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NBA Power Rankings Watch: MVP-level Luka Doncic is leading the surging Mavericks

We’re hitting the final stretch, with homecourt up for grabs.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks made the unexpected roster shakeup when they sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. Since the deadline they’ve gone 3-1, and are taking a much needed break before the final stretch.

And while the Mavericks have been scorching since Christmas — going 20-7 since their Christmas night loss to the Utah Jazz — they’ve crept up the media power rankings and then plateaued. Maybe it’s because the team’s in front of them are just that much more elite, maybe it’s because it’s hard to believe a Luka Doncic-led team is winning mostly with defense. Either way, the final six weeks of the season will be a true prove-it opportunity for this team.

ESPN

Rank: 8

Last week: 10

Luka Doncic has all five of his 40-point performances this season over the last 15 games, including the two highest-scoring outings (51 and 49) of his career since the trade deadline. He’s performed at an MVP level in 2022, when the Mavs have outscored opponents by 13 points per 100 possessions with Doncic on the floor. His net rating was minus-5.5 points in Doncic’s first 21 games this season before he was shut down for three weeks to rest his sore ankle and work on his conditioning. — MacMahon

The Athletic

Rank: 10 (Tier 2: Brink of Contention)

Last week: 12

Takeaway: The fourth quarters and the clutch situations are still issues for the Dallas Mavericks. They haven’t been able to improve that over the last 10 weeks, and their having the worst net rating in the clutch seems almost bewildering. We tend to think of Luka Dončić as a guy who can pull teams through the tight moments. The silver lining is even though they are the worst in the clutch with their net rating, they still have a 14-15 record on the season. It just hilariously doesn’t work out for them when the clutch goes bad. But look at the progress in the first three quarters of the games. Those are significant turnarounds in each of the first three quarters, and a big part of their dominance now in the first quarter is coming out to establish themselves on both ends of the court, especially as their defense continues to improve on the season. The Mavs aren’t going away, and with Luka in good shape now, we’ll probably see him with a full head of steam at the end of clutch games to help change that for Dallas.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 8

Last week: 10

Before the dust settled, the Dallas Mavericks trading Kristaps Porzingis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans felt like the biggest head-scratcher of deadline day. Heck, maybe it still is.

The contracts of Dinwiddie and Davis don’t really afford much more flexibility than KP’s (other than the fact that each might be easier to move on their own), but he simply never seemed to fit with Luka Doncic.

Injuries plagued Porzingis’ two-plus seasons in Dallas. And when he was on the floor with Luka, the Mavs were plus-1.5 points per 100 possessions. When Doncic played without KP, Dallas was plus-5.8 points per 100 possessions.

Context can be tricky with plus-minus stats, but that’s a pretty significant sample size. And if Thursday night is any indication, Luka looks ready for his post-Porzingis basketball life. In a win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Doncic went for 51 points on 17-of-26 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists.

NBA

Rank: 8

Last week: 12

Spencer Dinwiddie played his first two games with the Mavs last week, but Luka Doncic isn’t yet carrying a lighter load. He has a usage rate of 41.9% in February, with his 49 points in New Orleans in the last game before the break coming with the highest single-game usage rate of his career (53.6%). The Mavs have scored almost 123 points per 100 possessions in his 299 minutes on the floor this month, so no complaints. And they’ve won six of their last seven games, with wins over the Sixers and Heat included.

The Mavs come out of the break with two tough road games. They’re 6-7 within the top six in the Western Conference, 4-2 at home and 2-5 on the road. That includes a narrow loss in Utah (in which they were without Doncic) and a 38-point defeat at Golden State.

Three numbers to know…

1. The Mavs have taken only 42% of their shots, the league’s lowest rate, in the paint. And they have the league’s fourth biggest differential between their field goal percentage in the paint (58.4%, sixth) and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (49.0%, 21st). They’re the only team that doesn’t have a single player who’s shot 38% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts.

2. The Mavs’ recent starting lineup – Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell – has scored 130.5 points per 100 possessions in its 133 minutes. That’s the best mark among 63 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together.

3. The Mavs are one of three teams – the Cavs and Thunder are the others – that have gone from the bottom 10 (last season) to the top 10 in defensive efficiency. They’ve seen the league’s third biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 11

Last week: 10

The Mavericks officially bid adieu to the Kristaps Porzingis era after trading him to the Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. It was a surprise deal from the Mavericks, who get rid of the oft-injured Porzingis and add guard depth in Dinwiddie. It will be interesting to see how the new additions will impact the team’s chemistry. Luka Dončić has been on a scoring tear, but the Mavs will welcome any offensive help they can get to take some of that load off him.