This week’s power rankings watch is a few days late. It’s important to start there because it really is representative of what this season has been like since the start.
Most of the rankings posted below, from a wide range of national outlets, were published prior to the Dallas Mavericks’ back-to-back wins against the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. The majority went live after a week that saw the team beat the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks, while also losing in embarrassing fashion to another low tier team in the Detroit Pistons.
It is a key distinction, given where the team ranks on most of these lists. And it paints a picture of the unpredictability and inconsistency of this Mavericks squad. The emergence of Tim Hardaway Jr. in the starting lineup, a belated kickstart to his season and maybe unlocking some of the issues in the non-Luka Doncic offense, is the new storyline. And the excitement from the last three impressive victories nearly makes you forget about the confounding ones — the losses that make this team look like a play-in hopeful.
Last week: 16
Moving into the starting lineup seems to have jump-started Tim Hardaway Jr. He got off to a slow start, chipping off rust while returning from foot surgery that sidelined him most of last season, but Hardaway has averaged 24.4 points on 51.9% shooting (54.5% from 3-point range) in the last five games. — MacMahon
Last week: 11
After Tuesday’s win over the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told reporters to stop asking him about what has to be the biggest story of his team in 2022-23.
“You guys can stop asking about the starting lineup…it’s just a waste of time” -Kidd— Isaac Harris (@IsaacLHarris) November 30, 2022
In terms of raw talent, Christian Wood is almost certainly the Mavs’ second-best player. In terms of skill set, the floor-spacing big seems like an ideal fit alongside Luka Dončić.
And yet, Wood hasn’t started a single game with Luka. Kidd continues to insist on starting games in a hole, and that’s a big part of why his team is sub-.500.
Wood was a minus-nine in Dallas’ loss to the now 6-18 Detroit Pistons on Thursday, but that’s far from representative of how things have gone this season.
The Mavs are generally better when Wood is on the floor, and that’s especially true when he gets to play with the team’s superstar playmaker.
Dallas is plus-2.8 points per 100 possessions when Luka plays without Wood and plus-9.2 when they’re together.
Last week: 12
Dallas bounced back from its winless week to go 2–1 with an impressive victory over the Warriors, a confounding loss to the Pistons and a dominant showing in New York. The Mavericks are teetering on the edge of play-in range with upcoming games against three of the best teams in the NBA: Phoenix, Denver and Milwaukee. It took a 40-point triple-double by Luka Dončić to lift the Mavs past the Warriors. Jason Kidd will need more magic out of his heliocentric star in the coming days to avoid falling below .500.
Rank: 10 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)
Last week: 10
First-quarter grade: C+
There are times this Mavericks team looks ridiculously tough to beat, and then sometimes, they look as though they don’t have a chance if Luka Dončić doesn’t play like a complete intergalactic-conquering alien. The Mavs are so reliant on Dončić to create. Spencer Dinwiddie is able to be a lead guard plenty of times, but all of their creation on offense comes from those two players. They need to diversify their offense a bit, but the options aren’t really there to do it. Instead, you have to hope Dončić doesn’t have an off night. Defensively, they’re relying too much on forcing turnovers to keep their defensive rating solid. With all that criticism said, this is still a pretty dangerous team.
Prediction update: Dorian Finney-Smith makes All-Defensive team. … This is way too early to call, but he is one of the best defenders in the NBA. He’ll likely be in the mix, but Dallas needs to get better defensively as a team to help his case. Being the lone defender on an average defensive team makes it tough to win.
The Mavs have the point differential (+2.3 per game, fourth best in the West) of a team that’s 13-9, with 10 of their 11 losses having come by single digits. But three of those 10 single-digit losses have come at the hands of the Magic, Rockets and Pistons, with Dallas being the only team with three losses to the four teams — the Spurs (who they’ve yet to play) are the other — that have won less than 30% of their games. Their game in Detroit on Thursday came with their second-best effective field goal percentage of the season (64.5%), but they got beat on the glass and allowed the Pistons to score more than 122 points per 100 possessions, including 14 on nine in overtime.
The losses to Orlando and Houston were more about the offense, which has been better of late. Tim Hardaway Jr. has taken well to being moved into the starting lineup, averaging 25.3 points and shooting 19-for-38 from 3-point range over the last three games. The new lineup (with Hardaway in place of Reggie Bullock) has scored 143.2 points per 100 possessions in 42 minutes over its four total starts, with Luka Doncic also shooting well (20-for-43 over his last five) from beyond the arc. The Mavs got their second road win of the season by blowing out the Knicks in the second half on Saturday afternoon.
They’re still 0-8 outside Dallas or the boroughs of New York, they’ll have rest disadvantages in Denver on Tuesday and in Chicago in Saturday and the two teams coming to Dallas this week — the Suns and Bucks — will be the two toughest teams they’ve faced at home thus far. So it feels like a pretty big week to see what the Mavs are made of.