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Mavericks Power Rankings Watch: Dallas is rising fast

The team is making people take notice of their early play, no matter the level of competition.

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have kicked off their season on a crunch time heater. Too often last season they folded in close games, no matter the level of competition. They’ve yet to face a true playoff level opponent, but they have found ways to win even with Kyrie Irving battling injury.

The level of competition steps WAY up Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, a test that will be more than a measuring stick for where this team is at. With that in mind we’re back with Mavericks Power Rankings Watch, taking a scan of different publications and where they rank them among the league. This week’s edition sees the Mavericks shoot up the list across the board!


ESPN

Rank: 7

Previous rank: 17

Luka Doncic is the first player to lead his team outright in points, rebounds and assists in the first three games of a season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He also joined Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook as the only players with multiple 30-point triple-doubles in the first three games, according to ESPN Stats & Info data. And his 49-point night against the Nets — not one of the triple-doubles — has been Doncic’s most spectacular performance during Dallas’ 3-0 start. — Tim MacMahon

NBA

Rank: 11

Previous rank: 17

Last season, the Mavs were 3-11 in clutch games (those within five points in the last five minutes) with both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in uniform. This season: 2-0, coming back from late deficits against both the Spurs and Nets.

Three takeaways

They scored 31 points on 21 clutch possessions, with Doncic’s 5-for-6 on clutch 3s capped by one of the most amazing shots he’s ever made (and there’s been a lot of amazing shots).

The Mavs lead the league in turnover differential (7.0 per game fewer than their opponents), with Doncic and Irving having combined for 29 assists and just six turnovers (13/0 against Brooklyn on Friday).

Dereck Lively II didn’t start the opener, but did start each of the next three halves, and over the two games, the Mavs were at their best (plus-18.0 points per 100 possessions) with the rookie on the floor.

Most important about Lively’s minutes is that the Mavs allowed just 106.8 points per 100 possessions, including just 94.6 in his 33 with Grant Williams also on the floor. The opponents shot well, but the Mavs limited fouls (Lively had just four in 48 total minutes) and rebounded well with him on the floor.

The rookie will get to face the best player in the world when the Mavs begin the In-Season Tournament with a game in Denver on Friday. Their other three Week 2 opponents all rank in the bottom 10 offensively after Week 1.

The Athletic

Rank: 10 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)

Previous rank: 18

First impression: Following an awful finish to last season after acquiring Kyrie Irving, the Mavericks have turned around their luck to begin this season by playing inspired basketball. No, their schedule hasn’t been tough, but how often did they drop winnable games last season against inferior opponents? The Mavs look a lot more focused.

First overreaction: Holy crap, Luka Dončić. He is destroying everybody out there. His stepback jumper looks quicker than ever. He’s attacking relentlessly. There’s nothing anybody can do with Dončić, and opponents can’t even really speed him up by trying to blitz the ball out of his hands. This is the best we’ve seen him, which is saying something.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 5

Previous rank: 16

Luka Dončić is averaging nearly 40 points per game to lead an offense that is so good with a defense that (so far) isn’t that bad. The Mavs have something in Dereck Lively II, who struggled against Memphis but has been a reliable physical inside presence and a rim runner. Efficient, too: Lively is connecting on 85.7% of his shots this season.