The Dallas Mavericks are going to make the playoffs. With 19 games remaining and a 10 game lead on the 9th best record, this is a lock. However, getting there in one piece is a different story. Seemingly with each game, Dallas gets a little more banged up. And there is no help coming.
Let’s go through things to get the full scope of what’s facing the Mavericks at the moment. Dwight Powell’s out for the year with a torn Achilles, this we already knew.
Then there’s superstar Luka Doncic. He’s already missed significant time with a pair of ankle injuries, and the effects of those sprains should linger throughout the season. He also sprained the thumb on his left hand against the San Antonio Spurs last week on a series of no-calls.
The thumb’s been tender to the point that Dallas opted to X-ray his hand last night. They came negative. After the game he said bluntly, “It’s going to hurt every game, I know that.”
Then on Thursday afternoon we learned he was sent home from practice:
Doncic was ill, sent home, did not practice today. Finney-Smith (hip) will be a gametime decision tomorrow.— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) March 5, 2020
For Doncic, the issues are mounting and it’s worth asking how much the superstar 21-year-old can handle. Unless Dallas sees a clear path for a higher seed, it might be time to rest Luka.
Next there’s Dorian Finney-Smith. Until last night’s early game injury, he’d been the lone Maverick iron man, playing in all 63 of the Maverick’s games so far. Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, DFS’s injury is one which is a day-to-day issue and knowing Finney-Smith, he’s likely to simply tough it out.
Then there’s Jalen Brunson, dealing with an injury he suffered against the Atlanta Hawks which will require off-season shoulder surgery. Rick Carlisle says the Mavericks consider the injury a week-to-week one, which means he’s not to be expected back immediately and it’s worth wondering how useful he’ll be at that point.
After that, veteran guard J.J. Barea appeared on the injury report and missed the game against the New Orleans Pelicans with a sprained ankle. Prior to the game, Carlisle said that it’s a “leg thing that’s very minor.” He’s not a part of the regular rotation but provides depth and could be called upon in situations like this.
That’s five players on a 15 person active roster which are dealing with known, listed injuries. It doesn’t touch on the rest of the roster, playing expanded minutes in expanded roles for extended periods, which can result in wear and tear down the line. Kristaps Porzingis, a guy coming off an almost two-year recovery from ACL surgery, is playing massive minutes during this stretch of Dallas injuries, averaging just over 40 minutes per game in the last three contests.
Carlisle squeezes production out of rosters, but this challenge seems a bit unfair. The last several games he’s played eight guys significant minutes—stretching to the limit minutes totals for nearly every functional player. If Doncic were to need rest past a game or two, he’d be force to play Justin Jackson and perhaps Boban Marjanovic consistent minutes.
Injuries are a part of every NBA season and for the Mavericks things are no different. But at the moment, it’s a key part of their narrative and it’s worth discussing whether resting players like Doncic and Porzingis is worth racking up losses and perhaps locking in that seventh seed in the Western conference. The stated goal this season was to make the playoffs, which is going to happen. Now the Mavericks may need to be honest about what their next goal is in the face of these mounting injuries.