The NBA fans of Mexico City had chants of M-V-P echoing through the rafters of Arena Ciudad de Mexico as Luka Doncic took his final shot against the Detroit Pistons in Mexico City. But really, it was business as usual.
Having a second-year superstar on your roster can cover many ills, and Luka Doncic has been a study in doing whatever you can to get your target in the NBA Draft. Still, few could expect this sort of jump in Doncic’s game, and it has forced the team as a whole to take a giant step toward contention.
The Dallas Mavericks are currently 17-7, good for third in the Western Conference, and seventh in the league. And while there were optimists that believed the Mavericks would be playoff contenders, this type of early success couldn’t be predicted.
And the best detail of all? Unlike previous years, the Mavericks are doing this with a young roster.
The Mavericks’ 10-man rotation is the third youngest of the current top ten NBA teams by record. Early in this season they are answering the call, supporting and complimenting Luka Doncic’s historic second season.
At the start of the week the Mavericks sat at fifth in ESPN’s Power Rankings, as the rest of the league takes notice of what is happening in Dallas. And while Doncic would prefer we care about the stats a little bit less, it’s hard not to watch in awe.
The Mavericks offense has been first in the league in Offensive Rating for much of the early season. And yes, much of this rests on Doncic’s play. But each player is sliding into their role nearly seamlessly so early in the season. Whether it’s Tim Hardaway Jr. slotting into his starting role, or the crew of wings playing in support off the bench, Rick Carlisle is finding ways to maximize a young lineup in all the right ways. And much of this is with Kristaps Porzingis still rounding into form.
Just last year the Mavericks opened the season with six players over 30 years old on their roster. This season? Three. And none of those three — J.J. Barea, Courtney Lee, and Boban Marjanovic — are in the nightly rotation. The Mavericks got young overnight, and they’re winning in the process.
The schedule is about to get tougher, and it will be interesting to see how this young squad navigates that road. The season is long, but early returns suggest that, youth notwithstanding, this team should be taken seriously.