The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The season will return on July 30 and NBA.com‘s writers are taking an updated look at each of the league’s 30 teams.
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Record: 40-27, No. 7 in the Western Conference
Season summary: Everybody expected Dallas to contend for a spot in the postseason while building for the future. But these Mavericks have exceeded expectations. At the season’s hiatus, Dallas sat at No. 7 in the Western Conference standings, just 1 1/2 games behind Houston and Oklahoma City for No. 5 and 2 1/2 games back of the No. 4-seeded Utah Jazz. Along the way, Dallas has dealt with its fair share of adversity, including the ruptured right Achilles suffered by big man Dwight Powell back in January. In the wake of that injury, Kristaps Porzingis moved to center, and in his first full month of playing the position in Powell’s place, he averaged 25.2 points per game on 48% shooting to go with 10.2 rebounds per game. Porzingis also knocked down 40% from deep, leading to lofty praise from coach Rick Carlisle. Dallas had won 6 of its previous 10 outings before 2019-20 went on hiatus, but let’s not overlook how productive this team has been on offense. In late June, center Willie Cauley-Stein opted out of the restart for personal reasons, guard Courtney Lee (calf) was lost indefinitely and Dallas agreed to a deal with Trey Burke. The Mavs rank No. 3 in the NBA in scoring at 116.4 points per game and lead the NBA in Offensive Rating (115.8), putting them on pace to produce the greatest offense in league history while making the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Breakout player: Luka Doncic probably belongs here as he’s in just his second season, but you can’t discount what Porzingis has brought to the table. He has gradually gotten better this season, despite enduring some struggles somewhat recently headed into the NBA’s hiatus. In his last two games — both losses — before the league’s suspension, Porzingis shot a combined 7-of-32 from the field and 1-of-13 from 3-point range, in addition to committing six turnovers. Before that, Porzingis seemed to be thriving after moving over to play more center in Powell’s absence. Throughout the season, Porzingis has cobbled together 17 games in which he scored 20 points or more with 10 or more rebounds, the most such games in any one season in his career. Porzingis has 23 double-doubles this season to tie his single-season mark (set in 2015-16) and said in the past he feels more comfortable playing power forward than center. But he’s starting to find a comfort level with arguably a more diverse role in Dallas’ offense. “This is a picture of what the future of the five position quintessentially is gonna look like,” Carlisle said. “It’s gonna be a guy with great length, that can shoot the long range, can drive it, can pass it, can protect the rim, can rebound, and knows how to play the game.”
Statement win: Dallas stuffed an early Christmas gift under the tree on Dec. 16 when it pumped the brakes on the NBA’s longest winning streak by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks 120-116 on the road without Doncic in the lineup. The Bucks had rolled to 18 consecutive victories, and the Mavericks served Milwaukee its first loss since Nov. 8. Dallas became the first team in NBA history to break a winning streak of 15 or more games without its leading scorer, according to Elias Sports Bureau, while improving to 10-2 on the road. Doncic had sprained his right ankle two days before in a loss to the Miami Heat and didn’t even make the trip for this one. Porzingis and Seth Curry led Dallas with 26 points apiece as Porzingis nailed some key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Reigning Kia MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 48 points to lead Milwaukee, but he missed an and-one free throw with 5.2 ticks remaining. Sterling Brown would pull down the rebound, but Porzingis blocked the layup attempt.
Most compelling game: It’s a tie between the Mavericks ending Milwaukee’s 18-game winning streak without Doncic and defeating the Los Angeles Lakers on the road on Dec. 1. The victory over the Bucks earned the Mavs the distinction of being the only NBA team to best the two squads leading their respective conferences. But before that, Doncic lit up the Lakers with a near triple-double. He scored 27 points to go with 10 assists and nine rebounds. Doncic scored 21 of those 27 points in the second half, with Delon Wright contributing 17 points and Porzingis adding 15. Dallas snapped Los Angeles’ 10-game winning streak, while capturing its seventh win in eight outings. At the time, the Lakers had lost only once in 18 games since their season-opening loss to the Clippers.
Memorable moments: You’ll find plenty of memorable Doncic moments here, but these don’t do the 21-year old justice as they’re all follies from his first two seasons. On the same night Powell suffered the torn Achilles, Doncic tore his jersey in half during a 110-107 loss to the Clippers. That provided some comic relief. But let’s not forget the time Doncic followed a 40-point triple-double with the fastest 30-point triple-double in NBA history. In fact, you should just check out this assortment of some of Doncic’s nastiest plays through the team’s first 67 games. You won’t be disappointed. There was also the sobering moment when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban found out that the NBA season had been suspended during a game against the Denver Nuggets.
Team MVP: It’s Doncic, and it’s not even close. Forget about team MVP, too. Doncic deserves strong consideration for the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Our own Sekou Smith ranked Doncic No. 3 in his last 2019-20 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. Surely, Doncic is on the way to joining Mavericks stars such as Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash as the only players in franchise history to be named to the All-NBA team. Doncic could also be considered a serious candidate to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award just one season removed from winning NBA Rookie of the Year. In just his second season, Doncic has improved his scoring average by 7.5 points per game, while increasing his rebounding average from 7.8 to 9.3 per game. Doncic’s assists rose from 6.0 as a rookie to 8.7 in 2019-20. Those improvements can’t be overlooked, as the young star is the catalyst for Dallas putting up historic numbers offensively. Here’s some perspective: In late February, during his last game as a 20-year old, Doncic racked up his 21st career triple-double against the San Antonio Spurs (26 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists) to tie Jason Kidd’s franchise record. Kidd accomplished that feat in 500 games for the Mavs. Doncic did it in 119.
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