With Mavericks opening day just around the corner this is our last chance to make our preseason predictions. It is time to speculate on some of the biggest questions surrounding the Mavericks coming into the 2019-2020 NBA Season. We have once again rounded up our MFFL writers and asked each of them to give their perspective and predictions for what Mavs fans can expect as we transition into a new era of Dallas Mavericks basketball.
What will be the Mavs record and seeding this year?
Josh Hubman – 46-36, 7th seed. The Mavericks are going to be very exciting and talented, but there will be growing pains along the way. All in all, a 46 win season and a 7 seed would be a great success for this young team. Luka and Porzingis will be All-Star caliber and with so many quality role players either in or entering their basketball prime, I find it hard to believe that at least one or two of these guys will not step up in a big way.
Micah Stewart – 44-38, 8th seed. A few weeks ago, I might’ve predicted 38-44 and no playoffs for the Mavs this year. But, Kristaps Porzingis looks 100% healthy. He’s already showing signs of great chemistry with Luka Doncic, and he’s made a few wow plays defending the rim during preseason play. The Mavs also project to be a very deep team, which is important for any team looking to make a playoff push. J.J. Barea and Boban Marjanovic may not be constants in the Mavs rotation, but when the team is shorthanded, they are still good enough to give the Mavs a chance.
LT – 48-34, 6th seed. I think the NBA world will be reminded how good Rick Carlisle is as a coach now that the Dallas Mavericks are in win-now mode and past tanking. He was voted in the 2019-20 GM survey as the #1 coach making in-game adjustments. Another storyline that is underplayed is how good Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis really are. I feel they are the most dynamic duo in NBA. On one side you have the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year 20 year old Luka Doncic, who is a 6’7″ Point Guard and loves to pass. On the other side you have All-Star 24 year old Kristaps Porzingis who is a 7’3″ two-way player and can stretch the floor. I believe the front office has done a great job rebuilding this team and has a good mix of role players to surround the two young stars.
Taylor Hannah – 48-34, 6th seed. It’s hard to imagine the Mavs increasing their wins by more than fifteen games (to compare, they were 33-49 last year). That’s a big increase for a team that only added one All-Star caliber player in a conference that inexcusably continues to get stronger. Still so, it’s also hard to imagine the Mavs missing the playoffs completely. 48-34 was the record needed to make the playoffs in the West last year so, again, considering the conference got stronger and not weaker, 48 wins will be the absolute minimum the team may need to even sneak into the playoffs this year.
Josh Mazur – 47-35, 7th seed. If they get to 48 or 49 wins I think they can get to the 5th or 6th seed, just like last years standings. That type of turnaround needs a lot of luck with injuries and a good start to the season.
Who will be the 3rd leading scorer?
Josh Hubman – Dwight Powell will finally get starter level minutes for a full season and make it count by being an uber efficient third wheel to Luka and Porzingis’ greatness. The attention and gravity of those two offensive forces will free up Powell to be the best version of himself, feasting on pick-and-roll buckets and put-backs while playing closer to 30 minutes per game than 20. I think the guard and small forward candidates will share different stretches of being the third option while Dwight Powell will be a constant throughout the entire season. Honorable mention Justin Jackson.
Micah Stewart – Tim Hardaway Jr. probably isn’t the Mavs third best player, but things are lining up perfectly for him to be the third leading scorer. Other contenders are Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Seth Curry, and Delon Wright. Powell was a close second for me, but the center rotation could be a revolving door throughout the season. I think Brunson and Curry are better players than Hardaway Jr., but neither looks to score as often. Brunson is constantly looking to set up easy baskets for teammates, while Curry is content spotting up behind the three-point line. Wright won’t be asked to score much as long as he is starting and playing alongside Doncic and Porzingis.
LT – Tim Hardaway Jr. will thrive in the upcoming 6th man role this season. Mavs need someone off the bench who can be a scorer to balance the team out when Luka and Kristaps are off the floor. Hate it or love, that guy is Tim Hardaway Jr. I expect him to average similar to his 2017-18 stat line, 17.5 PPG, 4 RPG 3 APG on .421 shooting.
