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NBA Odds: The Dallas Mavericks’ rookies will decide the fate of the 2023-24 season

A revamped team puts a lot of pressure on new arrivals to help fix last season’s problems

Philadelphia 76ers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

If you’re a fan of transactions, the Dallas Maverickss offseason did not disappoint. Draft night was eventful for the first time since the year they traded back multiple times in an attempt to save a few dollars for Dwight Howard’s max contract. The Mavericks traded for a starter and signed a number of players to round out the rotation. Dallas could very well end up disappointing but at minimum this season will look and feel slightly different.

Dallas Mavericks (Over/Under 45.5)

Key Additions- Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Derrick Lively, Richaun Holmes, Grant Williams, Seth Curry, Dante Exum, Derrick Jones Jr.

Key Losses- Reggie Bullock, JaVale McGee, Davis Bertans, Frank Ntilikina

Editors Note - The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s alone and do not represent the views of the MavsMoneyBall staff as a whole. Please direct all vitriol to @datdude_x on Twitter

For this particular writer, the offseason was all about cognitive dissonance. On one hand, the front office showed a level of creativity we had been clamoring for. In a vacuum, the moves executed on draft night were a success from an asset management perspective. However, it’s important have to separate the creativity of the moves from what those moves ultimately landed us from a player perspective.

The team is trying to operate on two timelines simultaneously and ultimately, it will cost Dallas wins. The Mavericks, in many respects, have taken steps back by finally committing to the draft as their superstar in Luka Doncic is entering the first part of his prime. And while it’s important that Dallas used the assets they have in the best way possible, drafting a rim-running/rim-protecting big in Dereck Lively at 12 is a pick for the future, not the now. Needing to have both Lively and Olivier Maxence-Prosper perform well for this team to thrive is a difficult pill to swallow.

Having Kyrie Irving as your second-best player makes you a win-now team, despite having those two aforementioned rookies. He is on the wrong side of 30, has a list of injuries longer than a roll of toilet paper, and can best be described as mercurial. Even if you believe he is still in his prime, how much longer can we expect the same level of production? Two years? Three? Most rookies are not ready to contribute to winning basketball for several seasons. For evidence, look no further than Josh Green. At this point, we all have opined on what we expect Josh Green can become but can any of us say with any level of certainty that he can or will reach his ceiling as a player.

When I first wrote about my feelings with Lively being taken at 12, the comments were full of readers saying Lively didn’t need to do much to impact winning. I completely disagree. Shot blocking and rim protection is more than just wingspan and vertical. It’s about timing. It’s about having the experience to know where your defensive liabilities are, anticipating what’s likely to happen, and putting yourself in the proper position. It’s difficult to reconcile how the Mavericks pursued DeAndre Ayton if they also believe Dereck Lively is ready to play soon.

Additionally, the Mavericks do not have great point-of-attack defenders that can stop rim-pressing ball handlers, making the job of the rim protector even harder. Kyrie Irving is not that. Luka Doncic is not that. Josh Green is solid but he’s far from a lockdown defender. Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. are traffic cones. Well, at least the Mavericks have some credible options on the wing, right? Grant Williams will undoubtedly help. O-Max could help. That leaves us with 3 possibly average to above-average defenders. Getting stops and defending teams with elite wings will again be a problem for this team.

It will likely be the defense that lowers the ceiling for the team. The offense will be fine, perhaps even great. Luka and Kyrie are elite tough shot makers and they are good enough to carry to transcend the questionable coaching on that end of the floor. It won’t be pretty and will involve a ton of hero ball but it will work because Luka and Kyrie are brilliant.

So ultimately, where does that leave this team? By design, the rookies will play a ton of minutes. Some reports have indicated they may even start. If true, that is great for their long-term development but most likely will come at the expense of wins and losses.

The Mavericks have to decide what they want out of this season. If the goal is to win as many games as possible, vets such as Derrick Jones Jr. and Seth Curry may get significant minutes. If the goal is to allow this team to grow around Luka, we will have to suffer through some tough losses as a result of buying into the youth movement. For me, the youth movement should transcend all. Kyrie Irving is a great player but he’s unlikely lead us to the promised land.

If the team hopes to win in a meaningful way for years to come, players like O-Max, Lively Jr., Hardy, and Green need to be thrown into the deep end. Because of that, I anticipate the season will have a number of peaks and valleys, and the team will hover around .500. The offense will be enough for us to run bad and mediocre teams off the floor on most nights. The defense, however, will cost us a number of games against elite teams in crunch time.