Back-to-back first-round playoff exits for a team featuring one of the league’s most exciting players in Luka Doncic weighed heavily in Dallas. The eventual shakeup this offseason included a mutual parting of ways with longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and the resignation of coach Rick Carlisle after a 13-year run in Dallas.
The Mavericks replaced those two key components from their 2010-11 title run with Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, who played eight of his 19 NBA seasons with Dallas, as coach, and Nico Harrison as general manager and president of basketball operations to lead this young squad into the future. How Kidd and Harrison mesh with Doncic likely determines the Mavs’ level of success for 2021-22. Dallas focused on guards in free agency to build around Doncic, adding veterans such as Frank Ntilikina, Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown, in addition to re-signing shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr.
The new regime also needs to find a way to improve the on-court chemistry between Doncic and former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis because the Mavericks go only as far this season as the duo takes them.
The Doncic-Porzingis dynamic is something we’ll all be watching this season, as we’ve seen reports that the stars don’t necessarily get along. “There’s not to say there’s not dustups, there are,” Dallas governor Mark Cuban told 105.3 The Fan back in April when discussing the relationship between Doncic and Porzingis. “I compare it really to [Jason Terry] and Dirk [Nowitzki]. If you remember when we first got [Terry], Dirk was not a fan. Dirk did not like him. They weren’t best friends at the beginning, but they grew to like each other, and grew to be great friends. And that’s just part of the process when you’ve got young kids, who are growing up as professionals.” Can Kidd and Harrison pull them together, while surrounding them with the supporting cast to lift the Mavericks past the first round of the playoffs?
Dallas made sensible moves to bolster the foundational pieces in the offseason as opposed to trying to make noise with splashy transactions, but you can’t discount the adjustment period the Mavericks will inevitably experience as Kidd puts his own stamp on this team. The foundation is already there. Expect a resurgent season from Porzingis, as the on-court chemistry between him and Doncic improve, while the new additions shine in their respective roles. We don’t talk enough about the impact of Tim Hardaway Jr., but we will this season. This is the year Dallas wins a playoff series. Predicted finish: 49-33.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Luka Donic: Scary to ponder, but Kidd’s influence almost guarantees the point guard takes his game up another notch.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hit 207 3-pointers last season (second most in one season by a Mavericks player) and it wouldn’t be a surprise if that increases.
Dorian Finney-Smith: Versatile, suffocating wing defender who keeps improving as a 3-point shooter.
Kristaps Porzingis: A healthy, full offseason should return him close to the Porzingis we saw in New York.
Maxi Kleber: Coming off a career-best 41% from 3-point range and will see even better looks in 2021-22.
Jalen Brunson: Going into a contract season, he averaged career highs last season in scoring (12.6), assists (3.5) and 3-point shooting (40.5%).
Reggie Bullock: Defensive versatility and shooting made him a key piece for the Knicks last season.
Sterling Brown: Experience playing with stars (Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Wall) should help alongside Doncic.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Mavericks have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
STAT TO KNOW
12.1 — In the regular season, Luka Doncic led the league in time of possession at 8.9 minutes per game. He averaged 12.1 minutes of possession in the playoffs.
— John Schuhmann
* * *
Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.