Taylor Hannah – Tim Hardaway Jr. is a volume shooter and will find a way to get his shots, we’ve seen it in the past with him and I don’t expect that particular part of his game to change, but what I do expect to change is the quality of his looks. He will be frustrating at times but his ability to create his own shot, as well as his extreme willingness to do so, will be a perfect compliment to Luka and the Unicorn during situations where the offense stagnates and the team needs a spark. The thing to watch for will be how he utilizes open looks as opposing defenses key in on the Mavs top two scorers. If he can take full advantage of those moments he is poised to have a career year.
Josh Mazur – Tim Hardaway Jr. has a big year and ends up as the 3rd scoring option. When he’s not a main focal point of the offense he does big things. He averaged 15 PPG in his games with Dallas last year and I imagine that will increase with more time in the scheme and a better overall team around him.
What is your biggest area of concern for these Mavs?
Josh Hubman – Frontcourt depth. With really only 4 traditional big men that you feel comfortable playing with Porzingis/Powell/Kleber/Marjanovic, and Boban playing limited minutes and most likely needing to rest many games, any injury to KP, Powell, or Kleber could leave us very shorthanded on the boards. I know Rick is on record saying he will play Dorian Finney-Smith at the 4 or 5 but I would really like to avoid this possible. I don’t think Doe-Doe is big enough to rebound with or play effective post defense against quality bigs.
Micah Stewart – The Small forward position is arguably the most important position in today’s NBA. The debate for the game’s best player usually involves LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Kevin Durant. Luka Doncic projects to be a guard for the Mavs, leaving the small forward position up for grabs between Justin Jackson and Dorian Finney–Smith. Jackson is a good offensive player, but his defense has been a weakness throughout his career. He claims to have added 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season, but how much that helps him defensively remains to be seen. Finney-Smith is a solid defender, but he’s a career 30% three point shooter. It’s possible both players improve their weaknesses, but its also possible neither does, and that’s my biggest concern.
LT – Delon Wright won’t be the two-way player the Mavs expect him to be. I liked the signing and get the fit, he produces steals and can guard the upper echelon of NBA point guards. After a slow start in pre-season I hope he gets going in the regular season on the offensive side of the court. His coaches and teammates told him to be aggressive, which makes sense. He joins a new team with Luka Doncic as the primary ball handler. It may take Delon time to adjust to being an off-ball guard when he was just so successful being the primary ball-handler in Memphis last season.
Taylor Hannah – Shooting. Shooting and rebounding where the two biggest holes the Mavs needed to fill this off-season and with the addition of Kristaps and Boban (as well as retaining Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith) the rebounding half should at least be league average now. Shooting, however, still seems a bit concerning. Adding Seth Curry will help, and Kristaps will not only increase the Mavs shooting percentages with his own shot but also by creating more open looks for others, but I still see shooting as a spot in which the Mavs still sorely need some help.
Josh Mazur – My biggest concern is making sure Jalen Brunson gets on the floor. Delon Wright coming in, Seth coming back, and JJ recovering from injury has me worried Brunson will have trouble finding minutes and I think that would be detrimental to future Mavs squads.
Who will be the Mavs 6th Man of the Year?
Josh Hubman – By the end of the season Jalen Brunson will be viewed as one of the premier backup Point Guards in the entire NBA. His scoring, playmaking, shooting, and savvy will be on display as he leads the Mavs second unit. If Delon Wright struggles shooting the ball I see Brunson taking more and more of his minutes. I project averages of 13 PPG, 3 RPG, 4.5 APG in 20-25 minutes per game.
Micah Stewart – Jalen Brunson is an easy choice for me. Seth Curry can shoot. Tim Hardaway Jr. can score. Jalen Brunson can shoot, score, and pass. He will run the offense when Luka Doncic isn’t on the floor. J.J. Barea is still on the team, but the torch has been passed.
LT – Seth Curry and Jalen Brunson will give him a race but the Mavs 6th man will be Tim Hardaway Jr. Dallas has moved him to the bench and he still makes over $18 million this season. Let’s just say he better be the team’s 6th man.
