The Dallas Mavericks slid slightly in this week’s slate of NBA Power Rankings after going 2-2 over the last seven days. Four important players are still out due to COVID health and safety protocols, and Kristaps Porzingis did not play in Rockets game. In the three games the unicorn did play, however, he averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds.
The Mavericks will be expected to round back into form as they get back to full strength. For now, here’s where they stand:
Last Week: 13
The Mavs’ defense, which appeared to have turned a corner to start the season, backslid this week by allowing 118.3 points per 100 possessions in four games. Solid wins over the Pacers and Spurs were offset by blowout losses to the Raptors and the Rockets without Christian Wood and Victor Oladipo. Dallas’ lack of effort on Saturday was concerning, even if it was missing Kristaps Porzingis, who averaged 23.7 points and 10 rebounds on 46 percent 3-point shooting in the three previous games.
Last Week: 10
It’s no surprise Kristaps Porzingis thrived in his first two starts at center this season, averaging 24 points on 65.5% shooting in a pair of wins. It’s clear playing Porzingis at center provides him the space to maximize his offensive potential, but the Mavs are still at their best defensively when they play big. Maxi Kleber’s eventual return after recovering from COVID-19 provides a best-of-both solution, because he’s a 6-foot-10 quality defender and a 3-point threat. — MacMahon
Last Week: 8
Kristaps Porzingis is rounding into form for the Mavericks. Last week, he put up 23.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 62.8 percent from the field before sitting out of the loss to the Houston Rockets. But it’s even more interesting to look at where on the court he’s doing his damage.
Last season, Porzingis was criticized for not playing well in the post. He has been working from there much more this season, averaging 6.0 post-ups versus 3.4 in 2019-20. Head coach Rick Carlisle even acknowledged the change after the Mavericks’ Jan. 22 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Last Week: 11
The Mavs’ defense survived its first two games without Josh Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith, probably because those games were against the Magic and Hornets. But it’s slipped from second to 15th over the last 10 days, having allowed more than 116 points per 100 possessions over their last six games. They’ve been giving up more shots at the rim and they’ve seen a huge drop in opponent turnover rate, from 15.6 per 100 possessions over their first 10 games to just 11.7 over the last six. Asking Kristaps Porzingis to defend in space can been an issue (examples one, two).
After getting flummoxed by the Raptors’ box-and-one defense during a critical third-quarter stretch on Monday, the Mavs kept their own turnovers low (14 total) and broke out offensively in road wins over the Pacers and Spurs. Jalen Brunson has been starting, he totaled 35 points and 10 assists in the two wins (hitting a big 3-pointer late on Friday), and Dallas has outscored its opponents by 12 points per 100 possessions in 110 minutes with Brunson and Luka Doncic on the floor together.
The Mavericks have limped out of the gate compared with expectations, though we shouldn’t panic about their sluggish start to 2020–21. Dallas has been ravaged by COVID-19 absences as well as just six games from Kristaps Porzingis, though both issues should be resolved in the coming weeks. Porzingis should suit up for Dallas against Denver on Monday. Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber could return from the COVID-19 list within a week. This is a deep Dallas roster at full strength, one built to complement Luka Dončić’s strengths. If Dallas can get healthy for an extended stretch, a run up the Western Conference standings is certainly in play.
Last Week: 9
The plan to pair Luka Doncic with Kristaps Porzingis only works if the Unicorn can actually stay on the court. Porzingis has missed a ton of time again early in this season. When he does play, he’s putting up numbers, but Dallas really needs him to stay healthy if this experiment has an honest shot to grow into something special.
Check back in next Monday to see if the Mavericks can get climb into top-10 contention.