Predicted finish: 5th in the West (1st in the Southwest, 11th in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 7th
Life as a Mavericks fan must be super fun. You get 20 years of a top 25 player of all-time in Dirk and promptly replace him virtually immediately with one of the great young stars the game has ever seen in Luka Doncic. Last season at just 21 years old, Doncic had arguably the greatest second season of anyone in league history and somehow still has a bunch of areas he can improve. To call his ceiling endless and future terrifying for the other 29 teams feels like an under sell somehow. So, with already a top 5ish player in the league, it’s up to the Mavericks to surround him with the right talent. For starters, their trade for Josh Richardson was brilliant to me. His secondary ball-handling is a welcome addition to a team that had little to none last year and his defence will be extremely important as well. After what Doncic did for Tim Hardaway Jr’s career last season, it’d also be surprising if Richardson doesn’t enjoy a career year from distance as well. This team’s 2021 prospects likely lie with Kristaps Porzingis health as much as anything. With him entering the season injured, it starts to beg the question of his future on this team. All in all though, the Mavs may not be title contenders in 2021 but with another generational talent on their roster, it won’t be long until they are once again.
The big question for the franchise: Is Porzingis really the number two option of the future?
With Porzingis hurt again, we have to ask the uncomfortable question about his future as a key piece on this team. His talent screams potential number two on a title team but his health says something completely different. With Luka being so good and potentially being ready to try and win a title right now, it begs the question of how long Dallas will sit around and wait for Porzingis to be healthy. Owner Mark Cuban has been consistently in the Latvian’s corner so that’s good. However, with a guy as competitive as Cuban, I struggle to see him and his franchise’s title hopes be held hostage by a player’s health for long. It feels like whenever he comes back this season it’ll be integral he stays on the court if for nothing else to see if he’s even good enough to be that guy when healthy, let alone when not. He has quite the ceiling, there’s no doubt about that. He is though 25 already and you have to wonder just how good he can be. Luka seems best player on a title team good, is Porzingis really a number two? In my mind there’s a ton of pressure on Kristaps this season and I don’t get why more people aren’t talking about it.
One move I want to see them make: Add another three and D wing who can defend or another ball handler
As much as I like the Richardson move, this team still feels a piece or two short even with Kristaps healthy. They still lack a real ball-handler, shot creator who can take some pressure off Luka and in the forward/wing area, they feel a player short there as well. After Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber they get thin fast at forward and that’s even assuming they’re good enough to start on a title team. Similarly, Richardson and Hardaway are good fits alongside Luka but after them, the Trey Burke’s and Courtney Lee’s of the world leave a lot to be desired. I get everyone is in on Luka being great and ready to win. We need to slow down though because this roster is a lot thinner than people realize.
Offseason Grade: B
Richardson makes more sense for this team than Curry and Tyrell Terry has the chance to be good. As I said above though, not really addressing their forward or guard spots just to keep 2021 cap space open feels kind of silly. It’s made worse by the fact that now after some major extensions, a guy like Victor Oladipo is I guess the headliner? I understand the importance of maintaining cap flexibility and that I obviously respect. But for a team many are picking as a dark horse title team, decisions like that would probably tell you their own front office thinks they’re a year away from really being something.
Young player I’m excited for: Tyrell Terry
Terry is a flamethrower from deep so playing alongside Doncic is just about as perfect a spot as he could ask for. His defence and handling need to improve for him to really impact the rotation though but at least for now, he could easily give them ten minutes a night and for a second round rookie, that’s a steal.
With Porzingis starting the year hurt and them feeling a couple players short in their rotation, I think everyone is a year early on this team contending. I get Doncic was incredible in the bubble and the team showed real potential against a team like the Clippers. That said, with so many obvious holes, acting like they’re a real threat to go all the way in 2021 to me is disingenuous. They have a generational star who is the definition of special but, I think that’ll really come to playoff fruition in 2022 and beyond more than 2021. They should take a step in the regular season with Doncic and their offseason moves however, I hardly think the Lakers fear this team. At least, this year that is.