It’s been an all around surprising week in Mavericks Land. A trade sent out two starters and returned the most divisive player in the league. That was followed by back-to-back thrilling road wins against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers, featuring promising play from both Josh Green and Jaden Hardy.
The one thing jumping off the screen in these games has been energy. Whether it’s rotations shifting with players missing — including Luka Doncic recovering from injury — or motivation and a nervous activity as the trade deadline nears, the Mavericks have been far more assertive than they’ve been in the past when Doncic sits.
The deadline always muddles power rankings. The Mavericks aren’t the only one that has made major roster changes. As the dust settles, and we finally see Luka and Kyrie play together, the Mavericks may settle into a new position on this watch.
Rank: 14 (Tier 3: Play-in Tournament Teams or Better)
Last week: 16
Role player to highlight: Reggie Bullock | 6.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists | 39.1/36.4/64.5 shooting splits
With Irving coming to town and Finney-Smith out the door, Bullock’s value and importance just skyrocketed. He might be the only defensive-minded rotation wing on the roster now. While his 3-point numbers are down, he’s definitely the only 3-and-D guy they have. The strain on Bullock the rest of the season is going to be immense. He has to defend the opposing team’s best player all the time unless Dallas can swing another trade to bring in some help. He has to keep his energy up enough to still knock down shots. This is going to be a big test that could have a big payoff in 2024.
Long-term outlook? Signed through 2024 with a non-guaranteed $10.4 million salary for next season. He’s much more important with Finney-Smith gone.
Why did they move up? This Irving deal makes them incredibly interesting, but I still don’t know how streamlined this whole thing will be.
Last week: 12
Josh Green and Jaden Hardy, two young players with significant trade value whom the Mavs managed to keep out of the Kyrie Irving deal, each scored a career-high 29 points Monday against the Jazz to lead Dallas to its first win without Luka Doncic this season (1-7). They’re the first pair of under-23 Mavericks teammates to both score at least 25 points in a game since Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn in November 1995. — MacMahon
Last week: 18
The Mavs now have two of the most talented offensive players we’ve ever seen. (We could have said the same about the Nets 24 hours ago.) It will be fascinating to see if the half-court offense is more than a my-turn, your-turn situation for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, not that a my-turn, your-turn situation with those two guys wouldn’t produce efficient offense. Among 135 players with at least 100 isolation possessions this season, Irving (1.28 points per possession) and Doncic (1.16) rank first and fourth in isolation efficiency, and Irving’s mark would actually be the highest for any player in 19 seasons of Synergy tracking.
While the half-court offense should be terrific, it would be nice if Irving can get the Mavs out in transition once in a while. His 3.9 fast break points per 36 minutes would be the highest rate on the Mavs, who rank 29th in the percentage of their possessions that have been in transition.
Of course, the best way to get in transition is to get stops, and the Mavs’ three best players are now Doncic, Irving and Christian Wood. So defense would be an issue even if they didn’t trade one of their two best defenders for Irving. They already rank 24th defensively, having seen the league’s third biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season (+5.8). And if they want to avoid being a bottom-five defense going forward, they really need Maxi Kleber to remain healthy once he returns from his hamstring injury.
It’s not clear when Doncic will return from a heel injury he suffered last week, with Dallas falling to 0-7 without him after losing in Golden State on Saturday. Irving’s first task with the Mavs (he could make his debut against the Clippers on Wednesday) might be getting them off that schneid.