The Dallas Mavericks made a valiant run against the Clippers in the first round but were ultimately sent home.
Now that it’s over, what can the team take away from the series for next season?

The season is done. It was a success by the team’s most important metrics. Did Luka improve on his Rookie of the Year campaign? Absolutely! He improved in nearly every valued statistic outside of 3P% and entered the league MVP conversation. Are Luka and KP a fit together? On the court and off, the duo proved they are in sync culminating in KP’s ejection in Game 1 of the series by coming to Luka’s defense without hesitation. These guys are ready for success.

While a first-round exit stings, taking a team as well built for the playoffs as the Clippers to 6 games is cause for celebration, especially factoring in how shorthanded the Mavs were entering the playoffs.

There were good, bad, and ugly things displayed by this young team when their backs were against the wall and it should show the team where their strengths and weaknesses lie as they head into offseason to tinker with a team they hope can make a deeper playoff run next season.

1) Through Luka, All Things are Possible

Luka Doncic reached an entirely different stratosphere in the playoffs. He recorded the most points ever in a playoff debut. His stat line in game 4 of 43pts/17rbs/13asts has NEVER been done in another playoff series.

He simply would not be denied. Mark Followill of the FSSW broadcast posted a tweet amassing some notable points of Luka’s first playoff run.

As if statistics weren’t enough, he earned himself respect from the reigning Finals MVP and put the league on notice that he’s ready to compete at the highest level NOW, not 3 years from now.

And the rest of the league let him know about it.

For all the talk of his success in Euroleague not being comparable to the NBA, Luka’s series against the Clippers assured any who watched that he’s no fluke and that playoff Luka cannot be denied.

2) Mavs Can Hang

“If you don’t believe, you shouldn’t be here.” – Luka Doncic

The Mavs headed into a series that most experts predicted would be short-lived and carried a series to 6 games even after the team’s second-leading scorer injured his knee and missed the last 3 games of the series. This team played through Luka foul trouble in game 2 for a win.

They fought to come back from a 21 pt deficit in game 4, while missing KP as a late scratch and won on Luka’s OT game-winner we will never forget.

Photo: Kevin C Cox/AP

And while Luka was the story, the team got some stellar “next man up” play from players like Bubble acquisition Trey Burke, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Boban Marjanovic. Burke played himself into the starting lineup and gave the team 25pts in the game 4 win. Dorian shot nearly 37% from deep in this series, proving that his improvement this year in that department doesn’t leave in the clutch.

Tim Hardaway scored 17.8ppg  over the series, which is exactly what the Mavs needed of him. And Boban made the absolute most of his minutes with KP missing as much of this series as he did by playing the most ever minutes he’s ever played in the playoffs and shot 56.7% from the floor and was a +3.2 in +/- in the series.

This team proved that even while missing valuable pieces like KP and Dwight Powell and backup help from Jalen Brunson and Willie Caulie-Stein, the players who saw game action were not afraid of the moment and stepped up for their teammates.

3) KPs Health Will Be a Factor Going Forward

(SIGH) While KP was coming off his 20-month injury rehab, Mavs fans knew he would be brought back slowly and all seemed to be well with his left knee injury come time for his very first playoff action with everyone thrilled to see what a Unicorn could do when play got real. He averaged 23.7pts over his 3 games played, even with his ejection in game 1. Well, unfortunately, KP injured his OTHER knew with a lateral meniscus tear in game 1 that kept him out of games 4-6.

While a devastating blow to the team’s playoff chances this year, the Mavs must be cautious with their investment in their highest-paid player. There’s no way around the fact that his style of play is hard on any human who is carrying a 7’3” frame or else other big men would have played like him before now. Being a unicorn emphasizes his uniqueness and the health issues associated with his play are part of the deal. The Mavs clearly know this and knew this coming in as KP has NEVER played in all games in a season over his career.

The medical staff for the Mavs can work with him all they want, but MFFLs have to be ready to take the good with the bad of KP and his body. At 25, he can still learn to treat his body better, but those of us older than 25 know that our bodies don’t magically get better as we age.

4) Which Roster Spots are in Jeopardy

While players like Trey Burke and Boban made the most of their minutes and showed that they can perform under the brightest lights, other players showed they were not ready for the challenge and might have put their futures in Dallas into question.

Delon Wright, who was brought in at $13M and was a presumptive starter prior to the season only played in 4 of the 6 games and scored 4pts over 13 minutes a game, which is inflated by his 11 pts in the game 5 routing by the Clips. Delon’s role may be ambiguous, but his play was not inspiring and his minutes were almost completely taken by Trey Burke who shined greatly this series. The Mavs might look to move him to open up some cash and/or roster spot for someone who fits better on this team.

Similarly, Justin Jackson, who saw 16.1 minutes a game in the regular season saw his time shrink to just 5.3 minutes/game in this series. His 5.5ppg turned to 1.3ppg and his net rating went from a neutral to a -7.7 in plus-minus. While rosters normally shrink and stars take on larger roles, Justin’s playoff role seems to be the writing on the wall that his time in Dallas is virtually done.

Sadly, it seems like this playoff series showed what might be the end of JJ Barea in a Dallas Maverick’s uniform. Over this season, JJ played in less than half of the games, as sort of a “stabilizing force” to right the ship when things were out of hand, but he averaged 15.5 minutes a game during the regular season over 29 games. However, JJ only managed to play in 1 game for 5.2 minutes scoring 3pts on 3 free throws.

And after the series, JJ shed some light on WHY things trended this way for him in this series and what the future might hold for him in Dallas.

JJ is the last vestige of the 2011 title team and the most veteran player on this young team, but it would seem time is coming for the 35-year-old PG, just as it did for the rest of that 2011 Championship roster. It would appear that the Mavs believe that Jalen Brunson can be that backup PG that JJ has been for years in Dallas and that it’s time to move on one way or another. It’s a sad part of sports, but part of it nonetheless.

While the Clippers series was full of highs and lows, don’t let it overshadow the progress made by a team that won 33 games last year and faced an unprecedented time in basketball.

For a team with young leaders, to go from last year to pushing a title favorite to 6 games, that’s a GREAT improvement and if this offseason improves the roster even a LITTLE, next season should be EXTREMELY fun.

Featured Image: Kevin C Cox/AP
Comments are closed.

Check Also

Dallas Cowboys 2023 Draft Betting Guide

Can we expect some magic from the Dallas Cowboys this season? The Texas-based team is comi…