It’s been nearly 10 days since the Dallas Mavericks last played a basketball game, losing to the Miami Heat on February 13th. Since then, Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Dončić had a great time at All-Star Weekend and a good chunk of the Mavericks went on what appeared to be great vacations.
But too much time without actual basketball leads to way, way too many thoughts and a few scattered predictions. So in no order whatsoever, here are 25 thoughts and predictions to consider during the final 25 games.
1. Luka Dončić might bear too much of this team’s burden.
Luka leads the team in the following statistical categories: minutes, points, rebounds, assists. He’s second in the team in steals, overall games played, and player efficiency rating.
The nineteen year old (who turns 20 next week!) has long been a professional basketball player, but the toll of being ‘the guy’ wears on Dončić, so much so he’s become quite honest about how tired he is. His love of the game is awesome, but unless the Mavericks make a playoff run, they may need to save him from himself and begin resting him in spots.
2. Twenty five games is a lot for a team unlikely to make the playoffs and uninterested in tanking.
I suspect the Mavericks would like to get out from under the draft pick they owe the Atlanta Hawks, so they can get on with their long term team building. That means they are going to try to win as many games as possible. Yet they really aren’t very good and when they lose, they lose ugly. It might not be very fun the rest of the way unless...
3. The Mavericks should make Dirk Nowitzki passing Wilt Chamberlain on the All-Time scoring list the priority for the rest of the season.
Just 109 points separates Dirk and Wilt, which comes out to just 4.36 points per game if Dirk plays all 25 games. It sounds easy, given how effortless Dirk’s scored over the years. Yet this year more than ever he’s reliant on catch-and-shoot situations set up by his teammates. I think he passes Chamberlain, but it might be close.
4. Tanking isn’t on deck for the Dallas Mavericks.
Not like last season, at least. Last season, particularly the final 15 games, were a master class in losing games while playing really hard. If Dallas loses now, it wont be for lack of trying, but because the team’s simply not very good. With how the lottery odds have changed, I suspect discussion by fans picks up quite a bit if fall 8-10 games under .500.
5. Let’s get Dirk Nowitzki more playing time.
In his 26 games played this season, Nowitzki has played more than 15 minutes three times. Usually he gets around 12 minutes, though the average number was on the rise prior to the break.
We just saw it in the All-Star break, Dirk can still score! Perhaps coach Carlisle will finally cave, particularly if Dallas comes out of the gate with a few losses.
6. Dirk’s retiring and I’m finally okay with that.
Well, I suppose I don’t know he’s retiring. But after watching him in the three point contest and his flame throwing in the All-Star game, I’m content. We were reminded of his greatness on a national stage one last time. More than that, he looked happy. And it wasn’t the kind of attention-seeking happiness Dwyane Wade continually seeks out. If Dirk hits that scoring mark, he should leave on his own terms and hopefully have some sense of how appreciated he is.
7. Back to tanking for a second; could you imagine the Dallas Mavericks with Zion Williamson too? The Mavericks have never moved up in the lottery, remember.
Who? Zion? Never heard of him. I don’t spend any time thinking about the lottery or draft prospects. It’s not good for my health. But, if Dallas doesn’t make the playoffs, I very much think they should send Luka to the lottery. I believe Lady Luck has blessed him.
8. Luka is going to hit a shot near or past half court.
Those looks from half court during the Skills Challenge were amazing. At some point he’s going to connect on one of those ridiculous attempts. There’s no time like the present.
9. Jalen Brunson has a chance to show us something.
Our site has not always been affectionate towards Brunson, but these last 25 games are a chance to grab a position in the 2019-20 rotation. In reality, he’s a second round player, one that’s seen his role and usage fluctuate wildly, though his role has stabilized some since the trade for Kristaps Porzingis. He’s shown flashes during the season, particularly as his outside shot began to fall in the new year.
10. Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber can lock their places in the Mavericks’ future, if they want to.
Unless something wild happens, these two have a place with the Mavericks past this off-season. I suppose the better question is what is their role in the Mavericks’ future?
I’d like to see Dorian Finney-Smith make the case for being a starter. Good things happen when he’s on the floor. Kleber’s probably best as a bench big man, but he’s so willing to protect the rim and that has a great deal of value in this current three point era of the NBA
11. Let’s see Luka as the roll man already.
This hasn’t happened yet, according to all the data publicly available. I suppose there might be a reason for that but I can’t think of a good one. Using Luka Dončić as a screener is just good basketball, because one of two things happens: his man either hedges to slow the ball handler or the ball handler gets a good step free of the defense. If the former happens, it’s a simple pass to Luka either rolling to the basket or popping for three. If he rolls, that’s a situation he can exploit in a myriad of ways. Even if he’s not a great screener, it’s worth a try.
