Dallas Mavericks 114, Orlando Magic 109
Stat Leaders: Points: 44, Luka Dončić; Assists: 5, Spencer Dinwiddie/Luka Dončić; Rebounds: 10, Christian Wood
Surprising Stat: As of this game, Luka Dončić has been scoring exactly one point per minute played. Wild.
Dallas Mavericks 103, Utah Jazz 101
Stat Leaders: Points: 33, Luka Dončić; Assists: 11, Luka Dončić; Rebounds: 10, Christian Wood
Surprising Stat: Dwight Powell led the team with a +25 in just 19 minutes of action. More on that later.
Dallas Mavericks 111, Toronto Raptors 110
Stat Leaders: Points: 35, Luka Dončić; Assists: 7, Spencer Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 8, Luka Dončić
Surprising Stat: Dončić became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-1963 to score 30+ points in each of his team’s first eight games.
MVP of the Week: Dwight Powell
As noted on this blog over the summer, Dwight Powell is extremely underappreciated (read this article for my full thoughts). This week was seemingly his week. He played spectacularly against Utah and subsequently regained his starting job against Toronto. His play also garnered him some much-deserved applause from Spencer Dinwiddie.
“Dwight…is the first, second or third man in the gym every single day. [He] lifts after every game, eats right, takes care of his body, doesn’t drink [alcohol], does all of the things that you should do as an ultimate pro,” Dinwiddie said. “It is the hardest role to have in this league to know that you can play, to have started and had success, and to be relegated to the bench not playing at all…DP is the ultimate pro. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Powell’s flaws are well-noted among the fanbase: he is a poor rebounder, a poor defender, and cannot stretch the floor. Despite this, he is an elite rim roller, plays with extreme intensity, and has impeccable chemistry with Dončić.
With Dwight Powell on the floor over the last few games, the Mavericks shoot almost 8% better from the field, have an offensive rating of 135.5 (!) and a defensive rating of 79.3 (!).
As I said in June, “Most people know he isn’t a starting center on a championship-caliber team. Powell probably knows this himself. But, in the exemplification of his culture-building machismo, he seized the opportunity and did what he does best: work.”
The team is just better when he is playing.
Stock Up: Josh Green
Green, finding himself in last week’s “Weekly Surprise” category, determined this wasn’t enough praise. Green had a solid week and capped it off with a fantastic game against Toronto.
Green gave us a glimpse into what Mavericks fans are hoping he can become. He played pesky defense and punished defenders for crashing into the lane by making his open threes. Green clearly made significant strides over the offseason, more than his stats reflect.
Nothing summed up his performance this week quite like this sequence. Green is guarding Gary Trent Jr. in the corner, and after the pass is deflected, he simply outhustles him down the court and throws down a monster jam.
Another fun nugget: Josh Green is leading the NBA in three-point percentage, shooting 61.5% from deep.
Weekly Surprise: Dončić’s Free Throw Wows, Mavericks Free Throw Woes
Luka Dončić has cooled off from his blistering start from the free throw line but is still shooting a much improved 78.5%. What is more impressive, however, is how frequently Dončić is getting to the charity stripe.
This season, defenses have been daring Dončić to beat them himself. After watching the Mavericks’ litany of shooters march their way through the playoffs last year, defenses are staying home on shooters and are not sending frequent help defense or double-teams when Dončić gets in the post. This, combined with Dončić finally getting the “superstar fouls” he has long deserved, has him taking 11.6 free throws per game, the second-most in the league.
As a team, however, the Mavericks have been abysmal from the line. Despite shooting the most free throws in the league at nearly 29 per game, the team are only shooting 74.5% from the line, good for 7th-worst.
This trend simply can’t continue. Being one of the best teams in the league necessitates getting easy points when possible, and the team’s poor free throw shooting certainly left its mark in the losses against the Phoenix Suns (61.8% free throw shooting) and the New Orleans Pelicans (70.8% free throw shooting).
Stock Down: JaVale McGee
Losing the starting job just three weeks into the season certainly earns JaVale McGee this spot. While McGee was the starter in name only, averaging 11.4 minutes in those starts, he has significantly underwhelmed. McGee, frankly, has not been good at anything. This is concerning as the team just inked him to a three-year, $18 million contract this offseason.
Early concerns about McGee’s deteriorating athleticism seem to be well-placed, as his rim protection has been abysmal and he has yet to develop chemistry with any of the ballhandlers on offense. Opponents are shooting an outrageous 71.4% within six feet of the basket and 61.5% within ten feet of the basket this season. Comparatively, opponents only shot 51.8% within six feet and 49.3% within ten feet last season. Dwight Powell, McGee’s replacement and a player with clear defensive limitations, is allowing just 55.6% shooting within six feet and 47.8% shooting within ten feet.
McGee must find more success as a backup. While it is just one game, McGee scored five points in four minutes off the bench and had his highest plus-minus of the season against Toronto.
McGee was brought in to solve a problem, and has so far only been one. Hopefully, his new role off the bench allows him to recapture the success he had in Phoenix.
Nov. 7 vs Brooklyn Nets
Nov. 9 @ Orlando Magic
Nov. 10 @ Washington Wizards
Nov. 12 vs Portland Trail Blazers