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Grading the Mavericks: Dallas needs a solution to the minutes without Derek Lively

If there is one position that needs to be filled, it’s the role of backup center

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks have gone 2-3 over their last two weeks. The two wins came in Los Angeles against the Lakers and at home against Houston. Losses against the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Thunder have the Mavericks at an 11-8 record overall. Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, and Tim Hardaway Jr. all missed the last matchup with Oklahoma City, but hopefully, the four days of rest before their next game will provide some cleanup on the injury report.

Grade: C

Not only is Dallas 2-3 in their last five, but they’re 4-6 in their last ten after starting the season 7-2. They lost games when they shot poorly for extended stretches or when they missed key players, which is unsurprising. That is who this team is; they win games with hot three-point shooting and lose games without it. In the two wins the defense looked really good, and gave a glimpse of what this team could look like for spurts during a playoff series. Nailing down the bench rotation is key for that and the Mavericks will continue to have weeks around .500 until they figure out those minutes.

Straight A’s: Luka Doncic

Doncic has been on a tear offensively. He averaged just under a 34-point triple-double in the four games he played these last two weeks. Additionally, he displayed incredible leadership in the loss to the Thunder. He got the other guys huddled up before a free throw, led a miraculous 30-0 run in the fourth quarter, and even talked to the young guys when he felt they needed coaching. He told Lively to go up strong when he caught the ball in the middle of the floor instead of passing out and reassured AJ Lawson when he was blocked on a layup late in the game. Doncic has not been an overly vocal leader throughout his time in the NBA, but steps like this are huge for his development as an alpha on a contending team.

Currently Failing: The Mavericks without Derek Lively II

As good as Lively has been this year, the Mavericks have been just as bad without him on the floor. Lively has been sensational, averaging 8.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. The backup centers (Maxi Kleber, Richaun Holmes, and Dwight Powell) are averaging a combined 10.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. Dallas has a net rating increase of nearly nine points when Lively is on the floor. When he’s not, things get ugly.

Against the Thunder on Saturday night, the Mavericks trailed 90-76 with 3:54 left in the third quarter. Lively was taken out for Powell and eight seconds later Doncic hit a three. From that point, the Mavericks were outscored 17-5 in the final 3:46 of the third before Lively came back in, down 107-84 to begin the fourth quarter. The Mavericks have no one to turn to when he is out of the game that can provide any presence on defense.

When Lively missed the game against the Clippers this was even more egregious. They were outscored 54-32 in the paint by a team on the second night of a back-to-back. The Mavericks lost that game 107-88 and it was not that close. Dallas desperately needs a backup big man to give Lively some insurance.

Extra Credit: AJ Lawson

Lawson played really well in his minutes against Oklahoma City. He had 12 points and was pivotal in the Mavericks’ incredible comeback in the fourth quarter. He defended well, made his threes, and did not make any clearly negative plays. He took advantage of his limited opportunities last season as well and it might be time to give him a spot in the rotation.