12. Tim Hardaway Jr. needs to find his place.
Hardaway’s basketball history is fairly weird. He was an okay rookie with New York then had one good season in Atlanta, then signed this massive deal he’s currently on. We’ve seen flashes of both the good and bad THJ after just five games. The next 25 games I plan on keeping an eye on his catching and shoot threes, if he’s to be a starter in the future. His more likely role is spark plug off the bench, in which case I’ll be watching his shot quality and turnovers. He was miscast with the Knicks but at the moment it’s not clear what his best use in Dallas.
13. Rebounding is a problem with DeAndre Jordan gone.
DeAndre Jordan brought as many problems as he fixed but I must admit it was nice to have the rebounding aspect of the game taken care of. For a while now, the MMB staff had batted around the idea of a Dwight Powell-Maxi Kleber center platoon next season, but thus far neither have shown a great inclination towards defensive rebounding, which just kills Dallas. It would be nice to see either of the two make that a priority.
14. What in the world is going to happen with all that cap room this off season?
Shut up brain, we have those aforementioned 25 games left before any of that matters. Watch basketball.
15. Justin Jackson has just over 100 games to prove himself.
Jackson’s in a strange spot. It’s never great when a mid-first round pick is traded so soon into his career. Yet there’s merit to the argument that a new situation could benefit a player like Jackson. He’s certainly got the pedigree, yet doesn’t seem to have a specialty yet. I certainly have no idea what position he is.
He probably has more than this season and next since Dallas can pick up the final year of his rookie contract, but he’s got to find that specialization which keeps him in the NBA.
16. Rick Carlisle should smile more.
But he won’t. Still, it’s something I’m going to watch for in games.
17. We’re fast approaching Kostas Antetokounmpo time.
It’s understood that Antetokounmpo is raw, but the point of a two way contract is to let a guy play in both the G-League and the NBA. If things head south for the Mavericks, there’s little to lose in playing him.
18. The Mavericks will win five more road games this season.
Considering they’ve won six all season this might be a stupid thought. Yet if Dallas wants to prove their heading somewhere an marked improvement in road wins is a good start. They’re already really good at home, so good that only nine teams in the league have more home wins than Dallas does.
19. Dwight Powell should stop shooting threes.
It’s a running joke on Twitter by now, but our man has hit 18 of them while shooting 74. That’s horrendous. Half of his makes came in four games. When we back those out he’s just 9 of 59. That’s whatever is worse than horrendous.
20. Trey Burke will figure out he should pass to Dirk Nowitzki on pick-and-pop.
Am I the only one who has noticed that Burke seems to not realize he has the best pick and pop partner in history? After some practice and film time, I suspect this oversight corrects itself.
21. Luka Dončić will finish the season with five triple doubles
With a pair already under his belt and full control of the offense, a few more triple doubles should be in the cards. Granted, if he had teammates that could connect on open looks, he’d be averaging more assists generally, but pair the offensive burden with his defensive rebounding with Jordan out, and Luka will simply have more bites at the apple during the final trimester.
22. Courtney Lee won’t see much playing time.
There’s either something going on with him health-wise or the Mavericks simply know what they have in Lee (a career 39 percent shooter from distance). Lee’s on the books for one more year at with a mid-sized contract, so he’s both a potential trade piece and a helpful role player.
23. Let’s get Dirk a dunk while we’re at it.
The Big German only has five attempts near the basket this season and he’s converted just two. One more dunk for the road, preferably at home, would suit us all well.
24. The Mavericks finish the season with a positive point differential, but have a losing record.
As of the time I’m writing this (11:07 pm EST), there are just five teams in the East with a positive point differential whereas the West has 10. The Mavericks somehow have a 0.0 point differential which should be impossible after 57 games, yet here we are. Given their schedule in April where they’ll play more than a few tanking squads, I think it’s in range that the Mavericks finish with a record like 37-45 but squeak out a strangely positive point differential with the aid of some late season blowouts.
25. That cap room certainly isn’t going to fill itself.
It’s something I can’t bear to consider right now. Not with this idea of the playoffs looming and the hint of the lottery lurking.
Yet it’s in the air. It’s what people want to talk about. Maybe I’ll get there, but for now I’m going to lean into this utterly extraordinary feeling, since the Mavericks somehow ended up with both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in the span of nine months. Anything else at this point feels greedy.