Dallas Mavericks 2022-23 NBA preview: How reliable will Luka Doncic’s right-hand man be?

The Dallas Mavericks enter this season coming off a surprise run to the Western Conference finals, and an offseason that consisted of losing their second-leading scorer in Jalen Brunson. It was a confusing offseason for the Mavericks, who also traded for Christian Wood, hoping he can be everything Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t. But aside from acquiring Wood and picking up JaVale McGee, Dallas didn’t do much else to upgrade the roster. It’s why the Mavericks are one of the most difficult teams to project for the upcoming season, because while they’re returning majority of the roster that went to the conference finals last year, the West got significantly stronger, and Dallas didn’t really match strides with other clubs in conference.

But, as puzzling as the Mavs may be, they still employ one of the top-five players in the league in Luka Doncic, and so, really anything is possible with that 23-year-old star on the team. When Doncic is performing at peak levels he can carry this team far. And if that happens don’t be surprised if at the end of the season Dallas is fighting for home-court advantage while Doncic in on the short list in MVP conversation. 

Ahead of the 2022-23 season, here’s a quick breakdown of Dallas’ offseason, and a preview of some key storylines to watch for when the season tips off in a few weeks.  

Key changes


Top of the key: Filling Brunson’s shoes

We can get into the minutiae of how the Mavericks mishandled the Brunson situation, primarily losing him for nothing, but at this point, the situation is what it is and the Mavs can’t do anything but figure out how to fill the void. Brunson was the reason Dallas managed to stay afloat with Doncic out the first three games of the its first-round series against the Utah Jazz. He then maintained his high level of play all the way to a $100 million contract this summer with the Knicks. Losing him is a tough pill to swallow, but the midseason trade that brought over Spencer Dinwiddie was done in part as insurance in case Brunson left. So at the very least you have to give Dallas credit for thinking ahead. 

Dinwiddie proved in the regular season that he’s more than capable of filling Brunson’s role in the starting lineup. He’s a crafty ballhandler who can get to the rim and put his teammates in a position to succeed with his passes. But what stood out the most in Dinwiddie’s 23-game stint with Dallas last season was his far improved shooting numbers. The veteran guard shot 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range after he was traded to the Mavericks, by far career highs for the former second-round pick. His efficiency from inside the arc cooled off considerably in the playoffs (41.7 percent), but he remained a reliable 3-point threat for Dallas during their postseason run (41.7 percent). That 3-point shooting is going to be an important part of Dallas’ gameplan, and the Mavericks will have to hope that last season’s numbers weren’t a fluke given he’s a career 32 percent shooter from deep. 

But Dinwiddie’s shooting won’t be the biggest concern Dallas will have to deal with this season without Brunson. While he may regress as a shooter, he’s able to put points on the board in more ways than just with the 3-ball. What’s a far bigger issue is Dallas’ lack of quality depth behind Doncic and Dinwiddie in the backcourt. The Mavericks didn’t add another guard to bolster its bench now that Dinwiddie’s been elevated to the starting lineup, and will now rely on Frank Ntilikina, Josh Green and rookie Jaden Hardy to fill that need. 

Ntilikina proved beneficial as a situational role player in the playoffs last season, primarily for his defense, but with five NBA seasons under his belt, he’s yet to prove he’s a capable player on offense. Green has gotten tons of preseason praise from everyone within the Mavericks organization, and trained with Kyle Lowry this summer who told him to stop playing “hot potato” every time he has the ball. But aside from flashes of potential as a quality role player, Green has yet to put it together on a consistent basis to prove he’s worthy of big minutes. Then there’s the rookie Hardy, who was considered a steal in the draft, and had an impressive Summer League debut. But asking a first-year player to put up heavy minutes like that right out of the gate is a tall order.

The Mavericks will surely use the early part of the season to see what combinations of player work, and which backup guards stand out from the rest, but unless Green, Hardy or Ntilikina significantly improves, Dallas’ lack of depth behind Doncic and Dinwiddie will be a weak point this season.

