Who will be the most improved Maverick?
Ian: FRANK! I’ll be back later with a full answer.
Lauren: Honestly, I don’t hate that take one bit.
Matthew: Luka Doncic. This seems insane on its face given the incredibly high level he is starting from. However, he also has the most obvious avenues of improvement(fitness, defense, shooting) and the offense looks set up for him to continue to dominate. Couple that with the lack of expected improvement from others and he is my choice for this award.
Jordan: The Mavericks really need it to be Josh Green. For most of his rookie season he was nonexistent. He had a few nice passes and a couple solid defensive plays. But he didn’t show an ability to be a rotation player. I’d love to believe it’s Green. But I’m banking on my new favorite Maverick Reggie Bullock. I think we know what he is as a player. And at this point it looks like he might not even start (first bad coaching decision Mr. Kidd). But I’m excited to see how impactful he will be playing next to Luka Doncic.
Ian: Okay, real answer. It’s an interesting question, because truthfully there aren’t a lot of obvious answers, given the number of players on the roster who either had career years or are past the point in age when major sudden improvement typically occurs.
One of last year’s rookies would certainly be nice, since the team invested rare draft capital in them and they could certainly use Terry’s shooting or green’s defense.
The real secret here is that since there’s no good answer you have to dig deep and risk looking like an insane person, which is why I’m going to say Frank Ntilikinaa. I can see Frank getting a shot at rotational minutes this season under Kidd, thanks to his length and versatility defensively. With a greatly simplified offensive role (spotting up, mainly), I’m bullish on Frank shooting well, or rather well enough with the extra open looks Luka can provide him.
Doyle: Based on the upward trajectory of his past few seasons, the clear answer is Dorian Finney-Smith. Since his third year in the league, he’s shown marked improvement. Last season, he posted career highs I’m field goal percentage (.472), 2-point percentage (.616), and 3-point percentage (.394). And this is to say nothing about his defensive versatility and overall durability. It’s within reason that Finney-Smith can still get better. He’s only 28—just entering his prime.
Ben: Jalen Brunson. A lot has been made about the tough adjustment year for rookies Josh Green and Tyrell Terry, but consider the last 18 months for Brunson. His sophomore season was interrupted by a shoulder injury AND a pandemic. He basically had no offseason between his second and third years. Despite this, he improved on the court in 2020-21. Now he comes into this season with a summer of training and fully healthy. I think we’ll see improved shooting and defense from him, and Brunson will finally show he’s capable of running the offense when Luka sits.
David: I’m gonna go with Kristaps Porzingis. A lot of the holes in his game (defensive positioning, weak finisher, underdeveloped post game), are things that the new Mavericks coaches and Tyson Chandler have been working on with the Mavericks’ big man. Jason Kidd says Porzingis will operate more in the mid range and I except the new additions to his game to return him to All-Star form. I expect a big 23 points and 11 rebounds from him this season with a block and a half a game to boot. Kristaps Porzingis’ improvement will return the Mavericks’ offense to historically great levels, and propel their defense into the top half of the league.
Xavier: The only answer that matters is Porzingis. Other players can take a step forward but none of them would significantly raise the team’s ceiling. He is the only projected starter(and closer) with that type of upside. THJ, DFS, Kleber, and Bullock could all stand to shoot better but none of them will show up to camp with a completely different aspect to their game. At best, they would be better versions of themselves. We all expect Luka to get better but his floor is so high that the year to year variance won’t be as large as Porzingis. Now, the reason Porzingis has such so much room for improvement is due to how terribly he played for parts of last season. We can debate the reasons for his poor play but he was not a plus player for most of last season and most of his inconsistent play came on tbe defensive end. This team should finish as a top five offense. If KP can anchor a defense that finishes in the 15-18 range, home court advantage in the first round seems within reach.
Kirk: Josh Green? This feels like cheating because if he just gets more minutes he’s going to look better. Carlisle didn’t give him much rope and paired with the pace Dallas played at, it was mainly a recipe to expose how unprepared Green was for half court basketball. That doesn’t make him bad, so I think I’m going to stick with Green for at least a few more months. He’s a fun passer, a willing defender, and a strange offensive player that just needs reps to figure it out. Maybe he won’t! But if he gives Dallas anything, it’s going to look like the Mavericks got away with something. Here’s hoping.