The NBA celebrates the Mavericks today with a post-Labor Day look at the upcoming season. Between the Dallas installment of their 30 Teams in 30 Days series and NBAtv featuring a string of incredible Maverick games, it’s all Dallas all day with the NBA. The games they’re showing include memorable playoff wins against the Clippers (Luka hits the dagger), Jazz (the clincher as Bojan misses the final shot of the Rudy/Spider era) and the Suns Game 7 (the actual Luka Special) that will live in our hearts forever.
The aforementioned Mavericks preview leaves room for further discussion on the upcoming season. Author Shaun Powell notes, “That meant there was no suspense where Brunson was going when he reached free agency.”
Front Offices around the league may have known, including Dallas. But many fans seem to have been caught off guard by losing standout PG Jalen Brunson to the Knicks. After Dallas appeared to make resigning Brunson an off season the priority, the dye was likely cast when the decision to not offer Brunson a contract extension was made before the season started last year. Brunson’s breakout performance had us wondering if the backcourt tandem we were watching would lead the way into next season and beyond. Now, we are left wondering what might have been.
Powell goes on to write, though, that, “Dinwiddie could be a capable replacement for Brunson.” Dinwiddie is more than capable of moving into the starting lineup. With even more time removed from his ACL repair, there is ample reason to believe that Spencer can replicate or perhaps improve upon his stretch with the Mavericks after his arrival via trade on February 10, 2022. But that’s not really the question at this point that avid fans are asking in the proverbial thought bubble above our collective heads.
If Dinwiddie replaces Brunson, who replaces Dinwiddie? Call it the spark plug role, the flamethrower role, the eat second units for breakfast role, or my favorite - the Nick Van Exel role. Spencer brought a toughness going to the rim, stepping into big shots, and a capable playmaking presence when either Luka or JB was sitting. Who fills that void off the bench? Will the Mavericks go into the season with an empty roster spot or a bonafide third ball handler? This is the most pressing question remaining in the offseason.
Next, Powell dips into the front court issues, saying, “The Mavericks badly need help up front and the hope is that Wood will do for Dallas what Kristaps Porzingis couldn’t.” Count me as impressed and very optimistic on the addition of Christian Wood. Credit goes to the front office for pulling off this move before the draft and free agency bonanza got underway. Wood has a rare skill set on the offensive end as he can shoot it from outside like a three point specialist and has the size and speed to be a nightmarish matchup for defenses out of the pick and roll.
The detractors will mention his defense but after watching the metamorphosis this roster underwent last season with basically the same players - and given his contract year status providing inherent motivation to buy in on both ends of the floor - I am bullish on the notion that Kidd and company can get better defensive output from Wood than we have seen early in his career.
After that, there’s some discussion of Tim Hardaway, where Powell states, “In a sense, the third-biggest offseason issue (behind Brunson and Wood) was Hardaway’s health and whether he can emerge from the lab a better shooter; he tumbled from 39.1% on 3-pointers two seasons ago to 33.6% last season before the injury.”
This addresses two key issues with Hardaway. Will Tim return healthy and ready to go? According to a recent post on Hardaway’s IG, it looks like all signs point to yes:
As for the slip in three point shooting, the upward trend Hardaway’s shooting was on last season may have continued had the untimely injury not curtailed his season. After a nice start in the November games (38%) the month to month tells a story of a shooter slumping and emerging out of it:
- December: 30.8%
- January: 32.9%
- February: 34.5%.
His track record as a reliable threat from three means there is a better question to be asking. Assuming he is healthy and shoots like we know he can, how much of the bench playmaking vacuum created by Brunson’s departure falls to Tim by necessity when Luka is off the floor?
Speaking of Doncic, Powell ends with his thought from last season that he, “cemented his status as one of the league’s elite players.” Here is where Shaun Powell loses me a bit. National media types (with a few exceptions including Nick Wright) are far too slow to embrace the undeniable. Luka Doncic did this “cementing” of status in his second year. In his fourth year, Luka clarified his place at the very top of any fairly decided list of the best players in the NBA today. Top 5 is a minimum. Top 3 in my book. He has it in him to win MVP and many are (again) predicting that - including oddsmakers.