The Dallas Mavericks start the season how they thought they would start it.
The team had high hopes going into the new season led by young superstar Luka Doncic and a revamped roster orchestrated to cater to Doncic’s strengths and more importantly his weaknesses.
Like a lot of the other NBA teams, the Mavs had a quick turnaround from bubble-ball to the new season. During that quick turnaround, the Mavericks made several roster additions. They drafted Josh Green, Tyrel Terry, and Tyler Bey, they signed Wes Iwundu, and they traded for Josh Richardson and James Johnson. That is a lot of new dudes to introduce in a short amount of time.
During that period the Mavericks also completely shifted their focus. The team led the league in offensive efficiency last season, scoring 115.8 points per every 100 possessions, which was not only the best efficiency in the league but also the best efficiency of all time.
The problem last year was defense.
The team was only average defensively last season, and they wanted to change that. Thus the decisions to bring in defensive-minded guys and sacrifice offensive specialists. That is a lot of identity shifting in a short period of time.
Like I mentioned before, the goal was to get better defensively which in turn, might sacrifice some offense. That was evident in the first game of the season. The team struggled to score the ball against the Suns, which is a statement that was never made last season. The Mavericks scored 102 points. The Mavs scored 102 points or less a total of seven times all of last season. Through seven games this season, that has already happened three times. That can be attributed to the slow start from Luka Doncic or the absence of Kristaps Porzingis.
Luka Doncic is averaging almost 26 PPG, 9 RPG, and 7 APG while shooting 44% from the field. Some “slow start”.
The superstar has done all that and still managed to look a bit off. He has a 19.5% three-point percentage and at one point it was much worse than that. He has looked slow and tired. But still, the stats are still impressive.
The issue is that outside of him there is not much the Mavs can rely on. When Luka is off the Mavs are off. Simple. Players have stepped up, but it is easy to tell that as a team, the Mavericks are not quite clicking yet. When Luka was ruled out against the Bulls, it felt like you could almost mark down a loss before the game even began.
And the Bulls are pretty bad.
Last year that was never the case. It always felt like there was enough offense to sneak by. This year, not so much. Through seven games, the offensive efficiency rating ranks 14th in the league.
Up to this point, I have said a lot of negative things about this team. But as I mentioned in this article’s title, do not panic.
Porzingis Hasn’t Played Yet
Kristaps Porzingis has not played a minute yet. He was a huge part of this team’s success, offensively and defensively. There is a reason things do not look at how we expected them to look. It is because an essential part of the team is not there. Porzingis provides spacing that they cannot get from the guys that are playing right now. Just his presence on offense causes problems that none of the guys playing right now cause.
He also provides defense in the paint. Whether you think he is a good paint defender or not, it is undeniable that he has is a huge looming presence. As KP returns, guys like THJ, Richardson, Kleber, and Finney Smith will not be focused on like they are now. They will get more open shots. With open shots, comes better offense.
New Team, Young Season
Another reason to cease the panic is that this team has only played seven games together. This team has only been completely together for a couple of months. Chemistry is a real thing. Last year’s team had fantastic chemistry. But with new players, chemistry has to be re-established. That will happen with time.
The goal for this team is to be great defensively. Through the first couple games of the season, they have been. Dallas has the 10th best defensive efficiency in the league so far. Again, that will improve with KP. It will also improve with time. The defense is solid. The offense will get there. When you have a guy like Luka Doncic, the offense is never really an issue. He will get back to what we saw from him last year, it may just take him a few games. We already have seen improvement. He recorded the season’s first triple-double on Monday against the Rockets.
It is way too early to make any huge judgments about this team, especially when we have not even seen the team at full strength. Remember those high expectations you had a month ago? Those are still realistic to have. We’ve seen this team be great already. They blew out one of the league’s best teams in the Clippers by 50 on the road. We’ve seen them handle the defending Eastern Conference champion with ease.
But yes, we have also seen them lose to teams like the Hornets and the Bulls. Not great. Obviously, it is OK to be frustrated with those outcomes but there is no reason to be worried.
It is way too early to worry.
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