The Dallas Mavericks entered the 2019-20 NBA season with a lot of questions regarding the future of the franchise. How would Kristaps Porzingis look in the Mavs offense? Would Luka Doncic be able to play even better than his Rookie of the Year campaign?
So far this year, Dallas has been one of the surprises in a balanced Western Conference. Doncic is playing at an MVP caliber level, but there is still one glaring weakness for the Mavs that could keep them out of the playoffs entirely.
Let’s take a look at that weakness and determine whether the team can make noise in the West once the playoffs arrive. But first, let’s see what’s working for Doncic and the Mavericks this season.
Luka Doncic is lighting it up
When the season started, no one expected Luka Doncic to start as hot as he did. All he has done this year is solidified himself as the best player not only in the 2018 NBA Draft class but also easily a top-10 player among his peers.
So far this season he is averaging nearly 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists per game. He also has a true shooting percentage of 59.7%. Although he has dealt with a few minor injuries, if Doncic can keep this pace up, there’s no reason he can’t finish in the top three for MVP voting.
Could the Mavericks be a top-four seed?
As of Jan. 16, 2020, Dallas sits at 26-15, good enough for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
If the season ended today, Dallas would be looking at a matchup against either the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz, both teams that can exploit the Mavericks’ lack of strength in the middle.
Two-and-a-half games separate the Mavericks from the No. 2 seed, but we think early-season losses could hurt them once the seeds are formally announced.
What is Luka Doncic and the Mavericks back?
Looking at the advanced numbers, the biggest thing holding Dallas back is its execution in late-game situations. They lead the league in offensive efficiency until it’s time for a late game/clutch situation.
These numbers are calculated for the last five minutes of any game where the teams are within five points of each other. Once you put that factor into the equation, the Mavs offense drops down to 28th in the league, ahead of only the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans.
Why is there such a steep drop-off? It could be due to a bunch of young players losing focus late in the games. In a recent loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas rallied from a 20-point deficit, took a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, and still lost.
Can Luka Doncic help them turn it around?
Asking if Doncic can help Dallas overcome its late-game woes is a tricky question to answer because the numbers surrounding their lack of execution are astounding. As of Jan. 16, 2020, Dallas is 0-3 in overtime games, 4-7 in games decided by five points or less, and is an uninspiring 10-8 at home.
Losses to Charlotte, the New York Knicks, and the Sacramento Kings shouldn’t happen to a team with potential championship aspirations.
We think once everyone is healthy, they can work on executing better down the stretch, as head coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best in the league at scheming up X’s and O’s.
Are you expecting the Dallas Mavericks to make the playoffs even if they continue to execute poorly down the stretch? We would be shocked if they fell out of playoff contention, but the Western Conference is as strong as it’s ever been.