While their record may not be flashy, the Dallas Mavericks still mean business. Sitting three games back from the 8th spot in the West, the Mavs are within reaching distance of a playoff spot and actually stood in the Top 8 for a little while before falling into a six-game losing streak. Despite losing six games in a row, all but one of those games were single-digit losses, showing that the Mavs weren’t far off from winning games that could have gone either way. Closing out games has been a problem for the Mavericks this season, but it’s always hard to close games on the road as five of those six losses came on a west coast road trip. Although the Mavericks have struggled on the road, their home record is among the best in the league at 15-3. The Mavs have shown they are capable of winning games in big chunks at a time. From November 10th to December 12th, Dallas went 12-3 in a 15 game stretch, beating prominent teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics and even the Golden State Warriors, the defending champions.
Led by the young star Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks have raised some eyebrows across the league and have exceeded most of their expectations to start the year. After starting the season at 2-7, the Mavs have made themselves relevant again thanks to Luka Doncic. The rookie from Slovenia has put the NBA on notice. His signature step-back threes and fake passes have swept the league, catching the attention of many stars including the king himself, LeBron James. Following the Anthony Davis trade rumors, reporters bombarded LeBron with questions that could potentially leak some thoughts from LeBron as to who he would enjoy playing with. Jokingly, LeBron went on to say, “Ask me would I like to play with Kevin Durant? Absolutely,” James said. “Ask if I’d like to play with Jimmy Butler. I’ll say it right now. Ask about Kyrie Irving, Giannis. Ask me about Embiid, Ben Simmons, all of ’em. Luka Doncic. Ask me right now. Come on, guys, it’s not rocket science. These are great players, absolutely. I’d love to play with a lot of great players.”. To be recognized as a “great player” from the NBA’s best has some prestige to it. The rookie has made a name for himself. Not only is he a flashy player, but his numbers are eye-opening as well. Averaging 19.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5 assists per game on 44% shooting, he finds himself in rare air as only Oscar Robertson has put up such numbers in a rookie campaign. The Mavs rookie has even received All-Star votes, currently standing at 4th in total fan votes in the Western Conference. If the voting ended today, Luka Doncic would be an All-Star starter in his rookie season. A feat accomplished only by 5 other players in NBA history. The Dallas Mavericks have something special in Luka Doncic.
Even though Luka is getting most of the attention, the Mavs have some other key players on their team that has come up big this season. One of which being Deandre Jordan, who is averaging 11 points per game and is 2nd in the league in rebounding grabbing 14 boards a night. Harrison Barnes pours in 18.5 points per game and Wesley Matthews adds 13 while draining clutch threes at the end of close games. Young playmaker Dennis Smith Jr. provides highlight-reel dunks and JJ Barea is in the running for 6th Man of the Year, putting up 11 points and 6 assists a game off the bench. Other players such as Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber contribute a spark off the bench along with seasoned veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris.
This roster is great, but it’s even better in the hands of a great coach in Rick Carlisle. Coach Carlisle has proven he can lead a team to an NBA Championship. Something that Coach Carlisle likes to do is put two play-makers on the court together. Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. are the perfect players for that scheme and Carlisle have taken advantage of it. By having Doncic and DSJ on the court at the same time, it allows Carlisle’s team to be run by two players who have the ability to run the offense, making it easier to swing the ball around and get into their offensive sets. Having two play-makers on the floor forces the defense to play upon them, allowing the forwards more one-on-one opportunities, more open shots for the sharpshooters and more driving lanes for the slashers. Both players are capable of playing off-ball. This makes for a versatile offense, one that has been proven to work dating back to the 2011 NBA Finals in which Carlisle started Jason Kidd and JJ Barea against the Miami Heat which eventually led to an NBA Championship.
There is a lot to be excited about if you’re a Mavericks fan. In a Western Conference that has been unusually close this season, Dallas has a very good chance of sneaking into the 7th or 8th spot in the NBA playoffs. Not only do I believe they can make the playoffs, but I also have confidence that they can win a series or two if they continue to increase their chemistry with each other and hit their stride at the right time. This is a team that is capable of putting together a playoff run. With Luka Doncic being a legitimate star, surrounded by proven vets and high-flying young players, this team has what it takes to compete among the best in the league.