It hasn’t been very fun lately, has it? The Mavericks are one of the teams feeling the great impact of a new outbreak of Covid-19. And while health has been at the forefront of their struggles, it has been tough sledding all season long.
That isn’t to say it hasn’t been somewhat exciting, as long as you can stomach streaky basketball. The Mavericks, stocked full with replacement players, pushed both the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and contending Utah Jazz last week. Credit to those just joining the team for bringing fresh energy and trying to make an impact, during what had to be a chaotic week for all of them.
For now, though, the Mavericks will continue to tread water among the national media until they recover their health — especially the health of Luka Doncic.
Last week: 17
The Mavs are light on assets required for rookie GM Nico Harrison to make significant roster upgrades, so improvement will likely need to come from within. Luka Doncic rounding into shape and returning to All-NBA form would be a great start. Dallas also desperately needs Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr. to snap out of season-long slumps and shoot the 3 at clips closer to their career norms. — MacMahon
Last week: 16
Key three: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. | 236 minutes | -10.6 net rating
It’s frustrating that the Dallas Mavericks don’t have more minutes with these three on the season. Luka Doncic missing a bunch of games cuts down on their chances together. It’s also crazy to think they’ve been so bad on the floor together. They’re -10.6 points per 100 possessions. Those are the numbers of a tanking team, and the Mavericks are clearly not a tanking team. They’re just below .500 on the season despite all of the guys they’ve had in and out of the lineup. Even still, the Mavs scoring just 101.2 points per 100 possessions with these three offensive weapons on the floor together doesn’t make any sense.
Booster player: Dwight Powell | 107 minutes | -16.7 net rating
There isn’t any significant time with players on the court with these three where you see a massive improvement. We have to get down to like 35 minutes on the season, and what we’re working with is already a pretty small sample size. With Dwight Powell on the floor, he’s not even able to clean up with his dirty work and athleticism. The numbers get even worse with this team. It’s not time to panic, by any means, but Jason Kidd needs to figure out how to get his three best offensive weapons to score.
Last week: 19
With Kristaps Porzingis returning from a two-game absence on Christmas, the Mavs had five guys with familiar names in the starting lineup. That starting lineup outscored one of the best teams in the league by 21 points in its 14.3 minutes. But among the six reserves who played was only one guy who wasn’t signed in the last week, and that guy was Moses Brown. There were some good Marquese Chriss minutes earlier in the week against Minnesota, but on Saturday, Mavs were outscored by 25 points (allowing the Jazz to score 98 on 75 possessions) with at least one of those reserves on the floor.
Before he could return from his ankle injury, Luka Doncic entered Health and Safety Protocols. So he’s missed the last seven games and probably remains out until at least Sunday. The Mavs have outscored their opponents by 1.4 points per 100 possessions in 361 total minutes with Porzingis on the floor without Doncic, but they obviously need them both if they’re going to climb into the top six in the West.
The loss in Utah dropped the Mavs to two games below .500 for the first time this season, but the competition gets much easier as their five-game trip wraps up this week. They’re currently 5-1 against the five teams at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Last week: 16
Injuries and the health and safety protocols have absolutely decimated the Dallas Mavericks.
In Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Frank Ntilikina and Sterling Brown all started and played at least 37 minutes. And, brace yourself for this, they brought Carlik Jones, Theo Pinson, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and George King off the bench. All five were signed to play this month.
With most of Dallas’ regular rotation potentially out for another three or four more games (depending on the league’s updated COVID policies), the Mavericks could slide into the danger zone.
Last week: 15
The Mavs are more reliant on Luka Dončić than arguably any other team and their superstar, and his absence due to health and safety protocols lays that bare. In the big picture, Dallas is going to need to find a second star at some point, and it’s probably not going to be Kristaps Porzingis.