What you need to know before tipoff
Tonight at 9:30 p.m. we take step 1 of 82 versus the Phoenix Suns. This time of year the narrative around most NBA teams is positive. Clubs are making final decisions to their rosters and optimism is at a surplus. The Mavericks potential is extremely exciting, so before you grab the remote and pop the top on that brewski, chew on these pregame nuggets to prepare for the season opener.
NBA Power Rankings
The NBA Power Rankings were released on Monday (10/15/2018) by NBA.com and the Mavericks find themselves at the bottom of the league, ranked 24th. For a fan, nothing can rain on a parade faster than rankings. All the goodwill built up during an active offseason can dissipate with one measly list.
The pundits have outlined key points that confirm the above rank but all is not lost. Our offseason activity was fruitful. Such a low status can be justified by outlining the poor pace of play and lackluster offense. A team with mediocre defensive production mixed with downright awful offense cant be expected to produce a high rank. Recently the team has shown strong signs of change with multiple offseason additions that are sure to positively impact our future power rank.
A Deeper Look
Last season the most used Maverick lineup consisted of:
1 – Dennis Smith Jr. 2 – Wesley Matthews 3 – Harrison Barnes 4 – Maxi Kleber 5 – Dirk Nowitzki
This group had the worst point differential (-14.8) per 100 possessions for lineups that played at least 200 minutes in 2017-2018. This basically means the lineup Rick Carlisle trusted the most was also the least productive. Reviewing such a stat gives context to a disappointing 2017 – 2018 record of 24 – 58.
The simple reality of not being that good was hard to disguise last year. With this as a backdrop, the Mavs added Deandre Jordan and Luka Doncic in the offseason. In order to progress as a team, we have to understand who we were and improve upon that. Previously, our most used lineup consisted of an aging big man (Dirk) and a serviceable shooting guard (Wes). It’s an intelligent assumption that this lineup will change when you consider a dynamic facilitator like Doncic and rim-protecting big like Jordan. This season I anticipate our most used lineup will be:
1 – Dennis Smith Jr. 2 – Luka Doncic 3 – Harrison Barnes 4 – Maxi Kleber 5 – DeAndre Jordan
Tonight Vs. Phoenix Suns
The NBA Lottery Super Bowl tips off tonight and to say its ripe with oversaturated publicity is an understatement. First overall pick Deandre Ayton has been far from a disappointment but it’s still unclear if he is the franchise savior the Suns so desperately need.
Ayton lead the team in scoring and rebounding in all but one of the five preseason games he participated in. He also added nearly two blocks a game (1.8) to a respectable stat line of 17.5 PPG, 8.5 REB, and 1 AST. Expect him to be a big part of the Suns defensive and rebounding game plan as the season opens. Offensively he has shown some 1 on 1 potential however at this stage of his career the production should mostly come from put back rebounds, hard rim dives, and alley-oops.
Devin Booker is also slated to return after a right-hand injury prevented him from participating in preseason action. I anticipate the Sun’s offense will be run through him as he has one of the deadliest perimeter games in the league.
The Suns are currently without a starting level point guard which is welcomed news to the Mavs. Not having a pure PG could disrupt their offensive flow because there is no organizer to judiciously allocate shots. My mom would call this scenario too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
Perimeter scoring shouldn’t be an issue as the newly signed Sun, Jamal Crawford is one of the leagues best at getting buckets. Couple him with D Book and this match will be well worth the price of admission.
The Mavericks will face the Suns without its two most seasoned veterans in Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki. Although this is a set back it provides an early and well-warranted opportunity for Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith. They both will be expected to take their games to higher levels earlier than expected. If the preseason is a precursor to their future performance they are up to the challenge.
Injuries impacting depth could explain why the Mavericks struggle opening night. Despite this assumption, the Mavs could find themselves in a close game if they play as a collective and not individuals. Point production is huge but how those buckets are produced is more important when attempting to predict victories. Phoenix’s potential subpar point guard play will prove crucial down the stretch which is why the Mavs will begin the season 1 – 0. vs the Suns. Now with the academics over I must repeat the words of Memphis’s own Project Pat “Pass me a beer mayne”. Enjoy the first one yall!
Stats – NBA.com
Photos – Getty Images