The NBA season is a little over 2 months away and the Mavericks have re-loaded in preparation for a bounce-back year. There is an interesting parallel between this upcoming year’s Mavericks and the team from 2019-20, as highlighted by editor Josh Bowe in a recent piece. Both have two stars, with lots of guards, and the same two guys leading the center position: Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell. The Mavericks were very good that year, and even set the league record at the time for offensive rating (115.9). That team was just a first-round exit, so being right back where they were four years ago may not seem ideal. However, the differences between the two rosters are key and drive the notion that Dallas has finally found solid ground and is ready to catapult into the upper echelon of the league.
The first key distinction to be made is the type of player that the second star is. In 2020 it was Kristaps Porzingis who’s playstyle as a stretch four or five did not mesh as well as his contract needed him to with Luka Doncic. It worked well that first year, but with hindsight we can say that Porzingis wasn’t the same following his knee injury. In 2024 it will be Kyrie Irving, a crafty guard with lots of self-creation and shooting. As shown in the 2022 playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, Doncic benefits much more from a high-volume guard than a high-volume big man. Irving is locked down for this season and the next and a player option in the summer of 2025. With an entire training camp to build off of Doncic and Irving’s staggering 119.2 offensive rating together, the Mavericks won’t need any time to return to the top of the league on that end of the floor.
The larger distinction between the two rosters is the youth and number of “plus” defenders that the current team has. Back in 2020, Dorian Finney-Smith, Delon Wright, Courtney Lee, and Boban Marjanovic were all getting minutes. Not only did that ancillary core lack youth, but in a vacuum they were not ideal. When you replace that with Grant Williams, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Derrick Jones Jr., and Dereck Lively II, it is easy to see how much more potential the current extras have. They’re younger, more defensive-minded, and are under contract until 2027 (except Jones Jr.). Around them are Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry who expire in 2025 and provide excellent shooting and multiple veteran presences. Additionally, a contract extension for Josh Green would bolster Dallas’ wing presence for the foreseeable future and would give Dallas more continuity as they try to contend.
Four years ago Dallas had a budding superstar, an All-Star with an injury history, and a team around them that was either aging or lacked pure talent. Despite this, they had one of the best offenses the league has ever seen. Now, they find themselves with a similar roster makeup and far more promise for the future. They have hopes of finding the offensive magic of years past and re-establishing themselves in the playoffs, with the understanding that they are now a piece or two away from being title contenders. For the first time since drafting Luka Doncic, next year was not the off-season priority. In doing so, they have set themselves up for Luka Doncic to play in his first NBA Finals as soon as two or three years from now.