In: Seth Curry, Boban Marjanovic, Delon Wright
Out: Dirk Nowitzki, Trey Burke, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Salah Mejri
You’d think when a team goes 33-49 it would be a pretty forgettable season for a franchise, but that’s just the opposite for the 2018-19 Mavericks. The 2018-19 season will be remembered as the year a Mavericks legend, Dirk Nowitzki, played his final season, and the year a new legend, Luka Doncic, played his first season. Not only was Luka one of the best rookies since Lebron James, but he also showed he had one aspect to his game that all legends have. He is the living embodiment of the word clutch. Doncic ranked 11th in the NBA in points scored in the final five minutes of a five-point game. He was also shooting the ball incredibly efficiently with a 46% field goal percentage during this time. Considering the Mavs were a bottom feeder and didn’t get as many opportunities to play in close games those stats are even more impressive. Doncic isn’t the only thing the Mavs will remember 2018-19 for, they also acquired another European all-star, Kristaps Porzingis. Coming off a torn ACL, Porzingis will hopefully be back to full strength, and could be a deadly combination with Doncic.
It wasn’t the free agency the Mavs had hoped for, they didn’t get Kemba Walker or Khris Middleton, but they did grab pieces they needed. They signed two solid pieces for their bench, in Seth Curry and Boban Marjanovic. Curry’s value will be for the most part offensive, giving Doncic and Porzingis more space, and a reliable shooter to dump it off too. Although, Curry is a negative on defense, and will need a lot of help in a Western Conference stacked with dominant point guards. Boban is always the crowd favorite, and has always proven to be incredibly effective when on the floor. The only problem is that Boban usually can’t play more than 20 minutes max. If the Mavs stay healthy that’s really all they’d need out of him, but with the lack of depth at center any injuries to Powell or Porzingis will cause Boban to see the largest workload of his career. They also made a great trade in giving up two second round picks for Delon Wright who should step in and be their starting point guard. He’ll provide some stability on offense and defense for a team that really needs some consistency at the point guard spot. The Mavericks obviously believe in their players since they re-signed Barea, Kleber, Powell, and Finney-Smith to compliment their young stars.
The starting five will most likely be Wright, Doncic, Hardaway, Porzingis, and Powell, but given the flexibility of Doncic and Porzingis, the Mavs will likely be running a number of different lineups. Doncic will play anywhere from point guard to small forward while Porzingis will play power forward and center. The Mavs would probably like if Porzingis could play center every night, but he will most likely be playing power forward to start the season. The offense is going to played through Doncic and Porzingis with Doncic bring the ball up and Porzingis settling in to a pick and pop role. Hardaway and Wright provide a solid number three and four option, with Hardaway being able to knock down threes and cut into what will probably be an open paint. Wright won’t be much of the shooter, but he has great vision, giving the Mavs more opportunities to score when Doncic or Porzingis don’t have the ball. Powell is there for defense, and will be the enforcer in the paint while Porzingis shakes the rust off. Once Porzingis is back to his usually self the Mavs will be blocking a lot shots down low. Their perimeter defense may be lacking though as Doncic has great instincts he’s just too big to get past screens sometimes. Wright and Hardaway can both provide value, but won’t be able to lock down anybody. If Doncic and Porzingis can find their groove quickly this Mavericks team could be one of the stronger offensive teams in the league.
Their bench is good, but not great. They have a ton of depth at guard with Brunson, Barea, Curry, and Lee all of which provide a lot of scoring opportunities. Defensively they aren’t the strongest unit, with Brunson being the best of the bunch. Although, Brunson could be a game changer for the Mavs. He showed flashes last season of being a possible starting point guard of the future. If even slightly improves off his rookie season he could provide some serious value for the Mavs on both sides of the ball. Finney-Smith, Kleber, and Jackson will be the forwards off the bench, and they each provide some solid all-around value. Finney-Smith has improved each of his three seasons, and although his offensive output is limited he could be a major factor on defense. He should be able to slow down some of the stronger forwards in the West. Kleber is a solid shooter and shot blocker being the perfect back-up to Porzingis, as they won’t have to change the offense at all when he comes in. He will also have to provide some minutes at the center position given their lack of depth. Justin Jackson will mostly be in for Finney-Smith when they need offense instead of defense as he gives them another threat from three. Boban is their only true center on the bench, and he is always incredibly efficient, but his inability to stay in the game will force Kleber to play off role at center more than the Mavs would probably like. The Mavs have a lot of depth offensively, and almost everyone coming off it will be able to score effectively. It’s their depth at defense that may cause some problems given the fact Finney-Smith, Kleber and possibly Brunson are the only guys that provide good defense off the bench.
This Mavs team is one of the most interesting going into the 2019-20 season. The combo of Doncic and Porzingis could result in a complete turnaround for a franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs in three years. With the talent they have, on those two players alone, they could potentially be a team that wins 50 plus games. Doncic is a proven winner, and has shown to be the kind of guy that makes everyone around him better. I don’t think i’m going to far when I say that he has serious potential to be an MVP candidate this season. With the freedom that Porzingis should provide, Doncic’s numbers should go up, and I would’t be surprised to see Doncic average double-digit assists to go along with 23-25 points a game. It may just be me, but I saw something special in Doncic that I haven’t seen in a rookie since LeBron, and LeBron went from all-star play in his rookie year to MVP play in his sophomore year, and I truly believe we will see the same from Doncic this year. When you have a special player like Doncic your team just wins games, and despite some of the problems the Mavs might have with defensive depth, the Mavs are poised to be a breakout team this year.