The Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of an improbable run back into the Western Conference playoff picture partly due to the play of their young undrafted rookie point guard, Yogi Ferrell. The former high school McDonald's All-American and four-year starter at Indiana has helped ignite a much-needed spark into an aging team that looked to be on the brink of a rare rebuild.
Coming into the 2016-2017 season, the point guard position looked to be a position of great depth for the Mavs. They returned starter Deron Williams and had familiar faces J.J. Barea and Devin Harris back in the fold as reserves. The Mavericks were so confident in their guard play that they opted to let Raymond Felton, who was impressive in a Mavericks uniform, walk in free agency.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, injuries hit their guards hard and depleted the depth of the position. The Mavs were forced to play bottom-of-the-barrel type players like Jonathan Gibson and Pierre Jackson. Losses ensued and the Mavericks were left searching for answers.
With Barea still on the shelf due to a calf injury and Deron Williams working his way back into game shape, the Mavericks opted to take a 10-day flyer on Yogi Ferrell.
Ferrell arrived in Dallas on January 28th and his game preparation started right when the ink dried on his newly minted 10-day contract. The 6-foot-0 180-pound guard had to embark on a full-fledged crash learning course—majoring in what it takes to a be a point guard under Rick Carlisle. Luckily for Ferrell, this wasn't his first time playing in the NBA, he had one brief stint with the Brooklyn Nets throughout this past November while Jeremy Lin was a nursing a groin injury. Yogi failed to impress the Nets higher-ups as the team declined to re-sign him to another 10-day contract, opening up his opportunity in Dallas.
This was his big shot to prove to the Mavericks that he was an NBA-caliber point guard. Let me take you through some of the pivotal games that have helped shape Yogi's young career in Dallas up to this point.
January 29th vs. San Antonio Spurs: 9 points, 7 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 0 turnovers on 3-of-9 shooting, 1-of-4 from 3
Dallas Mavericks 105 - San Antonio Spurs 101
One day after signing his 10-day contract, Rick Carlisle and his staff opted to throw Yogi into the fire as the starting point guard in his first live game action as a Maverick. Ferrell managed to impress even though he was still getting acclimated to live NBA game speed. Yogi was assertive early in the game, smartly using future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki in two pick-and-roll situations in the first quarter. The Spurs and Tony Parker opted to single over both of the pick-n-rolls, resulting in open clean looks for Yogi where he converted 1 of 2 attempts for 3 points. Having Dirk at Center offers an abundant amount of space out on the floor. Thanks to Ferrell's speed, ability to read the defenses converges quickly and excellent ball-handling skills, defenses are left with tough decisions when trying to guard the Yogi-Dirk two man game. Take a glimpse at the kind of plays Yogi can make when the defense has to take into account the assemblage of weapons (especially Nowitzki) around the court.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Spurs ran Ferrell through a bunch of screens. Per Synergy Sports, Ferrell defended on three dribble handoff plays where he was the primary defender. He battled through those 3 possessions only to allow one basket on a contested long two point shot by Patty Mills. One of the reasons Ferrell went undrafted was because of his physical profile and how that could potentially serve as a liability on the defensive side of the ball. In his first game with the Mavericks, he did all he could to compete hard, fight through screens and pressure the Spurs ball handlers on defense. Teams will look to take advantage of Ferrell's lack of size down in the paint and try to lose him through a bunch of screens but as long as Ferrell stays discipline, he'll have a chance to be an average defender.
January 30th vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: 19 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 turnovers on 7-of-15 shooting, 3-of-6 from 3
Dallas Mavericks 104 - Cleveland Cavaliers 97
Yogi really made his presence felt a day later back in Dallas as the Mavericks defeated the defending World Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. You can tell that Ferrell has been gaining confidence after playing a rare turnover-free performance down in San Antonio. He displayed a sense of relaxation out on the court, nothing seems too big for him early in his career.
In his second game against the Cavs, Ferrell's pick-and-roll workload increased. He ran a total of 5 pick-and-rolls in San Antonio as the primary ball handler per, Synergy Sports. The following night against Cleveland, Yogi more than doubled that number running a total of 11 pick-and-rolls. quarter. He is very impressive early on in his career at attacking the basket and creating space for mid-range shots. Check out these series of plays below where Yogi reads the floor and attacks the play. While under control, Ferrell manages to create and locate space, allowing for a high percentage mid-range jumper. These are very crafty plays that resemble shades of Boston's Isaiah Thomas,
February 3rd vs. Portland Trailblazers: 32 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 0 steals, 2 turnovers on 11-of-17 shooting, 9-of-11 from 3
Dallas Mavericks 108 - Portland Trailblazers 104
This game marked the official birth of Yogi-mania that has swept across the nation. With Yogi's 10-day contract set to expire, the Mavericks and Ferrell agreed to a 2-year deal worth up to $1,520,490 million before the Portland game started. Leading to one of the most surprising performances of the year. Yogi dominated from the get-go versus both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both of which are not known for their defense. Portland's game plan was to go under any and all pick-and-rolls involving Ferrell and he made them pay. Yogi hit nine 3-pointers on eleven attempts. Take a look at how much seperation Ferrell gets on excellent dribble moves and poor defense by McCollum. It's an encouraging sign to see a rookie point guard shoot with that kind of confidence off the dribble.
With Deron Williams returning back into the starting lineup, Yogi has moved to the bench where the Mavericks are using him as a J.J. Barea type player that will be looked upon to bring energy and scoring off the bench. It will be intriguing to see what Carlisle does when Barea returns, would he dare play Yogi and JJ together? Ferrell still has a ways to go on the defensive side of the ball & his advanced stats have yet to tell a definitive story on what type of player he may become, but so far the Mavericks have found a gem of a pick-up. Yogi has helped transform the Mavericks from a bottom feeder to a potential playoff team in a span of two weeks.