floor will seriously alter how they respond to the spunky Nets, who already took Game 1 from the higher-seeded Sixers.

The fact that Embiid needs to rest is also drawing some ire from folks on social media. The question is why Embiid did not rest earlier in the series — or even the end of the regular season when he was in and out of the lineup — and prepare for the coming playoff run?

However things go on Thursday, folks around the league will have their eyes glued to the injury report to see updates on Embiid’s status.

Grizzlies’ Kyle Anderson undergoes thoracic outlet decompression surgery

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Kyle Anderson was playing a solid role off the bench for the Grizzlies this season, 8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, serving as a secondary ball handler and shot creator. Slo-mo was doing his thing.

However, by the end of January, the pain radiating from his shoulder — something he now says he had been playing through for a couple of years — got to be too much. He never played another game after Jan. 30.

Thursday he had thoracic outlet decompression surgery to relieve the problem. Anderson is expected to make a full recovery and be ready to go next training camp.

For comparison, this is the same surgery the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had.

Anderson is on a very reasonable contract, three years and $28 million remaining. He can be part of what is going to be built in Memphis going forward, but if they are tearing down and rebuilding — meaning a summer trade of Mike Conley — he could bring back assets in a trade.

Either way, he should be healthy and ready to go next summer.

Jerry West on NBA draft: ‘I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson’

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech declares for NBA draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).