Mavericks season preview: Can Luka Doncic do it again?

Mavericks season preview: Can Luka Doncic do it again?

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Mavericks season preview: Can Luka Doncic do it again?

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After a decade of poor drafting and failed free agency plans, the Mavs finally won their first playoff series since 2011, including a demoralizing upset against the one-seeded Suns. Luka Doncic will look to carry the momentum from their trip to the Conference Finals into this season in hopes of bringing title number two to Dallas.

Below, check out our season preview for the 2022-23 Mavericks.

Roster changes

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Returning: Luka Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, Davis Bertans, Dwight Powell, Josh Green, Frank Ntilikina, Theo Pinson

Additions: Christian Wood (Houston), JaVale McGee (Phoenix), Jaden Hardy (G-League Ignite), Tyler Dorsey (Olympiacos), Tyler Hall (Westchester Knicks), McKinley Wright IV (Iowa Wolves). Mouhamadou Gueye (Pittsburgh), Marcus Bingham (Michigan State), DJ Stewart (Stockton Kings)

Subtractions: Jalen Brunson (New York), Boban Marjanovic (Houston), Trey Burke (Houston), Sterling Brown (Houston), Marquese Chriss (Houston), Moses Wright

Strengths

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* Strong defensive foundation… Jason Kidd’s biggest accomplishment in his first season was unlocking a top defense within the roster. The biggest addition of last year’s offseason was Bullock who provided great 3-and-D versatility. But perhaps the biggest difference was Finney-Smith’s ascent to being one of the better wing defenders in the league who is often trusted to guard opposing teams’ best players. With no significant change to their defensive personnel, there’s no reason they can’t remain a top defense again.

* Shooting up and down the roster… The Mavericks thrived playing five-out in the playoffs and they’re more loaded with shooters this year. The return of Hardaway Jr. and the addition of Wood give them a deeper shooting roster. With the exceptions of McGee and Powell, just about every player in their regular rotation is a threat from long range. They were eighth last season in three-point attempts and it’s possible that rate will increase this season, especially if they trade part of their surplus of big men for a guard or wing who can shoot.

* Lots of length and athleticism… The Mavericks main additions this offseason was loading up on big men in Wood and McGee. While the combination of the two seems awkward and redundant with their many other big men, they should help accentuate their strengths from last season. McGee can run the floor well in quick bursts in a role Powell similarly had last year. Wood adds another element of shooting and stretching the floor similar to Kleber. They may not be the most exciting additions but they are good role players the Mavericks correctly identified to fit their system.

* Luka’s star power… Dallas blew past their expectations last season despite a lack of premium name players on the roster. While the roster is respectable and Kidd has them playing at a high level, Doncic is their trump card in tough matchups. HoopsHype’s staff projects Doncic to be the best point guard in the league next year and ranked him with the 2nd highest trade value in the league behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. The four-year guard already has a good amount of playoff experience and he will enter the upcoming season in the best shape of his career. The West has gotten a lot stronger overall, but Luka keeps Dallas’ ceiling as high as any other team’s.

Weaknesses

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* No clear No. 2 threat on the roster… The loss of Jalen Brunson will surely be felt. While he may not become an All-Star, he was definitely playing like one throughout the playoffs. He’s one of the best scorers in and around the paint among guards with the ability to post up at will. The Mavericks need that second star who can create for himself and others if they’re going to have an edge on the best teams. Now it isn’t as clear who their second-best offensive player is and they will likely continue to look for that player on the trade market.

* Not enough playmaking behind Luka… Another issue with the loss of Brunson is that they have one less ballhandler. Their starting and closing lineups will likely include Doncic and Dinwiddie but it seems that at least one of them will have to be on the court at all times. They might need to sign or trade for an additional guard unless one of their bench players like Dorsey or Ntilikina steps up.

* Need an additional two-way wing defender… Finney-Smith and Bullock were essential to Dallas’ defensive success and they likely wouldn’t have held the seventh-best rating last season without them. The Mavericks might be too dependent on them to the point that they played them heavy minutes in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how the Mavericks manage their load throughout the season and if they’re able to acquire an additional wing player who can provide more depth.

Depth chart

Possible moves

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Dallas is set to enter the luxury tax for the first time since the 2011-12 season and are currently projected with a $27.8 million payment. They currently have one open roster spot as well as an open two-way spot. It’s possible they keep their roster at 14 for now since signing a 15th player would cost an additional $7.6 million to their payroll and tax penalties combined.

They need to address their backup guard situation and it seems that they specifically want bigger guards for defensive purposes, which could give Ntilikina more playing time early on. With Wood and McGee in the picture now, Bertans and Powell become expendable. Powell in particular is a logical trade candidate for his expiring $11 million salary. The Mavericks could look to trade him for a third guard.

Dallas can trade two first-round picks at the moment in 2027 and 2029, but could trade a third if they use first-available draft language on their 2025 first-rounder. It’s possible the Mavericks aren’t looking to trade any first-rounders for short-term help and are saving them for a potential all-in trade for the next available All-Star. They’ve never been successful with cap space and it’s unlikely they have some anytime soon, so trade may be their best path to getting their second star.

Salaries

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