After enjoying a successful international career in Argentina, Nico Brussino came to the Mavs as an undrafted free agent, with little expectation of making the roster in the preseason. But after demonstrating his unique skill set and shooting ability, Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle decided to give him a shot.
Thanks to signing his three-year $2.5 million deal this season, Nico is under contract through the 2018-19 season, and will become a restricted free agent following the conclusion of his deal. Next season, he is set to earn around $1.3 million.
Though it took a while for Brussino to adjust to speed and physicality of the NBA game, by the end of the season, he became one of the Mavs most exciting prospects on the roster heading into this offseason. But first things first: Rico also needed to adjust to life in America ... and his first step there featured frequent calls to Nick & Sam's.
Nick & Sam's, of course, is one of Dallas' finest steakhouses, and a primo choice for DFW athletes. (See our scoop on Tony Romo's private Dallas Mavericks/Dallas Cowboys party to know more.) True story: Nico made frequent calls all year to Nick & Sam's to order dinner -- deliveries to his home, pre-orders for in-restaurant dining, whatever. But the restaurant, understanding what Nico didn't understand, developed a habit of transferring his call directly back to the kitchen, where a Spanish-speaking staffer would take his orders.
"He’s working on the English language,'' coach Carlisle recently told ESPN Radio, "or I should say he continues to work on the English language.''
As a Maverick, Brussino finished the season averaging 2.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. However, those stats are a tad skewed, due to Brussino not seeing any significant action until after the All-Star Break. When given the opportunity to shine as a point-forward in the month of April, Brussino impressed us all, averaging 9.6 points and 2.6 assists while shooting just under 40 percent from the field and 34.7-percent from three.
Nico’s most complete game of the season came in a loss to the Sacramento Kings in early April, in which he scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists, though he did struggle a bit from the field in that game.
Despite the underwhelming shooting averages, Brussino has the ability to shoot the lights out, and the thought amongst the Mavs decision-makers is that the shooting will come around as he becomes more comfortable on the floor. ... and even more comfortable with the language, something assistant coach Kaleb Canales and teammate JJ Barea are also helpful with. Like a of the younger players on the Mavs roster, extensive action in the the Summer League and offseason programs will play a key role in Nico’s development moving forward.
As it stands right now however, Nico seems to be a noteworthy part of the Mavs youth plans in the future.
He's 6-8 and 195, and he can get bigger. He's also got skills as a "point forward,'' or even as a point guard, in theory.
“He’s had some very good stretches of minutes this year,'' Carlisle said. "He played a lot of quality time, and even on nights when he hasn’t put up numbers per se, he’s held his own very consistently. I love his competitiveness. He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s 23 or 24; he’s still very young.”
Next year, it's hoped that Nico Brussino can further expand his menu ... and his understanding of it.
Overall Player Grade: B+
Note: All player ratings are based on a combination of player expectations and production for the season.