It is possible the Dallas Mavericks are entering the most important stretch of basketball this season. Of the eight remaining games prior to the all-star break, seven are against teams within 2.5 games of them in the Western Conference standings, and the eighth game is against the first place Denver Nuggets. And six of these games are on the road.
As if that doesn’t sound daunting enough the Mavericks are carrying very little momentum into February. They went 6-9 in January, falling in agonizing fashion time and time again while squeaking by on a few victories. All this is reflected in this week’s PW Watch, where the Mavericks are featured in their lowest position almost unanimously across the board. There is still hope for improvement, especially as the trade deadline looms. But for now, the team has their work cut out for them.
Rank: 16 (Tier 4: Looking to make the play-in)
Last week: 15
Buyers or sellers? Buyers. Once this pick owed to the Knicks is gone, the Mavs have full control over their future drafts. That could help them make a move to add more to this rotation. They made an aggressive move that paid off last year when they moved Kristaps Porziņģis for Spencer Dinwiddie and Dāvis Bertāns. Would selling on Christian Wood before they have to pay him in free agency be a starting point on that? He’s been fine, but he’s probably not who you want to give a big contract to this summer. The Mavs have some flexibility, and they can afford to be aggressive adding to Luka Dončić’s help.
Assets to deal:
First-round picks: 2024-2030
Firsts they owe: 2023 (New York, top-10 protected)
Second-round picks: 2024, 2025, 2027, 2029, 2030
Potentially movable contracts: Christian Wood ($14.3M), Dwight Powell ($11M), Reggie Bullock ($10M)
Trade exceptions: None
Last week: 11
Luka Doncic has five 50-point performances in his career, one more than the rest of the Mavs have combined for in the franchise’s 43-year history. Over the past 50 years, only Michael Jordan (17) had more 50-point games in the first five years of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Doncic did drop to second behind Joel Embiid in the NBA scoring race recently, however, the result of the first scoreless performance of his career occurring when he exited a win over the Suns after only three minutes due to a sprained ankle. — MacMahon
Last week: 15
Technically, the Mavs are 0-6 without Luka Doncic after losing in Utah on Saturday. But they were trailing in Phoenix two nights earlier when Doncic sprained his ankle and left the game early in the first quarter. And they came back to beat the Suns for the sixth time in their last eight meetings, with Dwight Powell (who hasn’t played a lot of clutch time) chasing down a late rebound to seal the win.
Spencer Dinwiddie took over the offense without Doncic, and the Phoenix win (36 points) and the Utah loss (35) have been two of the three highest scoring games of Dinwiddie’s Mavs career (91 games total). Those games came with a lot of free throws (18-for-24) and 3-pointers (11-for-17), and Dinwiddie is now one of 15 players with at least 125 made 3s and at least 125 made freebies this season, shooting a career-best 41.2% from beyond the arc and 82.3% (his best mark for any season with at least 50 attempts) from the stripe. The Mavs, though, have been much better (especially offensively) in Doncic’s minutes without Dinwiddie (plus-10.7 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in their minutes together (minus-0.9) or in Dinwiddie’s minutes without Doncic (minus-3.6).
Doncic is listed as questionable for the Mavs’ game against Detroit on Monday, so he shouldn’t be an extended absence. And after the Detroit game, the Mavs will play four straight against other West teams that have 24, 25 or 26 losses, with their visit to Golden State on Friday being the start of a five game road trip. They’re 10-10 (8-2 at home, 2-8 on the road) within that 4-12 group in the West thus far.
Last week: 11
Dallas missed Luka Dončić dearly last week. The league’s second-leading scorer went for 41 points and 15 rebounds in a one-point loss to the Wizards. Dončić left early the following game against the Suns with a toe injury after just three minutes played, and Spencer Dinwiddie stepped up to score 36 points in a gutsy road win. He nearly matched that output over the weekend with 35 against Utah, but it wasn’t enough with Dončić still sidelined for the eight-point defeat. The Mavericks, 3–7 over their last 10, currently hold a play-in spot in the West.