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The Good and the Bad: Messy Mavericks magic

The Mavericks keep finding ways to win, even if the road to a W is a little bumpy.

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Denver Nuggets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Since our last installment of TGatB the Dallas Mavericks have gone 7-3, with a few impressive wins under their belt and all three losses being rather painful. That roller coaster of results has produced a range of coverage and hotly contested debate among analysts and fans alike, unsure of who this Mavericks team is.

But here at TGatB we want to look at the details, at the little (and sometimes big) things that make up a Mavericks season. We are diving into the things that jumped out and made us cheer, scream, laugh, and cry.

GOOD: Mixtapes and Magic

Back on November 6 the Mavericks debuted their newest City Edition jersey, and with it, the league’s mixtape theme. For the Mavericks, that meant diving into the history and culture of Dallas’ hip-hop roots and evolution, mirrored against a backdrop of the history of the franchise.

Having seen the jerseys and “mixtape” theme prior to the video I felt fine if not indifferent. I’ve long pleaded for a Mavericks rebrand and a return to some of their design roots. These jerseys are sort of an attempt at that, though it’s probably not my favorite of the Mavericks City Editions to date.

But I’d be lying if I said this video — featuring legendary The D.O.C., Big Tuck, and Bobby Sessions — didn’t get me hyped prior to tip-off against the Boston Celtics that night. For a deeper dive on the ideas and production of the video check out The Athletics’ Tim Cato’s deep dive.

All of this would eventually be overshadowed that night with a little bit of magic. More ludicrous clutch play from Luka Doncic, who is proving to be one of the best in the league with the game on the line. It was an all-around great night to be an MFFL, and even brought out petty Mavrello. More petty Mavrello, please.

BAD: Starting games

I don’t want to say don’t look at lineup data yet, but we’re still probably two weeks away from really understanding the numbers on the page. Yes, I have seen all the indicators and projections that tell me this team is not as good as its record. But sometimes it’s okay to practice patience and just not have a take.

HOWEVER, one thing that is troubling is the starting lineup. It’s been covered well here at MMB. As of this writing the starters in 96 minutes together have a Net Rating of -14.6 in 96 minutes together. As the most played lineup this season, that’s troubling, and forces us to assume that the Mavericks will play from behind at the start of every game.

What exactly is causing this may not be clear, though guesses are it has to do with some combination of the big men. But eventually Jason Kidd will need to make some adjustments otherwise they will get swallowed up by stiffer competition. There is only one problem...

BAD: Health luck

Injury troubles are the nature of the beast in the NBA, and often the teams that navigate it best are the ones left standing in the playoffs. But sometimes bad luck is bad luck. And the Mavericks, who still seem to be searching for chemistry even though the roster is mostly intact over several seasons, have had some early snags.

The absences of Kristaps Porzingis, then Maxi Kleber, and now Luka Doncic are especially felt. I’m not entirely sure it would feel so bumpy if not for the team adjusting to a new scheme under a new coach. But with that as now a major factor, a healthy roster can’t come soon enough.

GOOD: Passing Porzingis

KP has looked fresh since his return from a five-game absence. He is scoring rather efficiently, but it was some other playmaking against the Denver Nuggets earlier in the week that was most eye-catching.

This is play is what Mavericks dreams are made of. For this current roster to be a second round playoff team, or more, it starts and ends with a Doncic-Porzingis two-man game. Should Porzingis be relied upon to make these sorts of passes every night? No. But because his efficient shooting was such a threat against the Denver Nuggets Monday night, it stretched the defense to its extremities. This pass was an absolute chef’s kiss.

This play, different than the previous, should be explored more by Kidd and the Mavericks. Defenses are proving early this season that they are very prepared to push high traps on Doncic, especially late in games.

In the past under Rick Carlisle, this set typically featured Porzingis stretching the floor as a shooter and Dwight Powell crashing to the nail to break the pressure and kick the ball back out to the corners. It is at times effective, but Powell’s inconsistency and sometimes chaotic energy with the ball means there is more to be discovered elsewhere.

Can Porzingis be trusted as a decision maker and distributor in these situations? That remains to be seen. The key to this play is quick and decisive passing. Porzingis cannot opt to hold the ball and decide whether or not he wants to take an inefficient shot — or worse, put the ball on the floor. But if he can be the pressure breaker when aggressive trapping is thrown at Doncic, the Mavericks may unlock another level to their offense.