Almost all of the big questions regarding the 2021-22 Dallas Mavericks are about the rotation. While you can only take so much away from preseason, here are four things I’m watching for to give us a better idea of how this team might look come October 21, when that Mavericks kick off the regular season against the Atlanta Hawks.
Luka’s dynamic with Jason Kidd
It will be fascinating to see how Luka Doncic and new head coach Jason Kidd interact as they have more opportunities to get closer and build chemistry. While Rick Carlisle and Luka would often communicate on the floor, it never looked voluntary; when substituted out, Luka would often walk to the bench and speak to assistant coach Jamahl Mosely rather than Carlisle. But Kidd and Luka could look to implement a collaborative offensive scheme, and I’ll be focused on their in-game interactions this preseason (and as the season goes on) for hints that this is actually happening.
Is Kristaps Porzingis playing his game?
From a fan perspective, one of the most frustrating things to watch last season was how Kristaps Porzingis would be fed the ball to start off a game and then seem to get taken out of the offensive scheme entirely. That would take any player out of their rhythm and make consistency difficult game-to-game. The best thing the coaching staff can do to show their confidence in Porzingis this season is to give him the freedom to play his game. Getting him the looks he wants and is most comfortable taking should result in him staying more engaged on both ends of the floor simply because he will feel more valued and will be having fun.
In the preseason games, I’ll be watching to see what shots he’s taking, what plays are drawn up for him, and how his on-court body language differs from last season. Continuing to build chemistry will be essential for a team looking to make a deep playoff run.
While the rotation will likely remain fluid, there are two big depth chart questions I will be keeping an eye out for to get clarity on this preseason.
First, who gets the bigger opportunity, Sterling Brown or Josh Green? Many Mavs fans believe Green just needs more consistent opportunities to show why the energy he brings deserves more minutes. But Brown had a fantastic season last year with Houston and is expected to be a reliable three-point shooter off the bench.
The second is who earns a more established spot in the rotation, Trey Burke or Frank Ntilikina? I’m curious to see if any off-court factors impact Burke’s role. With Ntilikina, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when he shares the floor with Luka. It could be a successful pairing, allowing Ntilikina the chance to get open and catch and shoot threes, which will contribute to his long-term development as a shooter. Best case, he’ll be what Dallas wanted from Delon Wright: a defensive weapon off the bench who can make momentum-changing plays.
It’s no secret this team is oversupplied with big men. Preseason games could offer some clues as to how that will work out this season. In training camp this week, Coach Kidd mentioned that Dwight Powell will start at the five next to KP to kick off the season. In the preseason games, I’ll be watching to see whether Powell looks explosive or more reserved.
One of the biggest questions surrounding this roster is what to expect from Moses Brown. He had a fantastic stint in the G-League and with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but his role will be very different in Dallas. In these upcoming preseason games, I will be focusing on his defensive impact, his touch around the rim, and how aggressive he is as a roller. It’ll be interesting to see whether the training sessions with Tyson Chandler have helped his defensive awareness and ability to protect the paint.
As I mentioned before, I expect the rotation to be fluid this season. It’s going to take time for the team to adjust to a new system and find which groups work best together. I’m excited for this squad to start the season fully healthy and show everybody who they are. Hopefully preseason will offer some answers.