NBA Season Preview: Dallas Mavericks

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 43-32 (.573%), 7th in Western Conference, Lost in 1st Rd.
Head Coach: Rick Carlisle

Many thought that the Mavericks would contend for a playoff spot heading into last year, but few expected the Mavs to be in the thick of the playoffs when the season was halted by COVID. Dallas had a shot to snatch the 4th seed and leapfrog a number of teams in the bubble, but went 3-5 and ultimately lost to the Clippers in 6 games. Unfortunately, their 2nd leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis tore his meniscus in the first half of Game 1 vs. the Clippers, which certainly was a contributing factor to their demise. Throughout the season, the Mavs were led by none other than 1st Team All-NBA superstar Luka Doncic – who had an amazing second year in the NBA, averaging 28.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 8.8 apg while racking up 17 triple-doubles, leading the league. Porzingis was also putting together an excellent bounce back campaign – 20.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg & 2.0 bpg after missing all of the 2018-19 season and being unceremoniously booted out of New York. Rick Carlisle coached his 12th season in Dallas, having compiled a 513-448 record (.534%) during his tenure as bench boss.  

Doncic is the MVP Front-Runner

Luka is going to enter the stratosphere this year and challenge the full season Triple Double that only the Hall of Fame great Oscar Robertson and the Hall of Fame-bound Russell Westbrook have achieved. And why not? His excellent rookie numbers – 21.2 ppg/7.8 rpg/6.0 apg/1.1spg translated to an even better 2nd year – 28.8 ppg/9.4 rpg/8.8 apg/1.0 spg, earning All-NBA 1st Team honors and getting MVP votes (finishing 4th). What can Luka do in his much-hyped 3rd year? Is 29 ppg/11 rpg/10 apg/1.2 spg possible? Seems like this guy can do pretty much anything he wants, any time he wants. If Luka wants to average more than 30 ppg, nobody will be surprised. Lead the league in assists? Go ahead. What Luka wants, Luka gets. The Mavericks will go as far as Luka can carry them. 

Tom’s Take: Luka Doncic will become the first Slovenian NBA MVP in 2020-21. 

How will Porzingis Recover?

The Mavs need to be cautious, careful and measured in working with the Latvian big man. This is the 2nd major leg injury in 3 years to the tall and lanky man from Liepāja and they need to bring him back with patience. Given his natural height and smooth stroke (similar to KD – both are tall, lanky with beautiful shooting motions) he should be able to recover. He may be limited in someway, but he’ll still a problem for opponents. If he suffers a 3rd major injury to his legs, that might be it. Not many players comeback from that type of injury history. Dallas needs to ensure they put the kid gloves on Kristaps, and hopefully he can get back to playing major minutes for the rest of his career. A healthy Kristaps Porzingis is good for himself, the Mavericks, the NBA, the Latvian National team and for fans of basketball. “The Unicorn” is an amazing talent. To be so tall, have such a pure stroke and unlimited range is something to value. And he’s not afraid to get to the rim and bang it on someone or reject three shots in a row in tight – he’s one of the premier shot blockers in the NBA. The league needs Porzingis healthy. With he and Doncic, it could be a championship duo in the making.

The Rest of the Mavericks

There are some exciting players to watch for the Mavericks, as they attempt to solidify their team around their two All-World talents in Doncic & Porzingis. One of those players is 18th overall pick in the NBA Draft Josh Green. The Australian excelled in nine sports while growing up down under – Australian Rule Football, Rugby, Tennis, Swimming, Basketball – and is a natural athlete. Luckily for Green, he’s been drafted by a Rick Carlisle. One of the finest coaches in the league is going to develop his talent and get the most out of him, and look to eventually grow him into a 3rd scoring option. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dwight Powell return for the Mavs, and they’ll be accompanied by new acquisitions Josh Richardson and James Johnson. Maxi Kleber will backup Porzingis when healthy, and provide a solid backup as a relief starter to get the season going – he started 21 games and came off the bench for 53 last year.  Seth Curry (45.2% on 5.0 attempts per game), Wille Cauley-Stein (10.8 rpg on per 36 minutes) and rookie Tyler Bey will round out the rotation for the Mavs. Don't sleep on Bey as a 2nd Rd. pick (36th overall) - at 6'7", he set the benchmark at NBA Combine this year with a 44-inch vertical leap and has a 7-foot wingspan. 

Photo Credit: John Rivera/Icon Sportswire