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2019-20 NBA Season Preview Series: Dallas Mavericks

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks

For a team that has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and hasn’t made it out of the first round since their title run in 2011, the Mavs are one of the more interesting rebuilding franchises. When you think of teams that tanked, the Mavs never really come up despite winning 33, 24, and 33 games the last three years. Maybe part of that is a Dirk factor, but there is now every reason to believe the days of losing are now behind the Mavs. After trading for Porzingis and making the draft day trade for Luka, a quick three year rebuild isn’t half bad by NBA standards. You look at teams around the league that have 30ish wins and you won’t find the same sort of excitement that Mavs have entering this upcoming season and for good reason. They have two young unicorns as franchise cornerstones, a legit coach and an owner that is willing to do whatever it takes to be a contender. But before we get into what you can expect from this year’s Mavs, first we must relive what was a pretty damn exciting season for a lottery team

2018-19 Season Highlights

For the first time since 1998, the Mavs will enter a season without Dirk on their roster. Thankfully he’ll be on the floor with his sweet on court decal, but it’s officially a new era led by both wonder boy Luka Doncic and the 7ft unicorn Porzingis. Two studs under 25 who the Mavs are clearly all in on after they gave Porzingis that massive 5/158M extension while seeing him play a total of 0 seconds coming off that ACL injury. In terms of young building blocks the Mavs are off to a great start, and a quick look at the rest of their roster 

Screen Shot 2019-09-19 at 11.04.03 AM

and sure it’s not filled with sexy names and certainly has some questions, but with a total salary cap number of $122,187,830 the Mavs have the 22nd most expensive roster in the league and are a top 10 team in terms of luxury tax space should they choose to use it at any point during the season. Of course, this is not a roster that is going to be on par with the beasts of the West, and that’s OK since the Mavs are still in a rebuild phase. Honestly the only bad contract they have is with THJ who has a player option for next year at $18M which he’ll probably pick up, but he did show flashes once he got to DAL in the 19 games he played in. Their other high salary players like Courtney Lee are expiring, and who knows he could be moved in the right deal come the deadline especially since they spent the MLE on Seth Curry who in my opinion is the better player.

But you don’t care about Courtney Lee. The biggest reason to be excited to watch the Mavs this year comes down to Luka and Porzingis. I mean Luka took the league by storm last season with one of the most dominant rookie campaigns in the history of the NBA. That’s not hyperbole, his performance was about as rare as they come and he did it as a teenager.

Did you know that of the players who had as many clutch time situations as Luka (38) he was 5th in the league in clutch time scoring? His FG% of 44% was better than everyone ahead of him (Harden/Kemba/Conley/George) which I would say is pretty goddamn impressive. It’s hard to find a complaint about Luka’s first season, he basically looked like a 10 year vet which is a fantastic sign moving forward, but he’s not perfect. For me, the #1 thing for Luka to improve on this season is something you sort of expected to struggle last year and that’s his defense. He had the second worst Drtg on his team at 110.6 last season, but after a summer of getting into better shape and having a year under his belt you would think that is going to take a step forward. If Luka, someone that had a negative overall net rating last year becomes even an average defender next season, well now we’re talking. He showed flashes last year sure, but now it’s about becoming consistent on that end.

And then there’s Porzingis. The last time we saw him he was pretty damn unstoppable

but after not playing in forever, it’s OK to have some questions on how he might look in this Mavs system. If you look at how he was used in NYK, around 8% of it was isolation, 16.9% was as the roll man in P&R, and 24.8% was in post up situations. If we compare that to what we saw from the Mavs last year, it’s not all that different. They basically never run isolation with Barnes gone and really only relied on it with Dirk because he couldn’t move. Seeing as that’s not a huge part of Porzingis’ game, that will be fine. They were 10th in P&R roll man offense frequency, so this is a set you’ll see them go to, especially with Luka running the P&R. He’s a tremendous passer and we’re going to get a ton of Porzingis/Luka two man game, and his ability to pick and pop is going to give him endless opportunities. I imagine he’ll be much higher than that 16.9%. Now where we didn’t see much from the Mavs last year was Post Up offense, but personnel most likely played a huge role in that. Carlisle isn’t a huge Post Up guy, but now with Porzingis and the mismatches he can create, my guess is he’ll adjust to fit his star. Plus they also brought in Boban which we all know is a guaranteed bucket anytime he posts up because he’s a goddamn monster.

With the Mavs, this isn’t a team that’s going to play overly fast, but with the additions they made have a very good chance at finding a way to at least become league average on both ends of the floor. They are already one of the more impressive teams in terms of 3PM and they just added Seth Curry who we know can shoot. Their bigger issue is on the defensive end. Near the bottom of the league in steals, blocks and below average in terms of rating, it’s going to help adding a guy like Porzingis who was one of the best rim protectors in the league prior to getting hurt. This was a team that DOMINATED defending the three point line for basically the last 5 months of the season, so the building blocks to becoming respectable on the defensive end are there. Their ceiling may not be super high, but we should see a team with a higher floor which is a step in the right direction.

Plus, we get Year 2 of Luka’s mom potentially being in the stands and you cannot rule out the benefit of having this smoke in attendance

and that has to be good for a handful of wins this year.

Even if you’re not a Mavs fan, my suggestion to you would be make sure they are part of your League Pass rotation. Luka by himself is already at the point where he’s must watch, and I am buying in on him and Porzingis making sweet basketball magic together. They may not make the playoffs because of the conference they play in, but barring health issues I think their days of being a high lottery team are over.

Official Greenie Prediction: 42 wins