A Way Too Early Season Review

Image Credit: @dallasmavs twitter

Your Dallas Mavericks are officially an 1/8th of the way through the season with a record of 5-4 and riding a 3-game winning streak. This article will take a look at where the Mavs stand after the first chunk of the season has come to a close. We will look at player’s stats, how the Mavs stack up against their division and the rest of the West, and look forward to the upcoming slate of games.

As I am writing this the Mavericks short term future has come into question. Not only have 3 key rotation players (and 2 starters) been placed in NBA health and safety protocols due to COVID-19 but now Maxi Kleber will be forced into a 10-14 mandatory day isolation for the same reason according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. According to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News the Mavericks have closed their practice facility to prevent the further spread of the virus. Even further developments resulted in the postponement of their Monday contest at home against the Pelicans and the addition of more Mavericks to the health and safety protocol list. While the Mavs appear to be on track to play their Wednesday game in Charlotte against the Hornets, this situation seems to be hour by hour on what the next steps will be. First of all, this puts Mavs player’s health at risk and I hope for a quick and painless recovery from this terrible virus. Second, postponing games and being day to day on whether or not you will play is no way to go about an NBA season. With the recent surge in Covid cases across the League, we will see if the NBA takes more drastic steps in pausing all play for a period of time.

Regardless, we have still reached a milestone in the 2020-2021 NBA season and it is an opportunity to evaluate the Mavs and our Playoff competition after the early part of their 72 game season.

2020-2021 Dallas Mavericks Player Stats

PlayerGGSMPFGAFG%3P3PA3P%FTFTAFT%TRBASTSTLBLKPTS/G
Dončić883420.345%1.67.123%6.88.678%9.38.31.10.626.6
Richardson8832.511.941%26.332%22.194%2.91.60.90.313.8
Hardaway9730.313.846%3.98.944%1.9363%42.20.70.218.4
Finney-Smith8829.48.142%1.85.433%0.80.986%511.40.69.3
Kleber9324.34.644%1.83.847%1.71.894%5.31.30.30.97.4
Powell9619.83.347%0.10.620%1.82.473%3.61.21.20.65
Brunson8119.18.149%0.92.832%2.32.590%2.53.50.5011.1
Burke8018.37.547%1.93.948%11.189%1.31.80.50.39.9
Johnson9016.14.440%0.61.831%0.91.657%3.221.40.35
Cauley-Stein93163.360%00.10%1.62.367%4.70.90.30.45.6
Iwundu5010.62.450%0.20.825%0.20.450%1.60.20.602.8
Marjanović607.73.764%00.30%0.30.750%2.80005
Green716.90.740%00.10%0.30.3100%1.10.3000.9
Terry403.51.320%00.80%00.30%0.30.50.300.5
Hinton10010%010%0000000

Despite his early shooting woes, Luka Doncic is still placing himself among the NBA’s elite and in the running for league MVP. With just under 27 points points per game, 9.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, as well as 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, Luka is once again filling up the box score in meaningful ways.

The teams 3 main wing players, Josh Richardson, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Dorian Finney-Smith, are playing a ton of minutes and doing a great job of supporting Luka on both ends of the floor. Fan favorite Maxi Kleber has been an absolute flamethrower this season, shooting 47% from three on his 3.8 attempts per game.

Having a really deep team, which the Mavericks do, it is expected that known lineup tinkerer, Head Coach Rick Carlisle, will be moving players in and out of roles throughout the first part of the season to see what he likes best. Especially without a full training camp and preseason I anticipate we see Rick working on the fly to truly evaluate his team. The recent starting lineup shuffle is evidence of that in which Carlisle replaced Dwight Powell and Tim Hardaway, Jr. with Maxi Kleber and Willie-Cauley Stein.

There will be another big move when Kristaps Porzingis is re-inserted into the Mavs starting lineup and I cannot wait to see how Rick Carlisle responds. Will we go with extreme length with a KP and Cauley-Stein frontcourt, will we ride the hot shooting of Maxi Kleber, or will Rick revert back to old faithful Dwight Powell for the starter role? All seem like real possibilities at this point. The focus on defense makes me think Dwight Powell will be the odd man out and be reduced to limited minutes as he continues to recover from his torn achilles tendon in January of 2020. Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell being unavailable for the next game against Charlotte pushes this problem down the road, they are going to need all hands on deck to fill all the missing minutes.

2020-2021 Southwest Division Standings

Standings as of Sunday 1/10/2021

Southwest DivisionWLW/L%GBPS/GPA/G
Dallas Mavericks (4) 540.556110105.7
San Antonio Spurs (4) 540.556113.7115
New Orleans Pelicans (10) 450.4441107.1106.6
Houston Rockets (12) 340.4291114.3111.7
Memphis Grizzlies (14) 360.3332105.9109.9

We commonly focus on the Mavs standing in the Western Conference, but making the Playoffs all starts right here in the Southwest Division. Dallas has not won the division since the 2009-2010 season when they went 55-27 but lost in the first round to the Spurs anyways. With such a young and talented core of players it is time to reclaim the Southwest division and hold it down for the next 5+ years.

There is a ton of great young talent in the division with Luka Doncic (21 years old), Kristaps Porzingis (25), Ja Morant (21), Zion Williamson (20), Brandon Ingram (23), and Jaren Jackson, Jr (21) looking like they can be All-Stars for the next decade. I am so excited to watch this division and see these guys come to Dallas twice a year (once fans are allowed back in the AAC). This is the premier division in the NBA when it comes to young talent and the Mavs are right at the heart of it when it comes to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

I think the Mavericks true competition for the division this year will be the New Orleans Pelicans, followed by the Rockets and Spurs. While it is nice to be at least sharing the top of the tables through the first 9 games, hopefully Dallas can be the sole leaders by the next time we check in.

