Having compiled these lists for a while now, I’ll admit today was the first day I was genuinely looking forward to seeing where the Mavericks would be ranked since the start of the season. This team, riding a six-game win streak, has been thrilling over the last few weeks.
It is clear that the entire team has reinvested in what makes them successful. Whether that’s buying into what the new coaching staff has been preaching, players finally finding a rhythm in a new system, or being jolted awake as the roster was hit with a rapid COVID outbreak, the team has finally made some statements on the floor that they should be taken seriously.
Here is where the national media has ranked them this week:
Last week: 16
The Mavs’ season-best six-game win streak features convincing victories over the Warriors and Bulls. Dallas has held five of its six opponents under 100 points during the streak, when the Mavs are allowing only 93.0 points per game. Dallas has jumped to fifth in the league in defensive efficiency (107.1). — MacMahon
Rank: 10 (Playoff Hopeful)
Last week: 14
Biggest takeaway from the hardship era: The Dallas Mavericks are another team seemingly signing players left and right, but they’ve found their groove lately as Luka Dončić has missed a bunch of time. Jalen Brunson continues his impressive season, and now that Dončić is back, maybe this is the point at which the Mavs go on a run and separate themselves from the Play-In Tournament pack. A lot of their recent success (six straight wins, seven out of eight) has come against weaker competition. But they also dominated the Warriors and stopped the nine-game win streak of the Bulls, so even if you want to nitpick the recent victories, there are some legitimate conquests in there. Role players have shown they can play a high level of basketball without Luka. Now they need Luka to match that execution and then exceed it to get them to a safe and exciting zone in the standings.
Last week: 15
Pace: 96.0 (29) OffRtg: 109.7 (16) DefRtg: 107.1 (5) NetRtg: +2.6 (10)
We’ve been waiting for the Mavs to find their offense, having been the best team in the league on that end of the floor (with largely the same personnel) two seasons ago. But while we’ve been waiting, they’ve swiftly climbed into the top five on the other end of the floor, allowing just 96.7 points per 100 possessions over a six-game winning streak. Holding the Warriors to just 82 points on 95 possessions and ending the Bulls’ own nine-game winning streak were the highlights, but the most important win (in which the Mavs earned the head-to-head tiebreaker) came against Denver on Monday. They were playing the second game of a back-to-back, and they rotated competently and cohesively out of double-teams on Nikola Jokic, forcing 26 turnovers out of the Nuggets.
Much of this six-game stretch of defense is about opponent 3-point shooting (28.7%), so there’s reason to be skeptical. But the Mavs have also seen big improvements in opponent free throw rate and defensive rebounding percentage (in which they rank first over the streak).
Dallas will face another streaking team (the Grizzlies) with a top-10 offense this week. No team has defended Memphis over multiple games better than the Mavs, who’ve allowed just 100.5 points per 100 possessions as the teams have split the first two meetings. They’ll have a rest advantage (the Grizzlies host the Wolves the night before) on Friday, but that game will be the start of a five-games-in-seven-nights stretch for the Mavs.
Last week: 15
Right when Kristaps Porzingis entered health and safety protocols, Luka Doncic returned and looked rejuvenated after missing 10 games.
He’s struggled from the field, but Luka is averaging 20.3 points, 11.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds in his three appearances since re-entering the lineup. More importantly, he’s plus-23 over those three games, and the Dallas Mavericks are 3-0.
Prior to this recent run, Dallas was a concerning minus-5.5 points per 100 possessions with Luka on the floor and plus-5.3 with him off.
Last week: 18
You can’t help but be impressed with Dallas, which has won its last six games, despite being without Kristaps Porzingis for five of those outings, and without Luka Dončić for one of them. The victories haven’t necessarily come against bad competition, either.
While there were wins over Oklahoma City and Houston, the Mavs also took down reigning MVP Nikola Jokić, the streaking Golden State Warriors and the first-place Chicago Bulls on Sunday night. And while we think of Dallas as an offensive club, given that it broke the record for efficiency before, this team is doing it with D, and ranks as a top-five unit on that end.