What have you not seen this season that you’d like to see down the stretch?
Kirk: I’m stealing this one because Josh hasn’t answered yet: I want to see Luka Doncic as the roll man. While I doubt he can set a screen to save his life (very few non-bigs can, let alone super stars), the Mavericks simply have to do things to get Luka easier baskets. And while I understand the Mavericks unlocked their offense by turning the keys over to Doncic fully, it’s resulted in him working really hard for most of his baskets.
In the final game before the All Star break, Luka ended up with a mismatch in the post with Porzingis on the wing. KP missed the entry and passed it high to Tim Hardaway who saw Doncic seal his man easily on the repost, caught a nice lob and scored a simple basket at the rim. Compared to most of his points off the dribble, from distance, or from the free throw line, that basket was positively easy.
Dallas has to find chances like that for Luka and fewer possessions where he just stands in the corner.
Sam: I’m taking a cop out answer a little bit here, but I want to see what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist brings to the table. I’m not expecting anything offensively, and maybe I shouldn’t be expecting anything at all since he’s only played in 12 games with the Hornets this season. It’s possible anything he does provide I’ll just consider a bonus. Anyways, I am concerned his lack of shooting with muck things up a bit, but the Mavericks desperately need another quality wing defender aside from Dorian Finney-Smith, so I’m eager to see if he can be that down the stretch.
To put it nicely, the Justin Jackson experience simply isn’t cutting it. And if the Mavericks end up as a one of the bottom seeds in the playoffs, they’ll need another body to throw at the Denver Nuggets’ plethora of offensive threats or the Los Angeles Clippers star wings. Rick Carlisle has already said Kidd-Gilchrist could play a small-ball hyprid 4/5 meaning he’ll have to show some rebounding chops, but his positional flexibility on the defensive end could allow Dallas to throw out some interesting lineups down the stretch.
Doyle: I’d like to see consistent play at home. Every game at the AAC is a roller coaster. Half the time, the Mavericks come out determined, showing actual effort on both sides of the ball. The rest of the time, they come out flat, lackadaisical, and looking uninspired—or worse: uninterested. Based on the reactions from Rick Carlisle and the players throughout the season, it’s something that is extremely frustrating to the team. I wrote about this before the All-Star break, but they’re really the only ones who can change things.
Dallas made a concerted comeback attempt against the Utah Jazz, coming up short in the end, before the break. When asked what sparked the rally after a lackluster first half, Tim Hardaway Jr. said that it was because Carlisle got on to their asses at halftime. Must he do this before every home game? I don’t know. What I do know is that if this team doesn’t start playing better at home, fans filling the arena for a couple of playoff games are going to go home disappointed.
Jordan: Jumping off what Sam said, I’d like to see a defensive identity from the team as a whole. It’s been rare over the years for the Mavericks to be a defensive juggernaut. But Carlisle is savvy enough to scheme well. And whether they turn it around on that end or not, I still sort of think he’s capable of that in a series.
This was a stat I wrote in the preview leading up to the Mavs’ last game: “From the start of the season until December 7 the Mavericks had a Defensive Rating of 107, good for 13th in the league. From that point until today they have a rating of 113.4, dropping them to 26th.”
We can say it’s a make or miss league and other teams are just making more. But I’d like to see better communication, better help defense, transition defense, and some semblance of a cohesive unit. Outside of late game scoring issues, they’ve also had issues just putting up a fight defensively.
I’m excited for the Mavericks to be a pest in the first round for a contender. But to take that form fully, they have to at least be annoying on the defensive end and own it.