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Roundtable: Fixing the Mavericks

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Things stink right now, but they might be fixable

NBA: New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks are bad right now, as bad as they’ve been at any point in the last three years. Yet unlike 2016-17 or 2017-18 where the hope was gone quickly, the problems Dallas faces are fixable. Or mostly fixable. With that in mind, we asked our staff this simple question:

How would you fix the Dallas Mavericks?

Doyle: It’s clear that the Mavericks need to add another piece in order to get back on track. Unfortunately, that piece won’t come via trade or other conventional move this season. Instead, that piece must come in next summer’s draft. The Mavericks have a top-five protected pick, which means that Dallas must do everything in their power to #TankForZion.

In all reality, though, what’s important for the team now it to find a sense of unity. There is visible frustration surrounding this team after dropping six straight games. It can be seen on the court and in the locker room. Winning a game or two will go a long way in building that unity but in order to do so, a number of things have to go right and that all starts on the defensive end of the floor.

Dallas stinks defensively. Like, they’re near the bottom of the league bad and there’s plenty of blame to go around. The perimeter defense is bad with Wesley Matthews doing what he can while watching his assignments light up the score board nightly. Dennis Smith Jr. is getting blown by repeatedly. Then, on the inside, DeAndre Jordan looks more concerned with padding his rebounding stats than defensive positioning and challenging shots. If there is a glimmer of hope it’s that two of the bench guys, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, look actively engaged while defending.

Defense and the mindset that comes with it is what the Mavs need to fix. Carlisle has stressed it this season but it doesn’t seem to have taken hold. After the embarrassing loss to the New York Knicks, maybe the team will finally buy in and actually start playing harder both individually and as a unit. If not, Zion awaits.

Kirk: It’s safe to say the Mavericks have a lot of issues right now. Understanding these issues are evenly spread on both sides of the ball, I think the easier fix has to be their offensive inconsistency.

Dallas has GOOD offensive players. The egalitarian nature of the shot distribution between the starters doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Luka Doncic is the best offensive player. Dallas could stand to try getting him more touches and let him lead the offense more.

Dallas should also keep trying the different experiments with starters and the second unit. Wesley Matthews getting run with that group has looked good in limited time and Dorian Finney-Smith has been solid with the starters. I don’t know if they should just make that change in the starting line up, because the hockey line up shift changes don’t seem to work for the Mavericks, but Dallas has a lot of functional players. They just have to make it all work long enough to come away with a victory.

Jordan: Unfortunately the Mavs have two severe problems: a scheme that often leaves the ball in the wrong players’ hands, and flat out effort on both ends of the floor. One of the reasons we’re seeing guys like Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber be successful early is because they’re hustling when they get time on the floor.

Effort can only be improved by the players. At some point they’ll need to take some pride in their own game and bust it while they’re on the floor. Often, snapping out of slumps come from flat out hustle plays. Carlisle can only yell so much or call so many timeouts to affect this part of the game. His only other power is benching players who refuse to play hard.

The part Carlisle can fix is the rotations and scheme. I think there is a split among fans that feel Luka Doncic is getting the ball enough, or being shunned by teammates (and really, vets). It’s been clear this season that Dennis Smith Jr. has trouble navigating the pick and roll, but I’d still like to see him run it with Doncic instead of DeAndre Jordan. A DSJ-Doncic PnR would be fun to watch. Doncic provides more weapons out of that set, than the predictability of Jordan always rolling to the basket. I don’t know that this will break any slumps. But I think it’s a weapon that’s going underutilized.

Ultimately, this team at its best is a 35 win team. So the front office needs to evaluate what that means to them. They’re lying to themselves if they think they can compete for a postseason spot. And the danger they’re playing with is being bad, but only bad enough to be the 6th to 10th worst team in the league. And then they’re giving up a valuable lottery pick. So I’ll say it very quietly so as not to disrupt anyone just yet....maybe it’s time to start considering moving around vets for assets, giving more time to develop young players, and aim to keep the draft pick. If long term success is the ultimate goal as Doncic and Smith hit their early primes, this season should just be another step in the rebuild.