Your Dallas Mavericks are a “Top-10 Must-Watch” NBA team this season, says ESPN senior writer Zach Lowe. Lowe actually attributes the ranking to a “proprietary algorithm” at one point, but later admits that Bill Simmonds found it “scrawled on beer-soaked parchment paper under his seat at the old Boston Garden.” Very scientific.
Here’s how Lowe and his ESPN colleagues arrived at their results. First off, it should be noted these are not “Power Rankings” of any kind. They allegedly measure “watchability” and “fun.”
NBA teams are graded on a 1-10 scale in five categories:
- Zeitgeist: Do normal people care about this team?
- Highlight potential: Should you watch just in case some genius on the squad shows you something you’ve never seen before?
- Style: Are they fun to watch?
- League Pass minutia: Announcers, uniforms, courts
- Potential moments of “unintentional comedy”
And under these qualifications, ESPN ranks the Mavs 10th in the NBA. Pretty solid showing, if you ask us. We were initially surprised the Mavs would make a list like this from a national voice, but big personalities abound in this organization, from the roster to the front office, so maybe we shouldn’t have been. The Denver Nuggets (3), Golden State Warriors (2) and Milwaukee Bucks (1) were your top three.
If it were up to us, we would score the Mavs highest in the “Highlight Potential” and “Unintentional Comedy” categories. Maybe a nine in each of those two. We’d give the team an eight in “League Pass Minutia,” a seven in “Zeitgeist” and a six in “Style” until we see some consistent improvement in pace around these parts.
Here’s what Lowe had to say about the Mavericks going into the 2023-24 season:
“I would have ranked a few teams from Part I ahead of Dallas, but the algorithm is seduced by star power — and the Mavericks have it in Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.”
Accurate. Nothing to argue with here. The “Can Luka and Kyrie Make It Work” of it all looms large and will be the talking point, both locally and nationally, until the Mavericks prove they have that fundamental key to the season figured out. Lowe goes on with some effusive praise of Mavs’ all-world guard Luka Dončić:
“In the muck of the half court, Doncic is a LeBron James-level chess-master. He is cruel hunting size mismatches, and can exploit them in either direction — toying with bigs outside (Ivica Zubac just felt a shiver down his spine), and dragging smaller guards into hell on the block.”
Again, you’ll get no arguments here. A big part of the conversation surrounding this team will always be centered on the latest Luka development, good, bad or ambivalent, as long as he’s the centerpiece. Lowe goes on, with some artful prose on Luka’s game.
“Even with everyone else standing around, there is a thrill to Doncic burrowing into the paint — eyes darting, the defense reacting to every glance, pivot and dribble. Doncic is baiting them, waiting for the defense to expose itself.”
But it’s not just Dončić that makes the Mavs interesting. ESPN is also revved up about the mystery surrounding which bigs and which wings will get the lion’s share of the minutes this year (as are we). Will it be Jaden Hardy who takes a leap forward? Or Josh Green? How will rookies Dereck Lively II and O-Max Prosper figure into things?
The national pundits seem to have a lot of the same questions we do locally when it comes to this team. Lowe ends with this cryptic musing.
“The art is still meh, the commentary awesome.”
Yeah, we’re on the same page at this point, until this team proves otherwise.