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Mavs Mailbag: Luka Doncic’s best friend, and more

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A new season is on the horizon. But first, we have plenty to ponder deep in the offseason.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks-Press Conference Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Can you believe it? Training camp is just around the corner, and soon games will be played. As we finish treading water in the deepest darkest parts of the off-season, now is as good a time as any to dive in to some projections and debate. And your Twitter questions are the jumping off point. Dig in down below!

@Senyera1899: What is the likelihood that Luka will play minutes against the Beijing Ducks in the first game of preseason?

Until we hear otherwise, the roster should be fully active. I suppose it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dirk not suit up, or some of his fellow old guys. But outside of that, I’m assuming everyone makes an appearance.

It was wise for the Mavs to sit Doncic through summer league, even if we were all dying to see him in action. But now with a full offseason away, expectations should be back to normal. He may not play much, but I’d expect the home crowd to get their first sight of Doncic in a home uni. Once training camp begins we might get a clearer picture of how the Mavericks plan to handle that game.

@lukepurs: What do you think the ceiling and floor is for this years team?

With two major pieces added to the rotation this summer, it’s hard to tell what it will do for the rotational chemistry. One thing should be certain, the Mavs will put more ticks in the win column this year. Rick Carlisle’s system is just begging for players like DeAndre Jordan and Luka Doncic to exploit mismatches and live at the rim.

All that said, I might be the most generally pessimistic (I call it realistic) writer on the MMB staff — so don’t start making playoff travel plans just yet. Over the last ten seasons the eight seed in the Western conference averaged 45.6 wins. So asking the new-look Mavericks to add 21 wins this season might be asking a lot.

For me, I’d put their floor and ceiling between 32 and 40 wins. Health will be an important factor for a roster peppered with aging vets. And some young guys will need to take some strides. If the Mavs can snag somewhere between 35 and 40 wins, it will be a wildly successful season, with plenty of excitement for the future.

@fabio_torres: Do you guys believe Dirk comes off the bench this season? It seems to me that our best lineup should be DSJ, Wes, Luka, HB and DAJ, but benching Dirk is hard to stomach, at least for me.

We hit on this a little in the last mailbag, and my opinion hasn’t changed much. Seeing Dirk play a bench role is one of those first major steps no one — coaches, teammates, fans — wants to face as he approaches the end of his career. But I think competitively it’s necessary for a few reasons. Primarily, I don’t think Dirk and DeAndre Jordan will be able to play alongside each other for long stretches defensively. Jordan is best protecting the rim, and Dirk has had to switch to the five in the last few seasons. That’s not to say they won’t ever share the floor. But Carlisle will have to be creative (which he is no doubt capable).

Secondly, we already know Dirk works flawlessly with that bench crew, which is returning almost fully intact. They were one of the most effective bench units in the league last year, and that chemistry should continue this season. There’s no harm in making Dirk a permanent member of that dominant crew.

Lastly, I think there is some symbolic importance in Dirk leaving the starting group. The front office has put a lot in to acquiring and growing Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic, as they start to build the next era of Mavericks basketball. Dirk Nowitzki will go down as an all-time teammate, and would never be one to distract from that transition. But I think this season might be a good time for the Mavericks to quietly place new responsibility on the two young guns. And that’s one way to do it.

@wachamolenyc: Who is the go-to on this team? When we NEED a bucket.

This is a tough and sobering question. I think the answer today is probably Harrison Barnes. Although if you’re just asking for a player to take one shot to win, I’d probably be in the huddle calling Dirk’s number. But if it’s a tight game and you need someone to take over in isolation, Barnes is probably the guy. That part of his game has been the biggest surprise since arriving in Dallas. And though it didn’t expand much in his second season, he’s still effective.

I think in the future the go-to decision maker will be Doncic. I say decision maker because I don’t know that he’d always be the one taking the final shot. There have been stretches in LeBron James’ career where he’s had the ball in his hands in the clutch, trusted to make the best play; whether that’s taking the shot, or finding the open shooter on the wing. That responsibility will be on Luka.

**Winning Question of the Week:

@CharlesHHughes: Who is going to be Luka’s best friend on the team, the equivalent of DFS for Dennis?

Wow what an elite question from @CharlesHHughes. So elite that I had to ask the staff. Below you’ll find a very raw debate and discussion. (Spoiler Alert: no one has a clue)

Doyle Rader: I want to say Maxi but my gut tells me it won’t be Maxi.

Jordan Brodess: Maxi checks a lot of boxes. But is he a little goofy? He seems goofy.

Josh Bowe: Maxi seemed chill from what I’ve seen. Reporters rarely talked to him so he just sorta did his thing.

Brice Paterik: I want to believe it’s gonna be Dennis, but maybe not this year. Hopefully next year.

Sam Guertler: Salahhhhh

Jordan: I think that’s the obvious answer since they played together, but man I really hope not.

Sam: He’s too old.

Nick Angstadt: Luka’s best friend is his console and Hugo.

Kirk Henderson: I think it will be [Jalen] Brunson; Luka is clearly a different dude. Not bad different but he’s basically been a professional since he was 14-15 and doesn’t have the same social experiences as Dennis or really anyone.

Brice: Brunson makes the most sense.

Doyle: Brunson doesn’t strike me as a flashy kind of guy like Luka, though. He’s too matter of fact.

Jordan: Brunson’s a fun sleeper pick, but I do agree Doyle.

Josh: Maybe it’s JJ.

Doyle: JJ seems to check a lot of boxes except age. Like, it’s hard to keep up with people Luka’s age. Barea has a family.

Jordan: Yeah, like JJ isn’t going to go hang out on a day off with Luka.

Josh: Yeah true.

Brice: The real answer is me.

Jordan: Kostas [Antetokounmpo] or [Ray] Spalding fulfill a similar DFS to DSJ role.

Doyle: Kostas is on a 2-way so he won’t spend much time with the team.

Jordan: Can Ding make the roster somehow so it can be Luka & Ding? That’s the funniest combo I can think of. I only want him on the team now for a Doncic & Ding sitcom pilot.

Doyle: Would watch.