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NBA Power Rankings Watch: trying to figure out the Dallas Mavericks

It is has been difficult to pin down this Mavericks team, even though they keep winning.

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks finished last week in dramatic fashion, notching three wins that went down the final play. After sticking with the Miami Heat until the wheels fell off, the Mavericks escaped San Antonio with a 109-108 win against the Spurs. And if that wasn’t dramatic enough the Mavericks returned home to beat the Boston Celtics with a glorious Luka Doncic buzzer-beater, a 107-104 victory.

Going 2-1 last week, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves 6-3 and third in the Western Conference before Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. With that in mind, let’s scan the landscape and see how different media outlets view the Mavericks in this week’s Power Rankings Watch. One thing is certain, few people can get a solid read on this team.

ESPN

Rank: 6

Last Week: 11

It’s becoming a tradition for Luka Doncic to make a miraculous buzzer-beater to beat the Celtics when they visit Dallas. He has ended each of Boston’s past two visits in such fashion, including Saturday’s fadeaway 3 from the left wing to put the exclamation point on a 33-point, 9-rebound, 5-assist performance. It was the third game-winning buzzer-beater of Doncic’s career, including the playoffs. According to Basketball-Reference.com, that matches Dirk Nowitzki for the most in Mavericks history. — MacMahon

NBA

Rank: 15

Last Week: 17

With Luka Doncic’s step-back buzzer-beater on Saturday, the Mavs’ six wins have come by a total of 33 points, while their three losses have come by a total of 72. So they’re 6-3 with the point differential of a team that’s 3-6, one of the toughest teams in the league to evaluate at this point. But, after two straight seasons in which they were worse in clutch games than they were otherwise, perhaps they were due for a reversal of fortune. Doncic has made six of his last seven shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, a stretch bracketed by two home games against the Celtics.

Saturday also marked the return of Kristaps Porzingis, who scored an efficient 21 points in less than 28 minutes. Seventeen of the 21 came in the restricted area or at the free throw line, and four of those 17 (including a big tip-dunk after a nice short roll and kick out) were the Mavs’ last points before Doncic’s game-winner.

Jalen Brunson (who scored 13 straight points down the stretch of their one-point win in San Antonio on Wednesday) has done his part, but for the fourth time in the last six seasons, the Mavs rank last in the percentage of their shots (39%) that have come in the paint. That hasn’t been a huge issue in the past, but this season, they have the league’s second biggest differential between their field goal percentage in the paint (57.0%, ninth) and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (44.9%, 28th).

A game against the Pelicans on Monday seems like their best early-season opportunity to fix that point-differential discrepancy.

The Athletic

Rank: 15 (Tier 3: Playoff Hopeful)

Last Week: 17

Are you buying the Mavericks as this poor of an offensive team? Two seasons ago, the Dallas Mavericks were arguably the most efficient offense in NBA history. Last season, they slid quite a bit, but they were still quite potent. Through the first three weeks of this season under Jason Kidd? The Mavs have been bad on offense. Not bad for them. I mean just flat-out bad. They’re a bottom-10 offense in this small sample, but it’s kind of shocking to think a team with Luka Doncic could actually perform on offense in a mediocre way. I’d love to give you some brilliant breakdown of what’s going on, and yes, the Kidd offense hasn’t exactly looked terribly modern. But the Mavs are also just simply not making shots. Four of their six top shot takers are under 40 percent on the season. Doncic has been Westbrook-esque from deep. They need to make shots.

Verdict: I don’t buy them being this bad offensively, but the Kidd offense does seem to have some basic spacing issues. They don’t have a rhythm on that end of the floor. It’s on Doncic to truly lead them and start kicking this thing into being a better machine.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 11

Last Week: 12

It’s hard to get a read on the Mavs, with Kristaps Porzingis in and out of the lineup and Dallas feasting on a fairly favorable early-season schedule. But the Mavericks have looked sharp in fourth quarters, and the defense has been good in spurts. They also have that Dončić guy, who flipped in the fourth game winner with under two seconds of his career against Boston, making him the only player under 23 with that many since 1998.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 17 (ranking prior to Saturday’s win against the Celtics)

Last Week: 15

The Dallas Mavericks are on pace for 50 wins, but something just feels off with this team. They’re in the bottom third of the league in net rating and cannot score at anywhere near the rate they did during the two seasons leading up to this one.

The struggles probably start with Luka Doncic, who appears to be experiencing a learning curve on the recent rule changes. Like Trae Young and James Harden, Luka’s free-throw-attempt rate is way down. And the lack of those freebies has certainly contributed to the offensive tank.

Of course, it’s not the only factor. The Mavericks will need some time to adjust to new coach Jason Kidd’s offense, and most of the team is shooting terribly from three. There’s reason to believe both issues will improve with time.