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Mavericks Roundtable: Predicting Dallas’s record and seed in the Western Conference

These predictions won’t come back to haunt us, I’m sure

2022 NBA Playoffs - Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been the longest off-season we’ve had since 2019. While we’re all ramping back up, it felt reasonable to ask the staff an easy question to kick off our pre-season roundtables.

What’s your prediction of the Dallas Mavericks record and seed in the West?

Ben: As it stands, the Mavericks just don’t have the depth to weather the injuries that are sure to come throughout the year. If Luka Doncic can somehow play 75 games this year, maybe they can pull off a record that gives them home court advantage in the playoffs. But I just don’t see that happening. Luka has averaged 66 games per year in his career, and he probably plays something close to that in 2022-23. Instead, I think the Mavericks go 50-32, just barely eking out the sixth seed.

Matthew: There are many reasons to believe this team will be worse next season. They experienced a tremendous defensive turnaround which is part of the Jason Kidd coaching experience. Unfortunately his teams have consistently gotten worse as his tenure has gone along and the integration of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Christian Wood would not seem to be part of a recipe to stave off that regression.

The team is aging, and they play a methodical style that wears both them and other teams down. They lost Jalen Brunson and Trey Burke (I know that is no great loss, but he would be the third best ball handler on the current team.

All of that being said, they employ Luka Doncic who is coming off his first playoff success in the NBA. I believe that will only motivate him to be even better. There is some truth to his recent statements that he does not need another superstar. The core of Doncic and three-and-D role players should push the Mavericks to 52-30 in a brutally competitive West.

Brent: The start of last season saw several challenges the Mavericks had to overcome in real-time. A new coach, a new defensive system, a rash of early season injuries, and Covid-induced player streaming that felt like Bizarro world fantasy basketball. This year the coaching staff hits the ground running with most of the roster returning. Integrating Christian Wood is the biggest wild card, but his motivation should be bountiful given his contract year status and what will be his first taste of a winning percentage north of .500. The loss of JB is regrettable and leaves this roster with an obvious need at point guard. But this doesn’t feel like an unsolvable problem, even if Nico and company are nearing the end of the off-season with only two-thirds of their three-headed point guard monster from last season still intact. Expect a trade before the deadline to solve this problem and here’s hoping it can happen before the start of the season.

Losing the WCF is a different vibe than losing the Finals would have been. Dallas clearly had enough to top Boston in a long, grueling series. That would have been a gut punch. Losing to the eventual champion Warriors doesn’t feel that way at all. Feeding off hunger for another deep playoff run, the Mavericks get off to a red-hot start.

Every Mavericks fan wants to see the next logical step in this progression, get to and hopefully win the finals. But I see something different in the ole crystal ball. An eventual 5th seed finish, a 51-31 record, and sadly a tough, bitter second-round exit. Gosh, I hope I am wrong. A Luka-led finals squad would be amazing. Given expiring contracts, the impending freedom to make a major trade after the Knicks pick is conveyed, one thing is certain. Expect the team to look very different after this season regardless of the outcome.

Jordan: I don’t think the Mavericks will be bad. The hope is Luka Doncic carries some of the fitness he displayed this summer into the season. The offensive potential of a motivated Christian Wood is tantalizing next to Doncic. And the team still has solid complimentary pieces in Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Maxi Kleber. If Dinwiddie and Hardaway can put together solid seasons then there is reason for optimism, winning between 50 and 55 games.

If it’s worse, it wouldn’t be because the team is bad it would be from asking Luka Doncic to do too much for too long. And because a handful of Western Conference teams returned to health or got better. But I do think they cross the 50 win threshold and avoid the play-in, somewhere between the four and six seed.

Matt: On it’s face, it feels a little silly to be too upset at a team for running back a roster that just made a Western Conference Finals run. The decision to essentially swap Jalen Brunson for Christian Wood feels like one that will be very evidently a boom or bust move early on. More scary than Dallas’ roster decision, though, are the decisions of the moves made by the rest of the conference. The Clippers have Kawhi and Geroge back, Minnesota added Gobert and have a potential star in Anthony Edwards, The Grizzlies are young and getting better, New Orleans had Zion coming back, and the Warriors, coming off a dynasty-extending championship, are going to be as tough as ever. The rumors of the Western Conferences demise have been greatly exaggerated. So, knowing all that, it’s hard to see where Dallas ekes out more wins than they did a year ago with this roster. I’m expecting something like 48 wins and a hard-fought 5th seed.

Doyle: The Mavericks aren’t a better team than they were last year. They rode the wave of hop shooting and a high-level ball handler looking to secure the bag all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Now, that ball handler is gone and the team twiddled its thumbs and added two big men. Given the state of the West, it’s easy to see Dallas winning 46 games and either falling into the play-in tournament or narrowly avoiding it. That said, I don’t discount Luka Doncic’s ability to make the team look like overachievers once more.

Clint: Last year’s Mavericks were such a pleasant surprise, but I’m afraid their luck may have run out. Losing Jalen Brunson and not even attempting to replace his role just seems like it’s not gonna work out, so I’m feeling pessimistic. I predict the Mavericks go 0-82 this year. In fact, I’ll go even further, and predict the Mavericks won’t score their first point until the 10th game.

