We’re at the lowest point in the basketball calendar. Sure there’s FIBA basketball on the other side of the planet, so you can watch Boban Marjanovich get spot minutes with the Serbian national team (but you’ll have to find the games and watch at weird hours). Past that, we’re really getting bored. There’s not much to do but scour social media and debate what’s to come.
With that in mind, we posed a simple question to the group: Which player, other than Luka Dončić or Kristaps Porzingis, are you most excited to see in their role this season?
Matt: Delon Wright: He seems the most poised to have a bit of a breakout season as he transitions from role player/spot starter to full time starting guard on this Mavericks roster. The length and defense are obvious benefits for a guard playing next to Luka. If his numbers and efficiency from his last full year in Toronto transition to this Mavericks team (a league average three point shooter who can guard his player and initiate some occasional offense) he should be able to hit the ground running.
Doyle: It’s hard to look at the roster right now and pin point who exactly will emerge as the Mavericks’ “next man up,” so to speak, after Doncic and Porzingis. There are just too many variables from health to opportunity to a bevy of other things to consider. That said, I’m looking forward to see what Delon Wright provides and how he’s used in the rotation.
Dallas was high on Wright long before they traded for him during free agency. The 6-foot-5 wing can play and guard multiple positions. That makes all the more important given the league’s proclivity for wings and switching and the Mavericks’ dearth of players that fit this mold in recent seasons. What’s more is that he’s a capable playmaker, something head coach Rick Carlisle always says he wants more of on the floor. Wright took the reigns of the Memphis Grizzlies’ offense in late March and into April. In nine starts, he averaged 8.2 assists. That should make Rick happy.
It’s not just facilitating that makes Wright an intriguing addition. He’s also a capable scorer and rebounder (good lord the Mavs need rebounding). In those same late-season starts, he averaged 16 points and 7.6 rebounds. It should be noted that Wright was stuffing the box score against teams that were coasting toward the season’s end and resting up for playoff berths. However, Wight has shown that he’s adequate creating for himself, spotting up, and as the ball handler in a pick and roll. What’s somewhat surprising is that he’s damn near elite off of cuts and hand offs. Those could be something we see more next year alongside to Luka.
I think Wright gives the Mavericks the most flexibility to plug him into multiple roles, on paper at least. If he can recapture some of the spark that he played with against dawdling opponents late last year, if not most of it, the Dallas found themselves a gem. Just don’t expect this to develop overnight. It’s going to take a little time.
Josh: Since my cohorts have already taken my two favorites in Wright and Curry, I’ll go a different direction: everyone’s favorite Dwight Powell.
Powell has slowly and surely transformed himself from a weird stretch-four experiment to one of the elite rum-running fives we have in the league. Pairing that rim running with an elite perimeter shooting big in Porzingis only figures to amplify what Powell can already do for the Mavericks offense. Those two should coexist very well on offense, with Powell moving, screening and diving toward the rim like a mad man and Porzingis feasting off the space created.
Defensively it might work too -- Powell’s biggest weakness is his weak rim protection, so KP has him covered there. Powell’s quick feet on offense can theoretically translate to defense and he’s much more equipped to chase rangier bigs or wings in small ball lineups than Porzingis can. Powell has great steal numbers and is a good trapper. Perhaps playing with KP utilizes the gifts Powell does have on defense to a greater degree.
Ultimately, I’m just curious to see if Powell can be part of a lineup that wins games. For years now he’s been a March and April superstar and someone who pops really well off the bench. For the first time in his career, he’ll be starting games in October and November. We’ll finally get to see if all the reasons we’ve come to like Powell can translate in higher leverage minutes and lineups. I’m hopeful.
Kirk: I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Justin Jackson. He played well in the time he had with Dallas, but his college career and time with the Kings were lackluster at best.
Looking at the roster, I firmly believe he gets a chance to start for the Mavericks. Though he started 44 games with the Kings and 11 last year with Dallas, this should be considered a new role because it’ll be the first time in his professional career that he’s getting significant time with a team that has clear playoff aspirations.
The Mavericks need Jackson as well, since that fifth starting spot is up for grabs.
Sam: I’m all in on Seth Curry this year, but I’m especially eager to see Maxi Kleber in his third NBA season.
Kleber’s performance ebbed and flowed, but it was evident that he was one of the team’s best defenders throughout the season. He aggressively and fearlessly met players at the rim, taking a few lumps, but ultimately collecting a defensive highlight reel in the process. And when he was switched out on a guard, he held his own on many occasions using his athleticism to stay in front of defenders and close out on pull up jumpers.
Kleber’s value on the offensive end rests heavily on his three-point stroke. He doesn’t provide any type of scoring from the post, and he certainly won’t create his own shot. Kleber’s a fluid athlete and has tremendous bounce, so he’s a threat in the open floor, but when the game slows down, he must prove to be a reliable threat from distance. Though he started the season ice cold, he canned 40 percent of his triples in the final 41 games of the season.
Further illustrating Kleber’s potential, he was one of four players who played a minimum of 1000 minutes to register a 4.4 block percentage (or better) while shooting 35% or higher from three. The other players were Brook Lopez, Myles Turner and Jaren Jackson Jr. While his fit with Porzingis isn’t as seamless as Powell’s, Kleber’s untapped potential as a three-point threat and shot blocking menace could provide the Mavericks the opportunity to have two bigs with highly valued skill sets on the floor at all times.