While Draymond Green garnered much more media buzz for his podcast during the playoffs, another NBA voice emerged on the same network who just might be the best new voice in basketball analysis. The Volume’s Jason Timpf is thoughtful and knowledgeable, leaving the hyperbole to the ample supply of voices that rely on it.
We often say around these parts that national media types struggle when talking Mavericks basketball, but that isn’t the case with Timpf. That’s why I was keenly interested to hear his take on the Mavericks' upcoming season. He has the Mavericks slated 9th in his NBA Power Rankings giving Dallas a puncher’s chance to make the Finals.
Outside of calling Maxi Kleber just a shooter, Dwight Powell a notable defender, and suggesting Dennis Schroder as a Jalen Brunson replacement just hours before he signed a one-year deal to return to the Los Angeles Lakers, Timpf largely gets it right when sizing up the Mavericks potential.
I agree with Timpf’s selection of Christian Wood as the Mavs' biggest wild card. How much of Wood’s stat output with the Houston Rockets amounted to empty calories? Being the best player on a rebuilding and inexperienced team can either mean that player will blossom when placed in a winning context or it can reveal him to be a hardwood paper tiger. Learning to play as Luka’s roll man and late shot clock safety valve is going to be a far different offensive experience than the free-wheeling style Wood could default to each night with Houston.
On the other end, how quickly can Wood pick up the defensive system and the corresponding teamwork that vaulted the Mavericks up to 7th in defensive rating last season? Kidd and company worked their magic on the roster last year so here’s hoping they have some defensive pixie dust left to sprinkle on their new acquisition during training camp and the preseason.
Jason notes in his breakdown that the Mavericks thrived last year in a dual point guard lineup. What started when Brunson moved into the starting lineup only accelerated with the February acquisition of Spencer Dinwiddie. Very few meaningful minutes of Mavericks basketball saw less than two of the Mavericks playmakers on the court. This allowed the Dallas offense to slide into “your turn, my turn” mode for much of the game and forced defenses to account for an off-ball player with the potential to do more than spot up or roll the basket.
Now that Brunson is no longer on the team, the most pressing question for the front office is who will become that third playmaker as Dinwiddle becomes a starter? The prevailing wisdom once Brunson signed with the Knicks is that the front office would move to address that vacancy with alacrity. With names like Goran Dragic, Colin Sexton, and Dennis Schroder now out of the conversation, one has to wonder if Nico Harrison and company have their eye on someone who might become available via trade or waivers before the start of the season. If not, this void becomes the focus of any and all trade rumors.
Much like Nick Wright lavished praise on Luka Doncic in his list of the top 50 Players of the last 50 years, Jason recently placed number 77 in the top 5 current NBA players.
Timpf envisions two roads for Luka’s future. Does he take his place on the Mount Rushmore of NBA greats next to LeBron or follow an arc more like the injury-riddled James Harden? The two determining factors are put forward as conditioning and making strides to become a capable positional defender.
After a couple of seasons of playing his way into form, will Luka come into camp ready to rock? He looked great playing for the Slovenian national team and head coach Jason Kidd believes that we are poised to see Luka start the season in shape.
As for his defense, Luka will never have the lateral quickness to play up on shifty guards. Timpf notes he has the vision and size to give up just enough ground to stand a better chance to keep the ball in front of him for a moment or two until help arrives. Jason Kidd called that participation during the Phoenix series. Minimizing those moments of matador defense without expending a frantic level of energy could lead to Luka edging up towards becoming a league-average defender. That would do wonders for both his career trajectory and the Mavericks' chances for another deep playoff run.