Basketball’s almost back! If you skipped pre-season, there’s a lot to look forward to since this team is really talented. Here’s the four things I really want to see happen this year.
Jalen Brunson becomes more of an outside threat
Last season, Brunson shot 35.8 percent on 2 three-point attempts per game last season. That’s not a terrible percentage, however there were multiple occasions where he would get wide open looks and was unable to convert.
This season, he should have an increased role with the exit of both Seth Curry and JJ Barea. and seems to be the lead guard first off the bench. Dallas brought back Trey Burke but Brunson is the one that may have the largest role out of all of the guards in reserve.
Curry and Barea shot a combined 8 three-point attempts per game last season, so that shooting will have to be replaced somehow. If Jalen can become a more dangerous threat from the outside, he could be an X-factor throughout the season and playoff time. If for some reason Brunson doesn’t show significant improvement as a shooter, maybe that’s where we end up seeing Tyrell Terry find his role.
Josh Green and Tyrell Terry build confidence and establish their roles
Preseason has been a great opportunity to see Green and Terry get their first minutes as Mavericks, but I’m even more excited to see how they fall into their roles throughout the regular season.
Green has already secured a role within the rotation and will provide relief for Josh Richardson and Tim Hardaway Jr. He entered the game in the first half in each of the first two preseason games with groups that included Brunson, Trey Burke, Maxi Kleber, and James Johnson; guys that will each play key rotation minutes night in and night out in the regular season. Hopefully, Green will continue to attack the rim off of the dribble and take more open threes to build his confidence as an overall scorer.
Terry played with the last group of reserves, but that didn’t discourage me. I’ve liked what I’ve seen with the backcourt duo of Brunson and Burke, but Terry is a better shooter then both of those guys, so there should be minutes for him in this rotation. I hope to see Terry build confidence out on the floor by not hesitating to shoot and working to create his own shots. That will go a long way with his development as a young player. I have a lot of faith in our rookies in terms of their potential and fit with our team. In due time, they will both solidify their roles within the rotation as key pieces.
Luka Doncic becomes a more consistent three-point shooter
One of the biggest critiques of Luka’s game is his inability to hit threes with consistency. He shot 9 threes per game last season at 31.6 percent. Including playoff games, Luka finished eighth in most three-point attempts per game in the 2019-2020 season. Most people don’t want him to shoot less, but expect to see him hit them at least a slightly higher clip. To put it in terms of numbers, in his first season with the Houston Rockets at age 23, James Harden shot 6 threes per game at 36.8 percent. That percentage is certainly more impressive than Doncic’s last season, but Luka shot three more threes per game and is only 21, not that anyone needs to be reminded.
If he can go from 31.6 percent to 35 percent while still shooting at least 9 threes per game, I will be incredibly happy and Luka will be a sure fire MVP top three candidate. This will give me confidence that he will continue to show gradual improvement as a shooter from season to season. Who knows, maybe one day he can be a 50/40/90 guy. That’s not too much to ask for right?
Mavericks are a top 12 team in defense
While the most ideal scenario is Dallas ending the season being a top 10 team in terms of defensive rating, top 12 is more realistic. The Mavericks finished 18th in defensive ratings last season, but after making multiple acquisitions through the draft, trades, and free agency, the team has significantly improved defensively.
On draft night, they added three perimeter defenders in Josh Richardson, Josh Green, and Tyler Bey. I’m not sure how much of Tyler Bey we will see this season, but knowing he’s available if we need him is a nice thought to have. The two Josh’s are both incredible defenders, and after having a major need for defense and wings at the end of last season, the addition of those two is huge. Obtaining James Johnson via trade was an excellent move for many reasons, but one key reason is his enforcer mentality and ability to defend. All of these additions made us considerably better as a unit on both ends of the court. If the Mavericks can finish in the top 12 in defense, Dallas should be competitive come playoff time.