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Where do the Mavericks rank as 2021 title contenders?

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Analyzing what the media believes is holding the Mavericks back from the Larry O.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Dallas Mavericks had their highest win percentage since the 2014-15 season. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis led their team to 43 wins in just 47 games played together. The Mavericks slew of sharpshooting role players contributed to the most efficient offense in league history. While Dallas proved they were good enough to reach the playoffs, they lost in the first round to the (then) title-favorite Los Angeles Clippers. The injuries to key bench players didn’t do them any favors, but an honest analysis of this roster shows they weren’t quite at the level with the league’s top-tier teams.

Next season, Porzingis and Doncic will get their second run together. The Mavericks have a high-value draft pick at 18, regardless if they use it to draft or in a trade package. The majority of key players will be returning on valuable contacts. It seems like this team is set up nicely for the future, but how do those outside of this team’s fandom view their future next year?

Our friends at Denver Stiffs have the Mavericks ranked sixth among the 2021 title contenders. While the foundation of Doncic and Porzingis is praised, the lack of a secondary creator seems to be a cause of concern. While Brunson played the role of backup point guard last season, he had a 350 less total assists than Doncic. He even had 56 less assists than Delon Wright. While I believe there are some options in the draft for the Mavericks to improve here, the Denver Stiffs don’t see an immediate solution:

The problem: there aren’t that many creators in 2020 free agency. Fred VanVleet is one. Evan Fournier is another. DeMar DeRozan will probably be too pricy for Dallas and their cap situation. In addition, the Mavericks lack trade assets after acquiring Kristaps Porzingis. Unless they can find a way to add a third guy, they will probably be stuck in the “good not great” tier.

From “Looking ahead: Ranking the top 10 2020-21 NBA championship contenders” by Ryan Blackburn at denverstiffs.com

In a recent ESPN+ article, Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks both ranked the Mavericks tenth among next year’s title contenders. That placed Dallas fifth in the Western Conference behind the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, and Nuggets. Surprisingly, the biggest question mark for the ESPN insiders was Porzingis’s health as he returns from a torn meniscus. It was foolish of me, but before reading this article, I’ve assumed Porzingis would look just as talented as before the injury. That optimism was primarily because he’s coming off one of his best seasons after sitting out for a year with a torn ACL. Although Porzingis has already been seen back in the gym (meaning he likely hasn’t had surgery), I will yield to the caution of those at ESPN.

A Bleacher Report article from January listed the Mavericks as a “one-player-away contender”. Nearly eight months later, that still rings true. Bleacher Report cited an unhealthy Porzingis and the lack of a two-way wing player as the hurdles in the way of the championship contention. Surprise — both of those issues are still present. While the Mavericks don’t know the status of Porzingis’s health (and they won’t until a few weeks into the 2020-21 season), they should see their need for a two-way wing. The Mavericks best wing defender is probably Dorian Finney-Smith, who primarily defended fours after Dwight Powell’s injury. Seth Curry had to come off the bench during the playoffs in an attempt to avoid him getting bullied by the Clippers monstrous wings. During the first round, the Clippers shot 43.6 percent on threes when defended by Tim Hardaway Jr.. Both of these players are often reliable, but don’t make an impact on defense. That’s what the Mavericks need.

What do you think is holding the Mavericks back from championship contention? Where would you rank them? Let us know in the comments below!