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The injury bug has plagued the Dallas Mavericks this season

The Mavericks have struggled to put a healthy lineup on the floor consistently.

Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks have been plagued by the injury bug all season. What felt like a promising start to the season quickly turned upside down in December after the team delt with what has felt like one injury after another. Dislocated toes, knee soreness, plantar fasciitis, corneal abrasions, elbow sprains, thumb sprains, wrist sprains, ankle sprains, and broken noses are just a few of the injuries the Mavericks have had to deal with in the first 48 games of the season. It has felt as if every time a player returns from injury, another has gone down.

The Mavericks are in the midst of a tough stretch of games, including the West-leading Timberwolves this past Wednesday, and upcoming matchups against the Bucks, 76ers, Knicks, Thunder, Suns, and Pacers. If Dallas continues to miss key players in these matchups, it would be almost impossible to imagine how the Mavericks could pull off a win against any of those teams.

If the Mavericks could buy some consistency, it would help go a long way into actually assessing what this team can be. To put things into perspective, according to Cleaning the Glass, the Mavericks’ most-used lineup has played just 219 possessions together. For context, this ranks 52nd in the NBA among all five-man lineups across the league that have played a minimum of 100 possessions. This five-man lineup includes Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Jones Jr., Grant Williams, and Dereck Lively. If this lineup looks familiar, it’s because it’s the starting lineup from the beginning of the season before Dante Exum took Williams’ place in the starting five.

For some more numbers, Doncic, Irving, Exum, and Lively have only shared the floor for a whopping 67 possessions this season, with 56 of those being the team’s theoretical current starting lineup (Doncic-Irving-Exum-Jones-Lively) when healthy. The eye test shows that this is the Mavericks’ best lineup with a third ball-handler to act as a release valve for Doncic and Irving in Exum along with the defensive presence that Exum, Jones Jr., and Lively can provide. The analytics for this lineup are unfortunately unreliable due to the small sample size of possessions played due to all the injuries.

Since Irving went down on Dec. 8 after a freak accident where teammate Dwight Powell fell on his leg while going for a rebound, it has been one thing after another for the Mavericks up until this point. Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves showed that the Mavericks desperately need their guys back. The injury report for this game was the equivalent of a CVS receipt, with Doncic (right ankle sprain), Irving (thumb sprain), Exum (right knee bursitis), Jones (left wrist sprain), and Lively (broken nose) all missing. The Mavericks showed some fight in the first half, but quickly unraveled in the second, showing that they simply cannot compete with the top teams in the league without these guys. The inconsistencies in the lineup make it hard to assess what this team can be when fully healthy because we haven’t seen them fully healthy.

Granted, the Mavericks have truly had some genuinely freak accident injuries this year, with Maxi Kleber’s dislocated toe keeping him sidelined for 35 games, Irving’s injury against the Trailblazers mentioned previously, and Jones wrist sprain from last Friday’s win in Atlanta where Doncic had a 73-point double-double. It’s worth mentioning too that Doncic most likely missed the Timberwolves game due to the overwhelming workload he’s carried for the Mavericks amidst injuries to the team. He played 45, 46, and 43 minutes respectively in the Hawks, Kings, and Magic games, and the Mavericks needed every ounce of production he could provide and looked almost like a G-League squad when he was off the floor in those games. Luckily, the Mavericks have seen Josh Green step up to the plate during this period of inconsistency in lineups.

Hopefully, the Mavericks can see some of their guys return to the lineup when they take on the Bucks on Saturday evening. Advantageously, the Mavericks will come into this game off of two days of rest, which will hopefully allow them to see some returns for this matchup. Lively and Doncic did not travel to Minnesota, so here’s to hoping their four days of rest help ramp them up to a return. As the season progresses, it would be nice to see what this team can be when healthy as they continue to search for consistency.