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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks regain footing before trade deadline

After two strange and fun home wins, the Mavericks rediscovered their momentum heading into deadline week.

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks recovered from two embarrassing losses by winning two games at home in thrilling, and strange, fashion. We’re less than two weeks away from the All-Star break. It is vital that the Mavericks continue to carry the momentum from January into these final five games before vacation — a time that is easy to overlook and take a foot off the gas.

But before that the league enters Trade Deadline week. The Mavericks have only been mentioned in fringe rumors, and with the expectation that they don’t move Jalen Brunson or Dorian Finney-Smith before Thursday’s buzzer it’s likely only smaller moves are made — if any. The focus from national media in this week’s Power Rankings Watch is both on possible trades and trades of the past.

ESPN

Rank: 9

Last week: 9

The draft-night trade for Luka Doncic breathed life back into the franchise. The Mavs gave up the next year’s first-round pick to move up two spots by swapping with the Hawks, who took Trae Young then and Cam Reddish in the next draft. It’s a price well worth paying for a player who could be a perennial MVP candidate for more than a decade. — MacMahon

The Athletic

Rank: 11 (Playoff Hopeful)

Last week: 12

Should they be buyers or sellers? Buyers. The problem is I just don’t know how the Dallas Mavericks become true buyers at the deadline to swing a big deal. Everything is kind of hamstrung with Kristaps Porzingis. He hasn’t been what they needed him to be next to Luka Doncic. He has such a massive cap number that it makes it hard to just move him elsewhere. So how do you improve the rest of the roster if you can’t move Porzingis? They have a lot of flexibility and a lot of manageable deals outside of Luka and KP, but you’re probably not swinging for a big player acquisition unless you’re attaching picks or even Jalen Brunson to the deal. And Brunson is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Mavs need an upgrade to jump to the higher tier in the West, but where does that come from?

Who should be on the move? If you were going to get creative with some of these moves, guys like Reggie Bullock (manageable deal only guaranteed through next season), Dwight Powell (one of the best value role player bigs in the league) and Maxi Kleber (non-guaranteed next season) would be in the mix. But those are three potentially important role players within the Mavs system. They’d need to swap some defense for offense to balance things out, but that could also tinker too much. They don’t really have the capital to get involved in trying to grab someone like CJ McCollum or even swinging for the fences if Bradley Beal became available, so I just don’t expect much here.

Bleacher Report

Rank: 10

Last week: 8

Just when the Dallas Mavericks seemed poised to threaten the top four in the Western Conference, they lost back-to-back games to the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.

While Luka Doncic has certainly looked more like the First Team All-NBA version of himself since returning from injury, a troubling trend with him resurfaced on Wednesday.

Luka went off for 40 points and 10 assists against OKC, but he was a team-worst minus-17. On the year, Dallas is now plus-1.2 points per 100 possessions with Doncic on the floor and plus-4.6 with him off.

That negative swing has improved over the last few weeks, but Dallas might be wise to inject some of the ball and player movement that exists without Luka into the lineups he leads.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 10

Last week: 10

The Mavericks’ contract dance with Jalen Brunson will likely lead to an offseason negotiation rather than a predeadline deal, leaving little chance of fireworks in Dallas. Jason Kidd’s squad could be in the market for a backup center, with Theis, Chris Boucher, Khem Birch and Robin Lopez standing as potential targets. And while a trade for Dragić isn’t in the cards, Dallas will be among the potential landing spots. The Mavericks will likely make a couple of back-end rotation moves if anything, though that could be just what is needed to make a long playoff run.

NBA

Rank: 10

Last week: 10

The Mavs’ six-game homestand (their longest of the season) did not get off to a good start. The league’s fifth-ranked defense allowed the league’s 30th-ranked offense (that of the Thunder) its third-most efficient performance of the season (120 points on 102 possessions). The Mavs were outscored, 21-8, at the free throw line, Luka Doncic fell asleep on the play that sent the game to overtime, and Lu Dort outscored the Mavs by himself in the extra period.

But Dallas beat two better teams over the weekend, holding the Sixers and Hawks to just 103.2 points per 100 possessions. Reggie Bullock (28-for-57 from 3-point range over the six games since Tim Hardaway Jr.’s foot injury) has continued to shoot a good ball and Doncic registered his eighth and ninth triple-doubles of the season in the two wins. More important may be that (late-game lapse aside) Doncic has seemingly bought in on defense. Before his 10-game absence in December, the Mavs allowed 10.2 more points per 100 possessions (112.2) with Doncic on the floor than they did with him off the floor (102.0). But over the 19 games since he returned, they’ve been better defensively with him on the floor (101.1) than they’ve been with him off the floor (104.8).

The Mavs are 15-5 since Dec. 31, they’re just a game and a half behind the Jazz for fourth place in the West, and their homestand concludes with three games against teams (the Pistons and Clippers) that rank in the bottom five offensively. They split their first two-game series with the Clippers back in November, with Doncic having only played in the game they won.