The Dallas Mavericks ended last year’s playoff run on a positive note after significantly troubling the heavily favoured Clippers. They could have even upset the Clippers but the injury (what a surprise) of Kristaps Porzingis destroyed all hopes of Dallas advancing. But the most important thing for the Mavs is that they saw that Luka Doncic is a serious postseason player. Doncic is the focal point of Mavericks playoff chances.
Many talented players dominate throughout the regular season only to vanish in the postseason. Luka showed he is the absolute leader of this team and that he could easily keep up with the best defences in the world.
Mavs playoff chances
Due to all of that, Vegas predicted the Mavs to finish 4th in the West setting the win/loss total at 42.5 wins. It was one of the most accurate predictions made by Vegas because the Mavs ended the season with exactly 42 wins. Vegas did not account for the brilliant seasons of the Jazz and Suns so they were off by a place as Dallas finished 5th.
The Mavs decided against big trades in the offseason. The biggest name they brought in was Josh Richardson.
Richardson was supposed to bring good perimeter defence and about 15 points per game on offence. Sadly for Dallas, Richardson failed to assert himself on offence with his output and splits among the worst he’s ever had.
How the season went
The start of the season was more than disappointing. At one point they were 9-14 and it seemed like the season was going to end up being a disaster. Porzingis returned after the injury and it took some time for things to fall into place. Leading up to the All-Star Game they went on a 9-2 run welcoming the All-Star weekend with an 18-16 record.
They played even better after the break.
Luka Doncic is the alpha and omega of this team. A man with whom everything starts and ends. Statistically, he is having a year similar to last year but his three-point shooting is significantly better. After shooting 31.6 % last year, he is up to 35.5 % this year. It’s still not a great percentage but consider the fact that he shoots over 8 per game and most of them are heavily contested. Some lauded him as the MVP but other players simply had more impressive seasons. But the All-NBA First Team…why not.
The 2nd biggest threat for opposing teams is Kristaps Porzingis. If he plays that is, which is a big if.
He only played 41 games in this shortened season and it’s questionable what sort of shape he is in. And the Mavericks playoff chances will largely depend on his shape. After those two, the biggest threat is Tim Hardaway Jr. as he has learned to thrive in his role. He will score 15 or 20 points with decent efficiency. His form in these past weeks has been especially encouraging.
It’s Luka Doncic, but all is known about Luka.
So let’s talk about a name that not so many people mention.
Jalen Brunson showed great improvement in his 3rd season and his averages this season are career-best in all categories.
He is shooting 52% from the field which is huge with a respectable 39.6% from three. He could be the X factor that could decide several games. His ability to run the offence is immensely important because Doncic needs a breather. If he keeps it up in the playoffs, Doncic’s time on the bench could become an easier thing to stomach for Mavs fans.
Mavericks Playoff rotation
With the return of Porzingis into the starting lineup, Josh Richardson fell out of it. It was a bit unexpected but fully deserved. So the starting 5 in the postseason should be Doncic, Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Porzingis and Dwight Powell.
Coach Rick Carlisle has more flexibility with this lineup making it easier for him to switch to a small ball rotation. That gives them two great defenders in Richardson and Finney-Smith on the court. And they will need both of them if they want to stop Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
The most important bench player is Brunson, who could bring a new dimension to the team with his speed and ability to hit the shot. Some minutes will also go to Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke, Nicolo Melli and Willie Cauley-Stein depending on matchups.
Mavericks playoff chances: Final thoughts and expectations
Dallas played a season in line with expectations. They had issues early but they solved them in time to book a spot in the playoffs.
They also overcame some injuries and ultimately had a good regular season. To make this season a proper success they will need some sort of a playoff run.
Those were the expectations heading into the season and still are. They will certainly want to go further than last year.
The Clippers are a very tough matchup for them and their chances in that series are not great. Still, if Finney-Smith and Richardson can find a way to limit George and Leonard they might have a small chance. Especially if Porzingis can play all the games and play them well. And I would not bet against Luka Doncic, would you?