The Mavericks have been one of the more surprising teams to start the year as they are 20-10 which is good enough to be the 5th seed in the Western Conference. While Luka Doncic has been an MVP candidate to start the year, the team’s supporting cast has been very good as well.
Whether you want to count Luka as a guard or forward, this backcourt is still very strong. The starting shooting guard of late, Seth Curry, has been very good as a floor spacer shooting 40.0% from 3 and can score off the dribble as well as give Luka another ball handler that can create. While he lacks ideal size, he still competes on defense and is willing to defend the opposing team’s best guard. Current 6th man Tim Hardaway was in the starting lineup at the beginning of the year, but the Mavericks made this move for what is best for the franchise and Tim Hardaway. As the 6th man, all he has to worry about is scoring and that’s what he’s best for the team as he is 3rd on the team in scoring averaging 13.7 PPG. He has benefited when playing alongside Luka Doncic as shooters love playing with high-level playmakers. He is shooting 6.9 three-pointers per game and is hitting at a 37.2% clip. Another strong player off the Mavs bench and a complete under the radar free agency signing is Delon Wright. Wright was with the Toronto Raptor for the majority of his first 4 years in the NBA and served as a nice piece off what was one of the best benches in the NBA at that time. Delon Wright is known as a defensive specialist and for good reason, as he is 6’5 with about a 6’8 wingspan and has great lateral quickness. He ranks 2nd in the NBA in steal % and has great size and length for a guard. Wright is effective on the offensive end as well as he is talented as a driver that can finish in a variety of ways. Also, Delon is a competent 3 point shooter as he is shooting 36.2% from beyond the arc this season. Lastly, the Mavericks drafted a player in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft named Jalen Brunson who has not only lived up to but has far surpassed his draft position. He has immediately come into the NBA and found a role as a point guard that can run the second team. Brunson can score on or off the ball while he is 2nd on the team in assists averaging 3.7 APG. Jalen Brunson is mature with a high IQ and has a work ethic that is off the charts. While these names don’t blow you away, their play does. All 4 of these guards has accepted a role and bought in, which is why this is the deepest backcourt in the NBA right now.
Steady Front Court:
The Mavericks frontcourt is led by Kristaps Porzingis averaging 17.4 PPG after the first 30 games of the season. He is coming off a torn ACL injury so he hasn’t been quite the same player, but still very good. He played very well while Luka Doncic was out with a foot injury for 4 games and showed more of that dominant player people were used to seeing. The rest of the Mavs frontcourt all provide energy and leading that group is Dorian Finney-Smith. He has been a favorite of Rick Carlisle’s ever since he entered the league. Finney-Smith has great size at 6’8 with a 6’11 wingspan that allows him to guard the opposing team’s best forward. Also, his motor never stops no matter how involved he is on offense and is a hustle play waiting to happen. This season, Finney-Smith has also been better than usual shooting from the perimeter shooting a career-best right now 37.8% from 3. Then on his athleticism alone, he is always a threat as a cutter and rebounder as he averages 5.2 RPG this year. The Mavericks starting center Dwight Powell is their best roll-man. He’s very athletic with his impressive hops, speed, and hands that make him one of the best roll-mans in the game. Powell is so efficient that he ranked 1st in offensive rating in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 season. The rest of his game is fairly limited. He will shoot a 3 pointer about once a game usually but doesn’t shoot a high volume and is usually left wide open as he only makes 30.1% on his career from 3. Also, while Powell has the bounce, he only has about a 7’1 wingspan and doesn’t have great timing as he has never been an even average shot-blocking center. Luckily for him, Porzingis can occupy that role as Porzingis stands 7’2 and is averaging 2.1 BPG. Off the bench, the Mavericks have Maxi Kleber. He is another hidden gem that the Mavericks found and has expanded his opportunity each year in the league as now it is his 3rd season and he plays a pivotal role for them as the 3rd big. The Mavericks run a 3 big rotation normally and Kleber’s offensive versatility allows them to do so. Kleber is shooting 38.0% from 3 and can also act as a role man and is more athletic than he looks. Also, while Maxi Kleber isn’t known for his defense, he did rank 11th in the NBA in block % last year. Then the last piece of this frontcourt rotation is SF Justin Jackson. He was the 15th pick of the 2017 draft and is having the best year so far he has had in his career. Jackson’s efficiency has improved since he was traded here and is shooting a career-high 36.4% this year. Justin Jackson also has a very good floater game for someone his size and plays within the rhythm of the offense. He is only playing 14.3 MPG so he isn’t a huge part of this team’s regular rotation, but he will step in when players get injured and play his role.
Assessing the Team as a Whole:
While the casual NBA fan may not have recognized half the names I mentioned, they all serve a purpose and have been a great supporting cast to Luka. This team fills many holes as they rank near the top of the NBA in many substantial categories. First of all, to succeed in the NBA, you have to shoot 3s and the Mavericks do just that. Dallas is 2nd in 3-point attempts per game and 7th in 3-point % at 36.5%. Then if hitting 3s is important, it helps if you can defend the 3 point line, which they do as well ranking 3rd in the NBA in opponent 3-point percentage at 33.3%.
Looking at per 100 possessions (This stat eliminates the pace of play as a factor in stats), the Dallas Mavericks rank well in many key areas:
- 5th in free throw attempts
- 5th in offensive Rebounds
- 2nd in total rebounds
- 1st in turnovers (meaning they turn it over the least)
- 1st in points
While they shoot a lot of 3s, they also get to the free-throw line, rebound well, and turn it over less than any other team in the NBA. This says a lot about how good this team is. The Mavericks have very little holes within their roster and might be closer to being a contender than we realize. In only his second season, Luka is showing he is a true #1 option on a good team, Kristaps (If he stays healthy) can be a #2, and they don’t have a real #3 but have a lot of guys to make up for it. While Luka and Kristaps may not have playoff experience, Luka has played in championship games overseas and they have a coach in Rick Carlisle who has won a title before. It’s hard to fully trust if Porzingis can stay healthy, but if he can, the Mavericks won’t just make the playoffs but have a real shot at making a run. Besides the Lakers and the Clippers (assuming these two teams have their stars healthy), don’t rule them out beating any other teams in a loaded Western Conference.
Article Written by Bradley Patten
General stats and player measurements found on NBA.com (https://stats.nba.com)
All advanced stats found on Basketball-Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com)
Photo Credit to: Lizzy Barrett/Getty Images (https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/wizards/wizards-fall-flat-in-season-opener-as-things-get-chippy-at-dallas/2019/10/23/54478f0a-f5d5-11e9-8cf0-4cc99f74d127_story.html)