By skill, will, or luck the Dallas Mavericks made it to the All-Star break above .500. Here are 18 thoughts on how the season has progressed to this point.
The first five:
1.) It’s a miracle that the NBA and the Mavs even got here. Early in the season, the Mavs dealt with a COVID-19 breakout on the team. Facilities were shut down for days, and games were postponed. Though stats may identify that Dallas’ bout with COVID affected the team production, things seem to be on the right track as the Mavs head into the break on a winning streak.
2.) The early start to the season shocked key contributors on the team, most notably Luka Doncic. He said early in the season that he expected the NBA season to start much later than it did. The results of the quick turnaround were a Luka that looked a step slow, and an inconsistent Mavericks offense.
3.) This season has shown how important Maxi Kleber is to what Dallas wants to do as a team. In the 22 games he’s played this season Dallas is 14-8. In those 14 wins, Kleber is averaging 22 minutes, scoring 6.7 points and Dallas is a +9. He is one of the best positional defenders on the team, and his play has also garnered high praise from team owner Mark Cuban.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) January 8, 2021
4.) This is who Tim Hardaway Jr is as a player. The talk in the Mavs community is, how can Dallas extract consistency from Hardaway Jr. In reality, Hardaway Jr is a heat check guy. When he is making shots, in his own words, “it’s like throwing a golf ball into the ocean.” If he isn’t hot, the game can turn ugly quickly.
5.) Jalen Brunson is a real NBA-level player. Throughout the last two seasons he showed glimpses of what he can be, but this season he’s found that consistency in his contributions. On the year Brunson is averaging 12 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. All of which are career-highs. So there will be no more Brunson slander from the Mavs faithful.
The second five:
6.) The Seth Curry trade looks bad in hindsight. This isn’t an indictment of Josh Richardson as a player. What he brings to the table is important for Dallas. However, the team is missing a perimeter threat of Seth Curry’s caliber.
7.) Rim protection and wing depth are a primary concern. Dallas is a bad defensive team (23rd defensive rating in the league), which on most nights is ok if the plan is to outscore the other team. What Dallas needs is a leader on the defensive end of the floor, and that could change the outlook of the team.
8.) The public was early on coronating Luka the MVP. Doncic is having a great season, but to win the MVP it’s far more than just statistical output. The early Mavericks struggles tainted the perception of Doncic’s individual performance. A dominant team season or a historic statistical season bolsters Doncic’s MVP case. Those two things haven’t been the reality this season.
9.) Doncic, though he may not be an MVP, is still having another wonderful season. At the All-Star break, he is averaging 28 points per game, 8.4 rebounds, and 9.0 assists. Luka has also improved his three-point shooting by four percentage points. On the year he is shooting 35.7 percent from behind the arc. A noticeable improvement from the two years prior.
10.) Doncic has noticeably improved on the defensive end of the floor. By no means is he an elite ball-stopper, but he is better than years prior. The incremental improvements are encouraging for what is to come for Luka.
The Doncic and Porzingis commitment:
11.) Doncic expanded on the clutch element in his game this season. In the last five minutes of the game, Luka is averaging 4.2 points on 53 percent from the field. That average is two points higher than last season. He also hit this shot:
LUKA GAME WINNER…MY GOODNESS. 🔥🔥
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 24, 2021
12.) There was a debate that Luka didn’t deserve to be an All-Star starter. He even said so himself. But to those that watched, Luka Doncic clearly deserved every bit of his starter nomination. He is the real deal.
13.) Kristaps Porzingis hasn’t looked like the same player he was before his knee injury. His statistical output on the year looks similar to seasons prior: 20 points per game, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. However, he is a -1.8 on the year, which explains why the eye test shows you that he doesn’t look the same.
14.) The Porzingis trade rumers are fodder. Though he hasn’t been spectacular, Dallas isn’t giving up on him just yet.
15.) That being said, Dallas does still feel a move away from being a truly great team. I expect the Mavs to search the buyout market in the coming weeks.
16.) Dallas has been a better team in the last 12 games than during the losing streak, that isn’t in question. What is, is the consistency element of the other pieces outside of Luka on the roster. Who is going to step up?
17.) People on the fire Rick Carlisle bandwagon were ridiculous. The expectations coming into the year were clearly far too high. Especially when you look at the talent on the roster compared to the rest of the league.
18.) And whew, if you made it this far, congrats. The last thought is, it sure will be fun to watch Luka as a starter in the All-Star game.
Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports