As of this writing, Jalen Brunson, Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber are all unavailable for the next few games due to health and safety protocols. Kleber played 24 minutes against the Magic and was ruled out for the next few games Sunday morning.
COVID-19 slammed the league and it’s unclear if another hiatus is looming, though the NBA says no for the time being. With the assumption that no other Mavericks will be ruled out due to the health and safety protocols, let’s examine five things to look for in these next couple of games where we’re shorthanded.
Josh Green starts
Green started his first career came against Orlando, but he saw a very limited number of touches and played only 15 minutes. This is partly due to Carlisle playing Iwundu 31 minutes against his former team. It’s worth watching to see if Iwundu’s minutes to go down next game and Green’s to go up.
Green hustled on defense and even matched up with Aaron Gordon some. He’s briefly shown his ability to guard skilled, veteran players in the preseason when he matched up against Khris Middleton. It’s clear that the coaching staff and the team have a lot of faith in him as a defender. The fact that Carlisle chose to start him over Iwundu who started 25 games last year says a lot.
In these next few games, Green should get more minutes and be more aggressive on the offensive end. We saw him attack the rim and knock down open threes in the preseason, so hopefully he picks up where he left off. Playing alongside Luka Doncic, someone who draws so much defensive attention, should allow him to get more open looks, particularly if he figures out when to cut.
James Johnson takes on bigger role
Johnson has been a big part of the Mavs depth, playing some point-forward with the second unit. He’s always looking to make the right play while still looking to score. Against Orlando, he played 26 minutes and had 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, and finished as a +19. He’s a veteran who brings much to the table including plays that don’t show up in the stat sheet.
For example, the simultaneous between-the-legs pass/wide screen he sets in transition to give a guy an open three. He possesses a great feel for the game and will be huge over the course of these next few games. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him start in place of Maxi Kleber.
Nate Hinton and Tyrell Terry debut
While we’ve yet to see either of these two in the regular season, they both showed reasons why they deserve a shot in the three pre-season games. Hinton received praise for his energy and activity, seeming to be everywhere on the floor at one time. If he gets minutes, he will absolutely bring that same energy he displayed in December games.
Something we also saw in the preseason was Terry running the third unit as the primary facilitator, which didn’t display his best NBA use. He should be used as an off-ball catch and shoot guard. Perhaps he may see time with Trey Burke and Carlisle call plays for him to run off double screens to get some open looks. He needs to build confidence as a shooter which will come with time and repetition. Now might just be the time for him to get his shot, but if he isn’t knocking down open threes, he’s going to get pulled.
Wes Iwundu alert
Iwundu got his first real opportunity last night against his former team, as mentioned before. While he only logged six rebounds, one assist, and two steals, he was very active on defense. He looked lost from time to time on the offensive end, but as he gets more opportunities, he should get more comfortable. More attacks towards the rim more and focus on using his quickness to beat defenders off the dribble could result in better production. He’s the type of player that could be great at cutting to the rim when his defender falls asleep. With increased minutes, look for him to build that confidence and attack more.
Tyler Bey fills Dodo and Maxi’s shoes
Bey’s game evokes excitement and while he’s a prospect that will take time and patience, he’s an improving defensive minded forward that absolutely has a place with the Dallas Mavericks. He resembles Dorian Finney-Smith when he first came to Dallas and we’ve all seen how that’s worked out. And while they aren’t identical, if Bey plays with the same effort Dorian does, he should stick around. Over these next few games, hopefully he’ll get a chance to display his defensive acumen.
It’s worth noting that Porzingis’ timetable is still in question and he is a bomb that could drop at any point for Dallas. His presence opens up so many things for the Mavericks on the offensive end while also providing a lot of defensive help, so getting him back will change the lineups again along with the rotation. Until then, the five things above will be very interesting to watch for over the next week or two.