The 2021-2022 Dallas Mavericks were among the most enjoyable teams in franchise history despite coming up just short of the NBA Finals. Their appearance in the Western Conference Finals was just the fifth in franchise history and the furthest the team had progressed since the 2010-2011 title run. Here are five musts for Dallas as they go into next season with significantly higher expectations.
5. Make significant changes to the bench
The biggest thing for Dallas to do managerially this offseason is to avoid complacency. That starts with the bench. Much has been made about chasing another All-Star and whatnot, but Dallas needs more reliability from their reserves. Dallas was just 25th in the league with 32.0 points per game. Dallas desperately needs more from the guys taking over the offensive reigns when Jalen Brunson and Luka Doncic are on the bench.
Perhaps a full season with Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. together will help Dallas creep back up to the middle of the pack, but more personnel is needed on the bench. Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina, Boban Marjanovic, Josh Green, Davis Bertans, and Marquese Chriss simply can’t make up half of this roster with a missing THJ, and there be any expectations for Dallas to replicate what they did a season ago.
4. Despite his greatness, Luka has plenty to work on
Anyone paying attention would know that Luka Doncic is a top-five player in the league, and already is one of the most unstoppable playoff performers in NBA history. But it does need to be said: Doncic simply has to come into the season in better shape and help the Mavericks get off to a better start to next season.
Dallas needs to secure home-court advantage in more than just one series next year, and putting together some more wins in the first quarter of the season will be crucial to getting that task done. Doncic’s actual shooting has made steady strides over his four years. It went somewhat forgotten that he shot 35 percent from behind the arc this past year. But if he’s ever going to last through 16 wins in the playoffs, he’s got to be physically ready to go from day one.
3. Keep “hype men”
The Mavericks’ bench this past season was so spirited and into the game, they were fined multiple times by the league during the playoffs. Who cares. Whether or not he wants to break the bank in luxury tax is one thing, but Mark Cuban isn’t going to care much about writing some checks to the league to keep his bench engaged.
Theo Pinson, Boban Marjanovic, and Hardaway Jr. were out of this world when it came to impacting the game from the seats. Sterling Brown had a hand in this as well. If Dallas is going to replicate some of the success they had last year, keeping this kind of energy and enthusiasm from those not stepping on the court will be crucial. While they need to make some aforementioned bench upgrades, Dallas needs to keep this type of vibe going into next year.
2. Re-sign Jalen Brunson
There are very legitimate and fair questions about the long-term ramifications of paying Jalen Brunson huge money. Among them, the supporting cast around Luka Doncic isn’t quite good enough right now, so how can they expect to improve with Brunson getting the bag? The answer is unknown at the moment. But one thing Dallas absolutely cannot do is sell the farm in the hopes of bringing in another All-Star to simply get one.
Brunson has proven to be able to play with, and without Doncic. There’s absolutely no guarantee Zach LaVine, Bradley Beal, or any other semi-gettable players are able to do that. Brunson has gotten better every year he’s been in Dallas, and this postseason, outplayed Donovan Mitchell and Chris Paul. Dallas can’t overthink this. Brunson is an excellent player entering the prime of his career, and with basically no sign-and-trade possibilities out there given the team’s proximity to the apron, the logical move is to give him a blank check.
1. Get a big man or four
This is the most obvious one. Jason Kidd and Igor Kokoskov did wonders for this offense by simply going smaller than small and spreading the floor to its absolute limits. But that obviously has its limitations. Dallas got absolutely triturated on the boards this postseason, even when Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber were on the floor.
They have absolutely no choice but to do whatever they can to get better up front. Powell doesn’t provide anything of significance and while Kleber can defend in space and hit threes, he’s not going to be accused of being a punishing rebounder. A pursuit of Rudy Gobert might be too expensive for Dallas, but an immediate, substantial upgrade in the front court is essential for this group.