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Know Your Competition: The Dallas Mavericks

It’s time for the Luka Doncic show

NBA: Dallas Mavericks-Media Day Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2017-2018 Record: 24-58, 4th in Southwest, 13th in Conference

Additions: DeAndre Jordan, Luka Doncic, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Jalen Brunson, Ding Yanhuyang, Devin Harris (sort of?), Ryan Broekhoff, Jalen Jones

Departures: Yogi Ferrell, Seth Curry, Nerlens Noel, Doug McDermott, Aaron Harrison

The Mavericks ended up the big winners in the Luka Doncic Sweepstakes, drafting Trae Young at #5 in the NBA Draft in June and swapping him for Doncic at #3. The majority of coverage of the Mavs this offseason has centered around the 19-year-old Slovenian, and rightly so.

Doncic was a dynamic player overseas, winning all sorts of accolades along the way. If that translates to the NBA, which lots of people including me believe it will, Doncic could change a lot of things in regards to how players are taught the game. Luka can (in theory) play anywhere from the 1 to the 4 and do it well. Dennis Smith Jr. will still be the point guard for the Maverick offense, but Doncic can run the offense from whatever spot he’s playing as well. Luka has shown an ability to create offense no matter what postion he’s acting as on the floor. He succeeds in catch-and-shoot situations, he moves the ball around with pace and makes good decisions in assist situations. My only concern is how he’ll do in the painted area on offense and defense when the overall athleticism of the players is different than what he’s competed against in the past.

Dennis Smith is in a bit of a strange spot this season. With a roster consisting of Doncic, Jalen Brunson, returning long-time Mav Devin Harris, and JJ Barea, there’s quite a few guys that can run the point. Smith was good as a facilitator, averaging a little over 5 assists per game, but his shooting percentages weren’t anything spectacular. If worse comes to worse, and Smith struggles, there’s veteran options to back him up and get him back on track.

The amount of depth in the Dallas backcourt could be a difference maker. On top of returning standout Smith Jr., the Mavs also bring back veterans Wesley Matthews, Barea, and Harris to go with 2018 2nd round draft pick Jalen Brunson. The Mavs will have a ton of options at the point and will be able to run sets with 2 or even 3 PGs on the floor if Luka is on the floor. It’s not crazy to think we could see that look a lot with the amount of ballhandlers the Mavs have.

Dirk Nowitzki will probably split a lot of starts with Maxi Kleber as free agent acquisition DeAndre Jordan will be holding things down at the 5. The Dallas frontcourt is fairly deep this season too, with the additions of Kostas Antetekounmpo and Austrailian international Ryan Broekhoff to a returning core of Nowitzki, Jordan, Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith (who sometimes plays at the 2), and Harrison Barnes.

Outlook

It’s very unlikely the Mavericks will be as bad as they were this past season. The question though is how much better can they be? The West again has improved from top to bottom so while the Mavs have made some good moves in the offseason, so has most of their competition. Are the Mavs going to win the division? No. Could they make the playoffs? Maybe.

Depending on what happens injury-wise to the upper levels of the Western Conference it’s not outlandish to think Dallas could sneak into the playoffs at 7 or 8. OKC and New Orleans will have a lot to say in regards to that prospect. Most likely, I think this season ends up as a positive move towards the future of the franchise and a much better possible ending to the career of Dirk Nowitzki.

Prediction: 39-43, 4th in Southwest, 11th in Conference

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