Taylor Hannah – This will either be Tim Hardaway Jr. or Seth Curry, depending on whether or not one of these two make it to the starting lineup before the end of the year. I prefer THJ to come off the bench to provide some offense, while Seth starts with Luka and Kristaps to benefit off of some open looks but we will see how that plays out. If neither one ends up making it to the starting line-up, I lean more toward THJ being the main weapon off the bench simply because he will take more shots and have more big games because of that.
Josh Mazur – Count on Seth Curry to be your most productive 6th man on offense and Maxi to anchor the second unit Defense.
What are your optimal starting and closing lineups?
Josh Hubman – My ideal starting lineup is Doncic/Wright/Jackson/Porzingis/Powell. I like the defensive pairing and secondary playmaking provided by Wright, I like the length and offensive versatility of Justin Jackson, and I like the offensive fit and hustle of Dwight Powell next to Porzingis. For the closing lineup I would change it up a little bit with Doncic/Curry/Wright/Porzingis/Powell. Doncic will have the ball in his hands at the end of the game and I want one of the best shooters in NBA history on the perimeter in Seth Curry.
Micah Stewart – My starters are Wright/Curry/Doncic/Porzingis/Powell. There’s been no talk of Curry starting, but he’s one of the best three point shooters in the League. Justin Jackson and Dorian Finney-Smith don’t offer any single elite skill like Curry’s shooting. They don’t have to start over him just because they’re taller. Doncic can play small forward, and Delon Wright can guard shooting guards. Curry won’t be undersized if he’s guarding point guards. Dwight Powell projects to start over Kleber when healthy, and I like his fit next to Porzingis. In my closing lineup I prefer Brunson/Curry/Doncic/Porzingis/Kleber. I would like to see Kleber close games because he’s a much better defender. I’d like to see Brunson close games over Wright, because I trust him more to take a big shot late in games.
LT – If I had my way, the Mavs starting and closing lineup would be Brunson/Wright/Doncic/Porzingis/Kleber. I think it’s balanced between offense and defense and helps unclog the logjam at the guard spots off the bench.
Taylor Hannah – Starting lineup of Doncic/Wright/Jackson/Porzingis/Powell. For closers, however, I choose Doncic/Curry/Finney-Smith/Porzingis/Powell.
Josh Mazur – Starters, Doncic/Wright/THJ/Porzingis/Powell. Closers, Brunson/Doncic/Finney-Smith/Porzingis/Powell.
1 bold Mavs prediction or final thoughts
Josh Hubman – I think I already dropped my bold prediction with Dwight Powell being the team’s third leading scorer, I doubt many MFFLs think that is realistic. I have been a Dwight Powell hater in years past but last year he really improved at catching, gathering, and finishing around the hoop. When you combine that with his elite ability to read the screen and roll and the quickness to fly to hoop before the defense can recover will be such a deadly weapon at Luka and Carlisle’s disposal.
Micah Stewart – The Mavs don’t have to make the playoffs for this to be a successful season. Their two best players are either 20 years old or coming off a 20 month layoff. I predicted the Mavs to make the playoffs, but good teams miss the Western Conference playoffs every year. If the Mavs young players continue to develop and Kristaps Porzingis stays healthy, there will be no reason to panic. The Mavs best days are ahead of them, regardless of what happens this season.
LT – Justin Jackson gets traded. I think the Mavs will pair him with Courtney Lee’s expiring deal in a trade to get a no-brainer 5th starter and try to make that playoff push. We know Donnie Nelson is great with in-season trades and the Mavs roster is loaded with very tradable contracts.
Taylor Hannah – The Mavs are in the first year of what everyone hopes to be a long string of playoff births and championship runs. With that being said, it’s easy for Mavs fans to expect the world from this team as there really hasn’t been much of a chance to expect anything at all over the past few years. The most important thing for the team this year though, is to show growth in their core players – to prove that they are headed in the right direction as a franchise. I expect Jalen Brunson to lead that growth by increasing his assists/game to over 6 and averaging over 37% from deep.
Josh Mazur – Even though THJ will be the starter Curry will get more time with the big name starters. THJ can spread the floor and shoot the 3 but not at nearly 44% like Curry. Expect Curry to help the starters and THJ to be the main scoring option with the second unit.
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