Next up: Getting the best out of Wood

There’s a lot to like about Wood’s fit with the Mavericks. He’ll be a seamless pick-and-roll partner with Doncic and Dinwiddie, capable of popping out for a jumper, or using his athleticism to roll to the rim for a dunk. His game stretches out to the 3-point line, where he made 39 percent of his attempts last season on a lottery-bound Rockets teams. When I wrote about his fit with the Mavericks after the initial trade back in July, I said that it was like taking the rim-running abilities and athleticism of Dwight Powell and the floor-spacing and 3-point shooting of Maxi Kleber and putting them in one player. And you can bet that he’ll get the best looks in his career off of passes from Doncic. But with Wood, Dallas is also getting a player who can score off the bounce, something that may be a necessity on a Mavericks team that will be in need with the departure of Brunson.

But for all the positives that Wood brings on the offensive end, he’s a major negative on defense. He’s also earned a reputation around the league of taking plays off and not putting in maximum effort. Context certainly matters in this situation, as Wood hasn’t played on a winning team in his entire career, and the Mavericks are hoping that in a winning environment he will remain engaged, even when things aren’t going his way. 

That hope will be put to the test early for Dallas, as head coach Jason Kidd has already said on multiple occasions that Wood will be starting the season coming off the bench while JaVale McGee will start. It’s a confounding plan for a team that just had incredible success in the playoffs spacing the floor with shooters to surround Doncic with, and McGee certainly doesn’t fit in that mold as a limited offensive player who isn’t useful outside of the paint. But perhaps McGee starting won’t matter. Maybe Wood will play more minutes than McGee and be in the closing lineup, making his status as a starter a non-issue. Or maybe it’s not an issue at all and Wood is okay with the idea of being the Sixth Man for Dallas. Whatever it looks like, the Mavericks have to hope that Wood is okay with his role and won’t be a detriment to the team on the floor or in the locker room.

One more thing: Luka MVP season incoming?

For the second-straight year Doncic is entering the season as the MVP favorite, per Caesar’s Sportsbook. But unlike the first time this happened, Doncic is actually in the proper physical condition to win it. That is if all the offseason talk about him being in the best shape of his career translates into a better start to the season for the young superstar. Doncic’s conditioning has been a major sticking point since he’s entered the league, and he reportedly entered the last two seasons 30 pounds heavier than the weight he’s listed at on Dallas’ game notes. That extra weight resulted to sluggish starts for the three-time All-Star in each of the last two seasons as he played himself into shape for the first couple months.

However, when Doncic showed up to play for his home country Slovenia in EuroBasket this summer, he looked noticeably slimmer and like he added more muscle. He also appeared to be a step quicker when he was on the floor. He then proceeded to terrorize opposing teams during the tournament, where his 47-point performance against France was the second-highest scoring affair in EuroBasket history. While there may be concerns about burnout given his busy summer, Doncic will enter the season in game shape unlike the previous two years. He’ll also be re-joining a Mavs team that just lost their second-highest scorer, which will likely require more from Doncic on offense. If he picks up right where he left of in EuroBasket to start the season, and maintains that level of play while also carrying the Mavericks to a high seed in the West, then he may just win that MVP trophy after all. 

Key games

Oct. 19 at Phoenix Suns: I think we all remember the beat down that the Mavericks put on the heavily favored Suns in last year’s playoffs, so of course this game will be a highly anticipated one. Dallas will have to deal with a Phoenix team that has probably thought about nothing but this rematch all summer long.

Nov. 29 vs. Golden State Warriors: A rematch of the Western Conference finals. Surely Doncic and company will have some extra motivation when this game rolls around, and it’ll be a good measuring stick against a squad that projects to figure near the top of the conference.

Dec. 25 vs. Los Angeles Lakers: The Mavericks take on the Lakers for the second time in three years on Christmas, except this time Dallas gets to host. Perks of being one of the final four teams in the playoffs a season ago, I suppose. Any meeting between Doncic and LeBron James is must-watch TV, and perhaps this year’s version will be a closer affair than the 138-115 Lakers’ win two years ago.

Dec. 27 vs. New York Knicks: Just two days after Christmas the Mavericks get to welcome Brunson back to Dallas when he and the Knicks head to Texas. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of welcome Brunson will get from the fans after the highly publicized handling of his departure for New York. It shouldn’t be anything less than applause given how integral he was to Dallas’ playoff success a season ago, but players have been booed for less, so we’ll see. 

Checkout latest world news below links :
World News || Latest News || U.S. News

Source link

Back to top button