We’re BACK! The 2022-23 NBA season is upon us, with all the optimism and anxiety that comes with it. The Dallas Mavericks start the season facing the team they sent packing in embarrassing fashion in the playoffs in the Phoenix Suns. This campaign will look to build off the success of a Western Conference Finals appearance, trying to prove that wasn’t an accident.
With the season’s return comes our weekly scan of the interwebs, a hellscape of information and opinions, where sites in every corner of the internet power rank everything from types of bread to basketball teams. Here, we’ll confine our efforts on a few sites ranking the NBA teams. Let’s GO!
Rank: 10 (Tier 2: Brink of Contention)
What do we like? The Dallas Mavericks finally broke through last season and made it all the way to the Western Conference finals. Luka Dončić took the body-shaming he received in November and December and used it as motivation to correct his body and improve his play in-season. The Mavs defended and rebounded so much better in their first season under Jason Kidd. This team figured out how to win games a lot better, especially in the postseason. Love the pickup of JaVale McGee for better interior help. Let’s see what Spencer Dinwiddie looks like with more familiarity and an expanded role.
What do we question? Does this team have enough firepower after Jalen Brunson left for New York? Acquiring Christian Wood and throwing him into a sixth man role is a good move for balancing things out. Tim Hardaway Jr. getting back to full health will help mitigate that loss as well. But the Mavs were inconsistent offensively last season and have to hope the second-half performance is just who they are moving forward. Being better offensively might take some pressure off the defense every night.
One random prediction: Dorian Finney-Smith makes an All-Defense team. With only seven second-team votes, he didn’t come close to making it last season, but he was deserving of heavy consideration. The Mavs remaining good defensively, and Finney-Smith being healthy should get him on the second team.
There was an awful lot of handwringing over the Dallas Mavericks’ offseason, particularly the loss of Jalen Brunson.
And really, as Luka Dončić ages into his mid-20s, Dallas may not need much more than him and a bunch of three-point shooters (like Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber) to get back to the level it reached last season.
Preseason notes: The Mavs played just three preseason games (fewest in the league) and Luka Doncic scored an efficient 40 points in his 48 minutes on the floor. He was 8-for-9 in the paint, getting defenders (who seemingly had him stopped) to bite on his subtle pump fakes. But the Mavs remain a jump-shooting team, with 62% of their preseason shots, the league’s highest rate, coming from outside the paint. (In the last three seasons, they’ve ranked 30th, 28th and 30th in the percentage of their shots that have come in the paint.) They also ranked last in preseason rebounding percentage by a healthy margin.
Something to watch in Week 1: Does Christian Wood close? Wood came off the bench in all three preseason games and played just 26 of his 68 minutes with Doncic. But they teamed up for a pick-and-roll layup on their very first offensive possession together and the Mavs scored 65 points in those 26 minutes (a rate of 120 per 48). Wood will need to earn Jason Kidd’s trust (to a certain degree, at least) on defense, and it will be fascinating to see who’s on the floor down the stretch of the Mavs’ first few close games.
Their first two opponents had the league’s two best clutch records last season. And it certainly would be fun to see Doncic go head-to-head down the stretch of a close game against Chris Paul and/or Ja Morant. It would be even more fun if Wood has to guard one or both of those guys in the pick-and-roll.