Basketball is gone and it’s probably going to be gone for some time. We’re all adjusting to other aspects of our life during a pandemic and basketball being gone is low on the totem pole, although that doesn’t mean we can’t miss it deeply.
Selfishly, for myself, there was still plenty I wanted to get to on this site. The Mavericks were going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016! The team is still ripe for stories and discussion, which is one reason why it’s a shame things have progressed the way they have.
Personally, I’m doubtful this season ever resumes. Here’s what I was going to write about from between the Mavericks last game against the Nuggets and the end of the season. Maybe the world outlook will change sometime where I can write the full version of these stories, but I’m skeptical.
Stay safe and healthy.
Things like Kristaps Porzingis just don’t happen to the Mavericks
This was an idea swirling in my head ever since Porzingis reached his apex form in February. I had given my brain a talking-to that I shouldn’t be concerned about Porzingis’ performance until next season. It only made sense to give him a full season of getting readjusted to basketball in a new role and on a new team after a very bad knee injury and an extremely long layoff.
So I had made peace with Porzingis just occasionally flashing brilliance while he mostly looked out of sorts and rusty on offense. I never expected February to happen and I never expected the Mavericks to shift his role so abruptly. I knew eventually the Mavericks would come around to treating Porzingis more like the star that he is and less like a really good role player, I just wasn’t expecting it to happen this season. Dwight Powell got hurt and forced the Mavericks hand. Porzingis moved to center, he started touching the ball more and *bam* Porzingis was an All-Star again.
Those things, well, they just don’t really happen to the Mavericks. Dallas has whiffed in star free agency for the past 10 years and even their trades haven’t been the big difference makers they’d hoped. Nerlens Noel was supposed to be a building block. Bringing Tyson Chandler back only led to more heartbreak and another Chandler divorce. Rajon Rondo nuked the franchise into tanking. Caron Butler didn’t even play in the championship run and the most productive aspect of the Josh Howard traded ended up being Deshawn Stevenson. Jason Kidd paid off, eventually, but let’s not act like there weren’t some nervous collar tugs while keeping an eye on Devin Harris between 2008 and the summer of 2010.
When was the last time the Mavericks acquired a difference-making, in-their-prime star? Steven Nash? Michael Finely? Certainly not anytime during the majority of the Dirk Nowitzki era. The point is, Kristaps Porzingis joining the Mavericks and showing glimpses of his stardom is something this franchise has never really seen before. We’re in uncharted territory. It’s pretty neat.
It’s time to talk about Luka Doncic’s three-point shooting
I put this column off as long as I could because I deeply struggled with how to frame it. Luka is god and the Mavericks would be roadkill if he were not on the team.
But Luka Doncic isn’t a good three point shooter. At least, right now he isn’t.
When the season suspended, Doncic was hitting 31.8 percent of his threes. He’s seventh in the league in total three-point attempts, despite missing two separate chunks of time with an ankle injury. Of the top 10 in three point attempts on the season, Doncic is the only one shooting below 35 percent from three.
There are 25 players in the NBA who shot at least 400 three pointers so far this season. Doncic ranks 24th of those 25 players in three-point percentage. Doncic isn’t a good three-point shooter right now.
When I wrote earlier in the season that the Mavericks were “math-ing” teams to death behind a stable of shooters shooting a lot of open threes at decent percentages, I sort of included Luka in that as well. We know 3 > 2 and Luka takes a lot of threes. The threat of his three also opens up his drives to the hoop — we’ve all seen how petrified defenders get to be put on a Luka step-back highlight reel that sometimes Luka can waltz into the paint.
The thing is, at a certain point, Luka just has to make more threes. The math isn’t tipping in his favor if he continues to launch as many threes as he does as a sub-32 percent shooter, no matter how well it opens up his drives. This is especially true in clutch time, where a 31.8 percent shot is a bad shot for one possession to win or tie a game.
A big playoff preview
This isn’t necessarily a story I would have written, but something I would have contributed to. Our managing editor Rebecca and I briefly talked about doing something like what we did the last time the Mavericks made the playoffs — this huge special section formatting.
It would have been really cool. Playoff basketball is incredible and seeing Doncic and Porzingis experiencing it for the first time would have been special, regardless of the outcome. Maybe they still will sometime this year. I don’t think so, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.