The Dallas Mavericks are in Chicago to take on Zach Lavine and the Bulls for a 7:00pm CT tipoff at the United Center. The Mavs are coming off a 15-point home win on Saturday night in which the Mavs bench outscored the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 53-22. They look to keep that momentum rolling as they face a Chicago Bulls team that they beat 115-109 earlier in the season, despite a 34-point outburst by Bulls shooting guard, Zach Lavine.
|Dallas Mavericks||Chicago Bulls|
|Position||13th in West||11th in East|
|Projected Starters||2018-2019 Season|
|PG||Dennis Smith, Jr||15.5||2.6||3.9||1.0||0.4|
|C||Wendell Carter Jr.||11.8||7.7||2.4||0.7||2.1|
The Mavericks finally put together a good defensive performance on Saturday against Oklahoma City in which we held the Thunder to 96 points. The Thunder are not a great shooting team but they still average 109 points per game. Although it was our best defensive effort, the real standout in the game was the offensive performance of JJ Barea who, in his 22 minutes played, finished +17 in the box score with 21 points and 5 assists. JJ looked energized having his running mate Devin Harris back on the floor for the first time this season.
I believe the depth and lineup versatility that Rick Carlisle has at his disposal in a major strength of this team. With veterans like JJ, Devin, and Powell, along with the emergence of Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber as important role players, the Mavs can make a difference in the game with their reserves. In fact, the only three players on the Mavericks with a positive +/-, meaning while on the floor the Mavs team outscored the opposing team, are bench players:
|Totals||+/- Per 100 Poss.|
This shows that JJ, Dwight, and Jalen Brunson are the only individuals who have positive +/-, the Mavs are winning when these players are on the floor. Now, this is a bit misleading in that the bench players are able to go up against the other team’s bench players and avoid most starting units. If you don’t think the Mavericks are better with Luka on the floor than I cannot help you, but this does show the impact that the bench is able to have with JJ running the show.
|Rk||Lineup||MP||Net PTS (Per 100 Poss)|
When you look at the top 3-man combinations for the Mavericks so far this season, you see the top 3 combinations are entirely comprised of bench players. The players that show up the most in these 3-man combinations are Dorian Finney-Smith (6), Luka Doncic (5), and Dennis Smith Jr (4). This highlights Dorian-Finney’s greatest skill, his versatility. Rick can deploy him with any lineup and he does what needs to be done to elevate his team.
We know the bench will do their thing tonight against a young Bull’s team but lets see if the starters can contain the high-flying Zach Lavine and let the Mavs bench play with a lead rather than battle back from behind.
The 34 points that Zach Lavine dropped on the Mavericks in the third game of the season was no fluke. Zach Lavine, 5th year guard and 2-time dunk contest champ, was traded to Chicago in 2017 as part of the deal that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota to start that train wreck, then signed with Chicago this past summer as a free agent. Lavine has quickly rewarded Chicago for the 4 year/$78MM contract by jumping out to 5th in the league in scoring so far this season at 27.2 PPG, ahead of big names like Kevin Durant, Lebron James, and Anthony Davis.
As for the Bulls team, they have really struggled to win games this season, much like the Mavericks. Their 4 wins this season have come against the Hornets, Hawks, Knicks, and Cavs; 3 of which are bottom feeders in the weaker Eastern Conference. Early season injuries have really hurt their hope of a playoff season, despite Lavine’s ascension. An elbow injury has kept the 2017 seventh overall pick, sharpshooting PF Lauri Markkanen, out for every game this season. Likewise, 2016 fifth overall pick, PG Kris Dunn, has only been able to appear in 1 game this season due to a knee injury. Neither will be on the court tonight but they should both return at some point this season.
Right now, the Bulls have rookie Wendell Carter Jr and 23 year old Jabari Parker as Lavine’s top running mates. Wendell Carter Jr is an early top 5 candidate for rookie of the year has already been able to make impacts on both offense and defense averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Jabari Parker, who appeared on my ranking of top potential Power Forward free agents in 2019, is averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds and has a lot to prove this year.
Tune in at 7:00pm CT tonight on Fox Sports Southwest to see if the Mavs can fend of the young guns and get one step closer to the playoff standings.