2020-2021 Western Conference Standings

Standings as of Sunday 1/10/2021

Western ConferenceWLW/L%GBPS/GPA/G
Los Angeles Lakers (1) 730.7113.9106.6
Phoenix Suns (1) 730.7110.8104.6
Los Angeles Clippers (3) 640.61110109.2
Golden State Warriors (4) 540.5561.5114.6117.9
Utah Jazz (4) 540.5561.5111111.1
San Antonio Spurs (4) 540.5561.5113.7115
Portland Trail Blazers (4) 540.5561.5117.9115.9
Dallas Mavericks (4) 540.5561.5110105.7
Oklahoma City Thunder (9) 440.52101.9108
Denver Nuggets (10) 450.4442.5116.8115.4
New Orleans Pelicans (10) 450.4442.5107.1106.6
Houston Rockets (12) 340.4292.5114.3111.7
Sacramento Kings (13) 460.43112.4121
Memphis Grizzlies (14) 360.3333.5105.9109.9
Minnesota Timberwolves (15) 270.2224.5110.2122.2

The Western Conference, as expected, is a jumbled mess to start the season. You have the MUCH improved Suns, looking like contenders, sitting at the top of the conference with the reigning Champion Lakers. You have the Timberwolves doing what the Timberwolves do, sinking to the bottom of the table through their first 9 games. Then you have just about everybody else still lumped together. It will take some time for the West to separate, if it ever even does, with so many teams expecting to make the Playoffs.

I enjoy seeing the Mavs in Playoff position, even if it is so early in the season, but I expect them to be on the upper quarter of this list throughout the season. I am looking for home court advantage in the first round and I don’t think that is too lofty of a goal given the makeup of this team.

2020-2021 Western Conference Misc Heat Map

Here you will see a heat map of the Western Conference sorted by standings. This chart is looking at Strength of Schedule, Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating, Net Rating, Pace, Free-Throw Rate, Three Point Attempt Rate, and True Shooting Percentage for each team. If a particular team’s stat is green that means they excel in that area, red means they struggle. GREEN = GOOD, RED = BAD.

The beautiful part of this heat map is seeing the Dallas Mavericks as the top team in the West when it comes to Defensive Rating. Also encouraging is the fact that they are third in the conference in Net Rating behind the Lakers and the Suns, certainly helped by the 51 point drubbing we put on the Clippers. The Mavs organization and coaching staff has put an emphasis on defense and toughness and it is already paying off. Being better at defense is one thing, leading the conference in Defensive Rating is another. If Dallas can keep this up I think they will be in a great position to advance in the Playoffs. Keep in mind this is without the shot blocking extraordinaire, Kristaps Porzingis, in the mix. I think KP has Defensive Player of the Year potential and we are adding him to an already tough and active defense.

2020-2021 Western Conference Misc Heat Map Continued

The first section of this chart looks at team offensive factors such as Effective Field Goal Percentage, Turnover Percentage, Offensive Rebound Percentage, and Free Throws per Field Goal Attempt.

It is a little surprising to see the Mavs struggling to secure offensive rebounds given that last season they were 5th in the West in Offensive Rebound Percentage. Other than that they have been pretty average shooting the ball and not turning the ball over but have been thriving at getting to the free throw line.

The real positives of the Mavs season so far can be seen in the second section of this chart that shows the defensive factors. They are leading or tied for the lead in the West for both Opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage and Opponent Turnover Percentage. Simply put, this means they are defending shots and forcing turnovers. There have certainly been nightly lapses in defensive effort and energy but how could you not be encouraged by these defensive numbers through the first 1/8th of the season.

Next 9 Games

DATELocationOPPONENTTIME (CT)TV
Mon, Jan 11HomeNew Orleans Pelicans7:30 PMNBATV
Wed, Jan 13AwayCharlott Hornets6:00 PM
Fri, Jan 15AwayMilwaukee Bucks6:30 PMESPN
Sun, Jan 17HomeChicago Bulls2:00 PM
Mon, Jan 18AwayToronto Raptors6:30 PM
Wed, Jan 20AwayIndiana Pacers6:00 PM
Fri, Jan 22AwaySan Antonio Spurs7:30 PM
Sat, Jan 23HomeHouston Rockets7:30 PM
Mon, Jan 25HomeDenver Nuggets7:30 PM

The next 1/8th of the season is where we start getting into some more divisional play, an opportunity to extend a lead from our peers. The Pelicans game has already been postponed with no word on when that game will be made up. Mavs are scheduled to play the Pels again at home on February 12th without a game on the day before or after it. Maybe they will try to squeeze the game in at that time. There will also be a divisional matchup with the Spurs and our second game of the season against the Rockets.

5 of the next 9 games are against the Eastern Conference with the highlights being the games against the Bucks and the Pacers. The Mavs also have a few opportunities for revenge against the upstart Hornets as well as Zach Lavine and the Bulls who have already beat the Mavs so far this season. Toronto has been struggling early in the year but I am not buying that they dropped off a cliff all of the sudden, they will still be a tough out.

The next chunk of the season ends with a matchup that has become must see tv, the Mavs versus the Nuggets. These two teams have had some epic games over the last few years and the most recent Mavs overtime win was no exception. I cannot wait to see these two go at it again on January 25th.

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