The Dallas Mavericks are 5-2. How is this? More importantly, is this as good as they CAN be?

The Dallas Mavericks are 5-2 after squeaking out a win over the now 2-6 Orlando Magic which vaults them into the top 4 in the Western Conference. Technically speaking, they are in a 3-way tie for 2nd in the West with Denver and Phoenix, but no matter how you dice it, the Mavs are off to the best start they’ve had in years. Prior to the season starting, most pundits and analysts had the Mavs jockeying for the last playoff spot all year EVEN IF everything went right. Well, it may not all be going right, but they have been in the fight every night to scratch out a place in this conference that they’ll hope to hold onto.

While it’s only been 7 games, over that stretch, the only losses came via a team who made it to the Western Conference finals last year AND the new-look Lakers who lead the West at 6-1. And if MFFLs don’t mind the mental torture, the first game was lost after a controversial coach’s challenge with 8.4 seconds left and the second was lost in OT after a missed call at the end of regulation that the league later admitted to missing.

This is not to state the opinion that the Mavs SHOULD be 7-0 by any stretch because they could EASILY be 3-4 at this point as well with both the Denver and Orlando games both ending off of final shot misses by the other team. If Jamal Murray hits the final shot to send the Denver game to OT, do the Mavs win that game? If Vucevic makes his 3 point shot with 1.1 sec left in the Orlando game, Mavs lose. It’s safe to say, the Mavs are playing on a razor-thin margin each and every night at the exact level of their opponent (except the Cavs, they rolled that game).

The bright side of all of this is that MFFLs finally have the faith that their team has a chance in every single game they play. This is made even more evident with how frustrated MFFLs are when the team struggles. The past 2 or 3 years when the Mavs struggled, that was the expectation rather than the exception. Whatever comes at the team, there’s a chance the Mavs can handle it.

The fun part is that the Mavs have a player playing at an ELITE level to watch each and every night in Luka Doncic. Luka is nearly averaging a triple-double through 7 games with 26.7 pts, 9.9 rbs, and 9.1 asts, which keeps him in some elite company in NBA HISTORY, much less this season, as covered here.

Luka has absolute been THE MAN in Dallas, but he has had his games, as all players do, where the shots aren’t falling and his supporting cast has stepped up to help when he can’t shoulder the load. The Mavs DO NOT win either the Denver or Orlando games without major contributions from the Mavs bench. The absolute best part about it is that it hasn’t been any single player that has saved them. Case in point, 9 out of 10 players scored in double figures in the Denver game. It was the definition of team basketball and the Orlando game was a similar situation.

And while Mavs are on the upswing, it’s scary to even consider that they are far from their final form. Kristaps Porzingis is contributing admirably to the Mavs efforts by leading the team in blocks with 2.6 per game and second (to Luka) in minutes, points and rebounds while shooting BETTER than Luka in 3PT% at 36.4%. However, those familiar with Kristaps’ overall game who have been watching him closely see a player who is still adjusting to his new team. He’s still adjusting to shooting so many 3PT attempts and where the passes are coming to him on the pick-and-roll or a cut to the basket. He’s averaging 19 points a game and he still doesn’t look comfortable. Once he does feel comfortable…Kristaps might blow the league away.

Kristaps has preached patience from before the season started when it came to his chemistry with Luka and the two seem to be on the same page.

Both are savvy enough to know that on-court familiarity doesn’t show up overnight and they both need to make adjustments to fit better with the other. KP needs to get more used to moving without the ball in his hands as opposed to being given the rock and being asked to create like he did with the Knicks. Luka needs to get used to looking back over his shoulder for a kick out rather than just to the wings as he did here.

This is all to say that the Mavs have the grit and grind to compete NOW even though the eye test tells fans that this is just the start of them competing. All credit should be given to the Mavs coaching staff and front office for putting together a team that both retained valuable players AND added smart and useful role players that have helped the Mavs switch from a team that was 2-5 at this time last year to one with a 5-2 record.

Credit Rick Carlisle for tinkering with the lineups to best match up with teams that could be a problem. So far, he’s started a different lineup each game to best suit the task at hand. True, starting Courtney Lee for 2 games is not what any fan wanted or expected, but they won BOTH GAMES! The same can be said of his in-game adjustments of not only WHEN to go to his bench, but also WHO to go to. Delon Wright had his best game off the bench vs NOLA when he scored 20 and had 5 steals. Kleber and Hardaway led the team in scoring off the bench in that narrow victory there. Without the instant offense that the JJ’s brought to the stagnant offense vs the Magic, the Mavs lose that game.

Rick sees that his team is still figuring it out on the court and his job is to pull from his toolbox of skill sets to keep the team in the game. Just so long as it takes for Luka magic to do what it does and get the W.

This team will probably not continue to win 71% of its games, but with the way they have played thus far, they seem to be guaranteeing they will be COMPETING in 100% of the remaining games.

Featured Image: Sports Illustrated
Twitter Content: Mavs Nation (@MavsNationCP)
Dallas Sports Fanatic (@Dallas_Fanatic)
Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs)
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