It’s the time of year where everyone resolves to try to do something better. For the 22-16 Mavericks, they’re arguably in a pretty good spot considering the injuries they’ve faced this season. And yet, there’s always room for improvement, or for at least consideration of taking a different approach. Here’s my recommended resolutions for some of the Dallas Mavericks.
Keep doing what he’s doing. Luka is playing like the best player in the world right now, and it feels like the versatility of his scoring package is key. He’s as good as ever at the rim, but never been more deadly from the mid-range, and the threes feel less thoughtless. Unlike mere humans, Luka’s NYE resolution is to be himself (and maybe whine a bit less).
Get over his mysterious elbow injury. The team has gone smaller and tipped the scales towards offense out of necessity, and I’m excited to see how Green fits this. Not only because as a stopper he brings balance to lineups, but because the team is playing slightly quicker. His work rate, speed and connective passing all will integrate back in nicely with the team’s peppier rhythms. Before his injury, he was even doing some secondary creation off of screens, a fun wrinkle we saw too little of.
Be early 2022 Reggie. Bullock must eat his cabbage and black eyed peas every year because he’s a notorious second half player, especially when it comes to his shot. He’s a career 29% shooter in the first two months of the season, then hovers around 40% for the rest of the year. The thing about Reggie is his best defense usually flows out of the confidence his shot gives him. The man even threw an alley oop on Saturday night–maybe the first I’ve ever seen.
Don’t get complacent. Wood looks like a different player defensively, becoming a solid rim protector and playing with maximum effort. He still has natural limitations; even guards can power through his skinny frame, and he fouls way too often for a team without depth in the interior. Either way, being just an average-to-good defender would be huge for the team, and have massive ramifications for his next contract.
Watch Maxi Kleber film. Powell takes heat for his lack of rebounding, including zero boards against the New York Knicks. The same short arms that hold him back there keep him from contesting shots. Nevertheless, Powell has been a decent defender this year because of a mix of intelligence and mobility at his size. Larger attacking wings are having a field day without Maxi Kleber around, and while Dwight is miscast, he has the requisite size. He hilariously was put on Lebron on Christmas Day. Against the Knicks he was a +12, and while Julius Randle still got his, no one else could make him work for it beyond Powell due to his size. He can’t replace Kleber, and Dorian Finney-Smith will be back to help soon, but until then Powell is the last line.
McKinley Wright IV
Shoot threes. I don’t know if this will happen for him; he never hit over 40% of his college threes in a season and looks unwilling now. There’s a rotation player in there if he could. He makes the right passes and plays bigger than his size, he just isn’t the scoring threat a small guard needs to be. These guards must be either great shooters, defenders, or outlier athletes, and Wright’s issue is not having that one skill that makes him stick.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Keep reaching back into his pre-injury bag. It’s scary when Hardaway gets too confident, and perhaps this comes back to bite me, but the NYE game was the first time I’ve seen him look capable and confident in his driving since before last year’s injury. He hit a few runners and generated a few paint touches. Perhaps this resolution should come with an asterisk that he be judicial about it, but it’s a good sign that he’s creating his own.
Remember how to be a connector. Dorian can play better than he has so far, both as a shooter and defender. I expect him to be better at both, and an obvious resolution is for him to do so. Last year, though, an interesting development was him going from bad to decent at attacking close outs and making the right pass. He had been on an upward trajectory with his overall game that seems to have stalled out.
The Front Office
Do not let the Jalen Brunson fiasco happen again. Whether it’s extending, trading, or resigning Christian Wood, there are options on how to handle his expiring contract–losing another blue-chip talent for nothing is unacceptable. While it’s a complex issue, the team must be decisive. Extend him and deal with the ramifications later. Don’t be wishy-washy with him so he will intend to resign. Or, trade him right now while his value is highest.
Keep the mojo when players come back. Last year, injuries and depth issues forced Kidd’s hand on a steady rotation, something I’ve theorized calmed his galaxy brained tendencies. He may just be a coach who refuses to make changes until deep into the season, including ones data supports. Both years these imposed roster limitations pushed him away from two-big lineups and towards Luka or a wing at the 4, the success of which I think is no coincidence.