Dallas followed its worst record since 1997-98 with a step back in 2018-19 to finish 14th in the West. The departure of the greatest player in franchise history (Dirk Nowitzki) only salted the wounds. Still, optimism abounds with a pair of potential franchise cornerstones in Luka Doncic, last season’s Kia Rookie of the Year, and the midseason addition of Kristaps Porzingis, who hasn’t played since last February.
> 30 Teams in 30 Days: Dallas Mavericks
Flush with cash entering the offseason, Dallas failed to lure any big-name free agents, opting to spend the majority of its money to retain its own. That started with Porzingis, who was widely expected to sign an extension after landing with the Mavericks in a trade with the New York Knicks … Porzingis is said to be moving well and at full strength in summer workouts, which seems to put him on track to return for a successful return from the torn left anterior cruciate suffered on Feb. 6, 2018 … The Mavs bolstered their backcourt in July by trading with Memphis for four-year veteran Delon Wright. In addition, they brought back Seth Curry, who spent last season with the Portland Trail Blazers after a strong 2016-17 campaign in Dallas (where he averaged 12.8 points shooting 42.5% from deep) … After rupturing his right Achilles last season and undergoing surgery on Jan. 14, point guard J.J. Barea said he’s been cleared medically to participate in training camp
1. Err on the side of caution with Porzingis. It’s unknown whether Porzingis returns to form in 2019-20, but there’s no need to rush him back before he’s ready, regardless of lofty expectations and the promise of pairing him with another superstar in Doncic. Even with a fully healthy Porzingis playing alongside Doncic, Dallas still faces a tough road.
2. Doncic needs to take the next step. Doncic’s poise, IQ and offensive skillset (21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists) made his rookie season special. Coach Rick Carlisle naturally expects increased focus on Doncic from opponents in Year 2. To adjust, Doncic has spent the offseason sculpting his body and improving conditioning to be better defensively.
3. Efficiency from Hardaway Jr. in his role. It’s expected that Tim Hardaway Jr. will come into the season as Dallas’ third scorer, which might prove to be a more suitable role for him, after being tasked in recent years with carrying too much of a load offensively. As the No. 3 scoring option, Hardaway Jr. can be more consistent and efficient.
MAN ON THE SPOT
Porzingis might feel some pressure to deliver immediately on Dallas’ five-year, $158 million investment in him, but it’s important for him to listen to his body as he returns from the knee injury. If the recovery timetable stretches longer than expected, so be it. The long-term future remains promising.
Luka Doncic | 21.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.0 apg
Scoring draws attention, but he assisted on nearly 32% of Dallas’ baskets last season.
Delon Wright | 8.7 ppg, 3,5 rpg, 3.3 apg
Racked up three triple-doubles in the final four games last season, including two against the Mavs.
Tim Hardaway Jr. | 18.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.4 apg
Has increased scoring average in each of the last three years.
Kristaps Porzingis | 22.7 ppg, 6.6 reb, 2.4 bpg (in 2017-18)
Coming off torn ACL, appears poised for full recovery; has impressed teammates during summer workouts.
Dwight Powell | 10.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg
Averaged a career-high 21.6 minutes last season, which should increase in 2019-20.
J.J. Barea | 10.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.6 apg
Needs to appear in 19 games to move into fifth in all-time games played for Dallas.
Maxi Kleber | 6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Dependable two-way big improved his 3-point shooting to 35.3% last season.
Seth Curry | 7.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg
Knocked down 43.9% of his 3-pointers over his last three seasons.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Fifteen postseason appearances in 19 years as owner for Mark Cuban, and playoff berth No. 16 could be imminent with a fully healthy Porzingis, an evolved Doncic, and a deep, young roster full of versatile options. In the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the Mavs’ impressive depth could be what propels them into the playoffs.
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