The Dallas Mavericks have been consistent in their inconsistency this season. They have followed every loss with a win. For every confounding large lead lost is another dominant half of basketball.
That roller coaster of production is mirrored by a wild ride through power rankings across the media landscape. The team will have plenty of opportunity in this current homestand to steady themselves and take a step forward. For now, this is where they sit in this week’s power rankings watch.
Rank: 11 (Tier 3: Playoff teams)
Last week: 7
Cause for optimism: Luka Dončić is shooting a Lakers-like 22.6 percent from 3-point range this season, and yet the Dallas Mavericks are still destroying a lot of opponents with their offense. Dončić has been exceptional, as we all expected. But this team is shooting the ball so extremely well, they’re getting to the free-throw line a lot (thanks, Luka) and their quality of shot (outside of Dončić because I don’t know how you judge his attempts) is super high. Dallas took some time to get it together offensively last season, but the Mavs are out of the gates executing well.
Cause for concern: We’re not seeing a great reboot to Tim Hardaway Jr. on the floor yet. He missed the second half of last season, and we’re still seeing a lot of rust from him. It’s only a handful of games, so there’s no reason to outright panic, but he’s only really looked comfortable in the game against Brooklyn, and everybody looks comfortable against Brooklyn this season. I’d like to see more minutes with him and Dončić so he can get some easier looks.
Last week: 9
Luka Dončić’s MVP candidacy is off to a heck of a start. After an eye-popping 41 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in Thursday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, Dončić is now averaging 36.3, 9.3 and 9.5 on the young season.
As gaudy as those numbers are, though, they’re not all that surprising. Luka has managed to make the spectacular almost mundane.
What may be more interesting for the Dallas Mavericks is coach Jason Kidd’s rotations. Ceremonially starting JaVale McGee isn’t really working (he’s only had one game with a positive plus-minus). And Christian Wood is dominating in limited time off the bench (he’s been a positive in all four games).
In just 25.8 minutes, he’s averaging 21.0 points and 2.5 threes while shooting 66.7 percent from deep.
He and Luka have shared the floor a decent amount, but they need to be starting games before long.
Last week: 8
Luka Doncic is carrying an even heavier load than he has in the past. His usage rate of 39.4% would be the third-highest mark in the 27 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, and his time of possession (10.6 minutes per game) would easily be the highest mark in the 10 years of tracking data. But Doncic has been up to the task thus far. His true shooting percentage (60.0%) and assist/turnover ratio (2.89) are both career-high marks, his scoring average (36.7 points per game) would be the highest mark of the last 36 years (since Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 in 1986-87), and the Mavs have the league’s top-ranked offense despite the departure of Jalen Brunson.
The Mavs are 3-3, even though they have the league’s fourth-best point differential (plus-7.3 per game). They won in overtime in Brooklyn on Thursday (scoring 11 points on the first four possessions of the extra period), but their defense hurt them in narrow losses to the Pelicans and Thunder. They allowed New Orleans to change the game on Tuesday with eight straight scores early in the fourth quarter, and they blew a 16-point lead with four minutes left when the Thunder scored on their last 10 possessions of regulation. The Mavs rank 12th defensively, but their blowout win over the Grizzlies (96 points allowed on 102 possessions – their fastest-paced game of the season thus far) is still doing a decent amount of work in that calculation (as well as their per-game point differential).
The Mavs have four two-day breaks in the first three weeks of the season. The last two are this week, with their five-game homestand continuing through next Monday (another meeting with the Nets).