Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Should Be Your Dark Horse in the Western Conference Playoffs

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks have been chilling out in the upper portion of the Western Conference for the better part of the 2021-22 NBA season. Despite that reality, they’ve been somewhat overlooked when it comes to championship contenders.

Dallas is 50-30, as of April 8, which is good for the fourth seed in the West and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their success comes even with Tim Hardaway Jr. fracturing his foot in January and the front office making a drastic shakeup at the NBA trade deadline. Dallas moved Kristaps Porzingis and a 2022 second-round draft pick to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.

The impact of this trade, as well as head coach Jason Kidd putting his imprints on the roster, has made the Mavericks a multidimensional team that’s going to be a hassle in the playoffs. They deserve to be your dark horse to win the West. 

Dallas Mavericks have varying offensive skill sets

The Mavericks have a bevy of scoring threats and differing offensive skill sets, which is ideal for a postseason run. Doncic, of course, is one of the elite and more physical scorers in the NBA. He gets points all over the floor and is the driving force of their offense. It’s those around Doncic that make this team so dangerous, though. 

Dinwiddie has returned to being an impactful player on the offensive end. He’s getting inside off the dribble with ease, hitting abrupt jump shots and performing like the player the Wizards thought they were signing.

Elsewhere, fellow guard Jalen Brunson continues to improve. The University of Villanova product is a steady ball-handler who gets points off the dribble, plays competitive defense, and is an efficient shooter.

Dorian Finney-Smith is a plausible outside shooter and defender who can put the ball on the floor. Reggie Bullock is a reliable “three-and-d” player. While he’s in the midst of a rough season, Bertans is capable of being a high-level shooter; Maxi Kleber has a respectable stoke. On the interior, big man Dwight Powell can bang bodies and pitch in on the glass. 

The aforementioned players make for a well-versed offensive attack. It’s a combination of a star (Doncic), a pair of legitimate scoring options to play off the main man, some proven shooters, and a handful of quality defenders. 

The irony of the threat the Mavericks pose on the offensive end is that it hasn’t even been their identity this season. Incredibly, almost every part of their offense still has room for improvement.

Dallas Mavericks have the upside to win the Western Conference

Under Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks were a shot-happy team that tried to score teams out of the arena. With Kidd, the Mavericks have become a defensive-minded team.

Dallas entered their April 6 matchup with the Detroit Pistons second in the NBA in opponent points per game (104.8), fifth in opponent three-point shooting percentage (34.1%), and 14th in opponent field goal percentage (45.8%). On the offensive end, the numbers are a bit less impressive. Dallas sits 20th in field goal percentage (45.8%), 23rd in three-point shooting percentage (34.5%), and 25th in points per game (107.2).

Yes, their rotation has plenty of scorers and shooters. With that said, many players aren’t performing up to their offensive billing. As previously mentioned, Bertans is having an inefficient season. Bullock is shooting below his career average from behind the arc. Free agent signee Sterling Brown, a previously effective shooter, is converting just 30.3% of his attempts from behind the arc.

Despite those issues, though, the Mavericks have tangible upside. Why? They’re sound on the defensive end and have players whose games are tailor-made for half-court sets, which is essential during postseason play. Dallas has three players who can score an isolation bucket against a set defense and a handful of shooters who can drain shots from the perimeter when Doncic draws a double-team. 

The Mavericks will surely have their hands full this spring with the likes of the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, and Golden State Warriors lurking in the Western Conference bracket. At the same time, though, Dallas finally has a roster where the pieces fit around Doncic and the new dimension of a sturdy defense. 

It’s a different Mavericks team than the previous two seasons. Don’t be surprised if they go on a deep playoff run.

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference. 

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