Preseason Preview #21: Dallas Mavericks

Season Goal: Be semi-competitive

After the team’s worst record in decades, the Mavericks are hoping to bounce back into relevancy. After a draft night trade to acquire Luka Doncic and signing Deandre Jordan the Mavericks have managed to significantly improve their roster. That being said, the West is too talented and the Mavericks are too young to make the playoffs.

The vast majority of their offense will run through a second-year player in Dennis Smith Jr. and a rookie in Luka Doncic. DSJ showed flashes of flashes of brilliance but also struggled with consistency and decision making. Which is not something you want in your offensive leader. For Doncic, like all other rookies, it’s impossible to know how valuable he’ll really be until he actually plays. But, it’s unfair to expect him to be a superstar year one in the NBA, even if he was a Euroleague MVP. Even if they fail to make the playoffs, or even come close, this is a young team that should be exciting to watch.

Storylines:

Wonder Boy

After an extremely successful overseas career, including being the youngest ever Euroleague MVP, Doncic has made the transfer to the NBA. His elite passing ability and size at the guard position make him an extremely promising prospect. After having the 6th worst offensive rating last season the Mavs are desperate for an elite offensive talent. Could Doncic help them become at least an average offense overall? Despite his obvious skill, it’s unlikely that he could make a dramatic impact on the Mavericks right away. But, a backcourt of him and DSJ is extremely promising and should be fun to watch for years to come.

The Other Guard

Even with all the hype around Luka, his backcourt mate is just as, if not more, important to the team’s success. After an exciting, but flawed, rookie season Dennis Smith Jr. will have a lot more responsibility this year. While his obvious strengths are his athleticism and speed, DSJ struggles to score efficiently and limit turnovers. He shot sub 40% from the field (39.5%) and 31.3% from three leading to a disappointing 44.6% eFG%. His shot selection can be extremely questionable, and the lack of offensive creators around him didn’t help his efficiency at all.

Perhaps all he needs is another year to get used to the NBA and somebody who can get him easy shots, such as Luka Doncic. The other noticeable issue in his game is his turnovers. Last season he had a subpar 1.85 AST to TOV ratio and led his team in turnovers per game. All advanced metrics point towards him being a negative contributor last year, but he had a way bigger load than he should have. He had a ridiculous 28.9% USG rate. That is similar to other first options such as John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Demar DeRozan. This was a huge workload for a rookie and caused many of his struggles. Hopefully, through experience and the acquisition of better talent by Dallas, DSJ can become a more complete player, and eventually lead them to great success along with Doncic.

Depth Chart:

PG: Dennis Smith Jr., JJ Barea, Devin Harris, Jalen Brunson

SG: Luka Doncic, Wesley Matthews, Jalen Jones

SF: Harrison Barnes, Dorian Finney-Smith

PF: Dwight Powell, Dirk Nowitzki, Maxi Kleber

C: Deandre Jordan, Salah Mejri

Salary Cap Situation:

~106M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Deandre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki, JJ Barea, Devin Harris, Salah Mejri

Bad Contracts: Dwight Powell (2yrs, ~20M)

*All salary data via sportrac.com*

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