David: Despite the Mavericks’ mishap with Jalen Brunson and an overall bad vibe in the off-season after the Christian Wood trade, the Mavericks will be just fine. They have a solid team, they have a good coaching staff, and, most importantly, they have one of the three best players in the world. When you have a generational player like Doncic, it is really hard to regress year-over-year as a team. The Mavericks roster is good enough to be a contender next season, and has the ceiling of a championship team if they can put it together again and/or make one more roster move. Luka Doncic’s greatness cannot be overstated, and he will lead them to a 50-32 record, good for fifth in the West.

Jack: I actually think that the Mavericks have a chance to be a better regular season team than they were last year, provided Luka Doncic stays healthy. The biggest x-factor is the play of Christian Wood. If he becomes the perfect pick-and-roll partner for Doncic on offense and excels in Jason Kidd’s defensive scheme, he very well could be a candidate for the All-Star team. I think we have to put trust in the coaching staff to get the most out of Wood; they’ve earned that with their performance last year. Losing Brunson obviously hurts a ton, but a full season of Dinwiddie (another year removed from ACL surgery) will do a lot to make up for that. If they add another ball handler at the deadline, this could be a 55 win team. The loss of Brunson will really be felt in the playoffs, where the team as currently constructed has a limited ceiling. But Luka Doncic exists, and I think this is the year he finally wins MVP with a completely dominant showing. I expect a strong regular season, health permitting, and will predict a record of 53-29, good for the 4 seed in the West.

Kirk: I’m in my optimist phase of the off-season and I’m tying the Dallas Mavericks season directly to a Luka Doncic MVP season. Luka Doncic is going to win the award this season and Dallas is going to finish with a top 3 seed in the Western conference. So let’s get nuts and predicted a 55-27 season.

Brian: It’s always more fun to be the hunter rather than the hunted. With 29 national tv games, let’s see if the Mavericks can adjust to the bigger spotlight. Before the new year last season, the Dallas Mavericks were 17-18. With 31 games on their schedule in November and December, we should know where this team stands seeding-wise by then. Given that the Western Conference will be a gauntlet this season, I predict the Mavericks will win 46 games and finish as the 6th seed. Spoiler, the Mavericks, will face a familiar foe as their first-round opponent in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers.

Logan: On one hand, I was unhappy with the Mavs off-season. The Brunson fiasco was bad enough, but many corresponding moves and reactions from team brass, seemed like the work of an organization failing to learn from both past mistakes AND from success.

Was our biggest problem really Kevon Looney, or was it being out-gunned on talent to the point we were stretched so thin that Kevon Looney did that? The latter seemed obvious, and some of the modern principles that gave us our success—wing centrism, running centers off the floor, multiple ball handlers—didn’t seem to resonate. On the other hand, some principles I think will remain. I believe in the coaching and defensive infrastructure, and so often in last year’s second half we all wondered how we were winning so much.

Maybe that’s how it feels again as we follow a formula of Luka and scrappiness to a top 4 seed. Luka is that good, and only getting better. But regression seems more likely, and it’s as much to do with the West getting better than anything else. Last year the general vibes were a marked improvement over the years before, and I haven’t lost faith in all the reasons that was true, from the defense to the chemistry. Still, hovering just under 50 wins, fighting to avoid the play-in, and a feeling of the dreaded “take our medicine” year seems most likely, and I think the question will become how the team and Luka responds to that for the sake of the future contention.

Josh: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Luka Doncic era, it’s that everything usually works out and things are OK. When the Mavericks had a disappointing offseason in 2019, they still had a great regular season. When Doncic missed 10 games last season with an ankle injury and team went through a COVID outbreak at the same time, the Mavericks went 5-5 in those games playing a lot of guys they literally signed off the street. So yes, the Mavericks 2022 offseason was not good — losing your second best player for nothing and your only two major additions being at a position that seems to matter less and less as years go by is not ideal. But the Mavericks still have Luka and they still have the formula — Luka plus another ball handler plus shooting usually equals success. Despite the Mavericks losing Jalen Brunson, they still have that secondary ball handler in Spencer Dinwiddie. The team still has shooting in Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, Christian Wood, and Tim Hardaway Jr. They still have the pieces of their improved defense, with the added rim protection of JaVale McGee. The main concern seems to be the Mavericks are screwed if Doncic gets hurt, but you could argue no matter how the roster looks, they’d be screwed if their superstar gets injured. Dallas seemed to handle it fine enough last season, so at this point I’m just a believer in the Mavericks handling these kinds of things.

In reality, my only main concern about this upcoming season isn’t about the offseason moves the Mavericks did or didn’t make, but what the rest of the Western Conference is up to. There were five teams that finished below the Mavericks in the standings last season that all expect to be better this upcoming season, with different ranges for how much better. The Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Pelicans, and Lakers should all be much more competitive this season, with only the Jazz being a team that significantly downgraded. The Suns, Warriors, and Grizzlies should all still be good. There’s a decent chance the Mavericks play well and still finish seventh or eighth, because the Western Conference is just that loaded. Having said that, Luka is still Luka and the Mavericks formula is awfully reliable. Despite the challenges in the conference and losing Brunson, I still expect the Mavericks to finish in that 48-52 win range. Officially put me down for 49-33, with the Mavericks in the hunt for home court advantage again.