In less than a month the Mavericks will restart the strangest season in NBA history, and it’s easy to forget this is the continuation of a season rather than the start of a brand new one. Since the suspension and restart of the season, it will have been about four and a half months; the equivalent of a typical off-season.
Some players have nursed nagging injuries to full health, and others are opting out of the restart entirely, feeling the weight of the risks a little heavier than the reward. The Mavericks will largely look the same, meaning a big factor will be how quickly Dallas can shake off the rust. And the last time we saw the Mavericks take the court, Boban Marjanovic went scorched Earth on the hapless Nuggets. While Dallas is looking to reach the longest two-game win streak in league history, here are some numbers to remember as we dream of the Mavericks hoisting the Larry O’ Brien in Orlando.
That’s the number of the Mavericks’ offensive rating per Basketball Reference’s extensive database, and it just so happens to be the best offensive rating in league history, besting the Steph Curry/Kevin Durant Warriors, Magic Johnson’s Lakers and every one of Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams. It’s quite an absurd feat considering the circumstances. The Mavericks lost Dwight Powell to a season ending injury. They spent a good portion of the season slowly and deliberately bringing their second best player back from a year off. Oh and their Alpha is a second-year player still figuring the ins and outs of the NBA.
While the Mavericks currently sit in 7th place in the Western Conference, their 5.8 net rating ranks among the leagues’ elite (6th best). Behind title favorites like the Bucks, Lakers and Clippers, and playoff-tested squads like the Raptors and Celtics, the Mavericks nestle in on the other side of a chasm where the Rockets and their 3.4 net rating lag behind.
The 6th best net rating is encouraging, but the Mavericks struggled to close games down the stretch resulting in a -16.1 net rating in the clutch. When teams zeroed in on the half-court sets, Dallas’ vaunted offensive rating plummeted to 93.9 (second worst in the league), and you can’t help but be concerned this will be the Mavericks’ achilles heel in the playoffs when the game is slower, the margins are smaller and each possession is vital. The Mavericks are a young team led by a young player, and clutch time could be filled with headaches and hair pulls.
205 and 122
It’s no secret the Mavericks suffered injuries to key players at unfortunate times. But since I made the claim, I have the burden of proof, and exhibit A is 205. That’s the total number of minutes the Mavericks’ most used lineup played together. It’s a criminally low amount for a lineup consisting of Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell that posted a 120.3 offensive rating and net rating of 11.
And now, exhibit B. The Mavericks’ second most used lineup of Doncic, Hardaway Jr. Finney-Smith, Porzingis and Seth Curry played a total of 122 minutes and registered a 120.7 offensive rating and an 11.7 net rating. Rick Carlisle mentioned this would be the starting lineup in Orlando, and it makes sense. Flanked by two elite three-point shooters, Doncic has the space to manipulate defenses, while Porzingis and Finney-Smith can keep the defensive from completely sinking the group.
This is the Mavericks winning percentage when Doncic and Porzingis shared the floor before the floor general suffered the first of two ankle injuries. Now, a .680 winning percentage was likely not sustainable, but for fun, if we extrapolate that across the rest of the season, Dallas would be sitting right around 44 wins, which is the same amount as the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Mavericks were 17-8 when Doncic went down on December 14. When he returned December 26, Doncic and Porzingis played just three games together (two wins) before Porzingis’ knee injury cost him 10 games. When he returned January 21, the duo played five games before Doncic’s second ankle injury. With the All-Star break, maintenance and Doncic’s nagging thumb/wrist injury, the pair never quite got a rhythm. While the team’s identity is wildly different now than what it was in November and December, as long as Doncic and Porzingis are healthy, the Mavericks will be a dangerous team come playoff time.