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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks fall while fighting off a losing streak

The absence of Luka Doncic hasn’t helped in making sense of this Mavericks team.

Dallas Mavericks v LA Clippers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

It has been two weeks since we took a lay of the power ranking land among media outlets. In our last installment the Dallas Mavericks were fresh off a dramatic victory over the Boston Celtics, and most analysts weren’t sure where to place this team.

The absence of Luka Doncic, who has missed the last three games (all losses), has not brought clarity resulting in the team falling in all rankings. There is hope however that Doncic will return in the next game or so, after being a game-time decision on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Clippers.

ESPN

Rank: 10

Last Week: 9

The Mavs are 0-3 since Luka Doncic went down with left knee and ankle sprains, failing to crack triple digits in two of those three losses. The silver lining: Kristaps Porzingis has continued to score efficiently, averaging 25.3 points on .523/.405/.920 shooting splits over the past six games. There is hope that Doncic, who was ruled out of Sunday’s loss after a pregame workout, will be able to return for Tuesday’s rematch against the Clippers. — MacMahon

NBA

Rank: 15

Last Week: 12

The five-game stretch that ended with the Mavs’ win against Denver last Monday was, easily, their best stretch of offense this season (116.1 points scored per 100 possessions). It had Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis combining to average almost 50 points per game, Tim Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith shooting a combined 43% from 3-point rage, and Jalen Brunson providing a huge boost off the bench. But at the end of the Denver game, Doncic injured his left knee and ankle in an awkward collision with Austin Rivers.

The Mavs have defended well enough to win the three games since then, and they had fourth-quarter leads in both of their games in Phoenix last week. Doncic actually has a pretty bad on-off differential (mostly because of defense), with Dallas having been 17.6 points per 100 possessions better with him off the floor (+8.3) than its been with him on the floor (-9.3). But the injury changed up their rotation and ended their stretch of great offense. They’ve scored just 102.4 points per 100 possessions over the three games and dropped all three.

There might be some hope that Doncic can return on Tuesday, when the Mavs wrap up the first of their two two-game series with the Clippers. But after that comes the first of their two three-day breaks this season (they host the Wizards on Saturday), so there might be reason to sit him for one more game.

The Athletic

Rank: 16 (Tier 3: Playoff Hopefuls)

Last Week: 14

What should this team be thankful for? Jalen Brunson. It didn’t result in a win for the Dallas Mavericks during this recent three-game absence for Luka Doncic, but Brunson has been even better this season than he was a year ago. Last season, I thought Brunson deserved a lot more Sixth Man hype. He was a steadying force for the Mavs off the bench. This season, he’s been better, and his ability to keep everything calm and moving when he’s on the floor has been huge. If Brunson isn’t in the game, the Mavs fall apart. He’s great for keeping things solid when Doncic isn’t playing, and he’s a great complement to Luka when they’re both on the floor. Brunson is by far one of the best backup point guards in the league.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 14

Last week: 10

The Mavericks dropped to 9–7 on the season after a six-point loss to the Clippers on Sunday. The loss was the team’s third straight, all coinciding with star guard Luka Dončić’s missing time due to ankle and knee injuries. Those results are not surprising, of course, considering Dončić leads the NBA in usage rate this season at 35.6%.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 15 (ranked as of 11.19.21)

Last week: 19

The Dallas Mavericks’ point differential has lagged behind their record all season, and an ankle injury for Luka Doncic is far from ideal. For the first time since his rookie season, though, the Mavs are actually playing better without Luka, and that includes on offense.

So far, Dallas has scored 106.5 points per 100 possessions with Doncic on the floor and 112.3 with him off. Sample sizes are small enough that a few good performances could swing that the other way, and more minutes against starters contributes to the poor performance, but it’s fair to be mildly concerned about Luka’s performance under the new rules.

He’ll adjust, but a free-throw-attempt rate over 10 points lower than his career mark prior to this season has shown how much of a boost those freebies provided to his overall efficiency.