Following a four-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19, the NBA is getting ready for a long-anticipated league restart. Beginning on July 31st, the top 22 teams will compete at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Given that there will be a secured “bubble”, concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and no fans, it’s safe to say that this will be a season unlike any other. Taking the unique NBA landscape into consideration, the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff continues this contender or pretender series with the Dallas Mavericks.
Does young superstar Luka Doncic already have what it takes to lead a team to a championship run?
NBA Disney Contenders or Pretenders? Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks can score in bunches, there’s no denying that. In fact, before the hiatus, they had the most efficient offense in league history.
Doncic, of course, is the main contributor to this. He carries a chunk of the offensive load putting up 29 points and nine assists per game. His mere presence improves those around him. Defenses need to focus heavily on Doncic, which then typically leaves open shots for other Mavs. Doncic’s passes and ability to thread the needle allows him to find his open teammates with ease.
Then, of course, there is Kristaps Porzingis. The forward is one of the best sweet-shooting big men in the league and more than that his versatile skill set allows him to score in a variety of ways. He’s averaging 19 points per game this season, but since the end of January, he was averaging 25 a game.
The European duo of Doncic and Porzingis is a budding relationship and the focal point of the team’s offense. With that being said, the Mavs also employ two elite shooters in Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway Jr. The two guards contribute to nearly 29 points per game. Curry’s last 10 games saw him averaging 21 points per game while shooting 61 percent from deep, while Hardaway Jr. emerged as a legitimate third option on the offense. NBA Disney will be in for a show.
The Mavs will be without a few key contributors for the NBA Disney format.
First off, Dwight Powell will be missing. He had missed much of the second half of the season due to a ruptured achilles. This was a season-ending injury, and the hiatus was not enough time for recovery. The Mavericks were able to see success without him, but with that being said he is still the team’s usual starting center.
Jalen Brunson will also not feature due to a shoulder injury. The second-year player became a very reliable point guard off the bench for Dallas. He could always be relied upon to keep the offense flowing and put in some great performances here and there. His absence required the Mavs to pick up Trey Burke.
Courtney Lee and Willie Cauley-Stein weren’t major contributors, but their absence will be felt. Lee cannot play due to injury, and Cauley-Stein opted out due to the birth of his child. The Mavericks are young and would’ve benefitted from veteran minutes from Lee. He’s aging, but still a solid defender and shooter. Cauley-Stein is an athletic shot-blocking and high-flying big man. That’s an exciting combination of a potent offense. His absence leaves the Mavs with thin front-court depth.
Lack of Wing Defense
The Mavericks have an effective wing defender in Dorian Finney-Smith, but the list stops there. Hardaway Jr. is a solid defender, but undersized compared to other wings. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was brought in but has yet to make any impact.
As much of a fan favorite as Finney-Smith is, he can’t be relied upon to stop elite players game-in and game-out. Fatigue will be a factor eventually. In addition, teams with two elite wings such as the Los Angeles Clippers will be able to feast on the Mavs’ defense. The Mavs are slated to play the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs unless they can move up in the eight “regular season” NBA Disney games. This needs to be the first priority to avoid a first-round exit.
Dallas Mavericks Verdict: Pretender
The Mavericks are a very good and entertaining team. Doncic is already a star, and he forms one of the better duos in the league alongside Porzingis.
With all that being said, the Mavericks are young and inexperienced. The only true playoff veteran on the roster is JJ Barea. With all due respect, Barea is no longer at the level to play a major role on a contending team. Dallas will be must-watch television and will put up a fight in every game, but will ultimately fall short.
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