Hype is Real is an NBA.com Philippines series that gives an optimistic view of every NBA team heading into the 2022-2023 season. This is our way of convincing people why they should support and watch a particular team.
Overview of the Mavericks’ 2021-2022 season
It was a tale of two halves for the Dallas Mavericks last season. They opened 2022 as a middling team with a 17-18 record. They didn’t have a clear identity under new head coach Jason Kidd. It looked like after continuously rising in the three years before last season, the Mavs were going to take a step back.
And that’s exactly what they did.
They took a step back, took a hard look at themselves, and figured out what they were good at. Instead of trying to be the free-flowing offensive team they were under Rick Carlisle, they saw that they could be a tough, hard-nosed team on both ends of the floor.
Offensively, they slowed things down. All the way down (30th in pace). They didn’t need to rush things - they just trusted that Luka Doncic would be able to break down the defense and make all the parts work together.
They put most of their focus on the court on the defensive end (6th in defensive rating). The big men made sure to man the paint and try to keep in step with wings on switches. The wings put a premium on locking down their assignments for that night. Doncic, for his part, bought into the philosophy and put more effort on that end of the floor.
The new-look, old-school Mavs started winning games. After a mediocre start, Dallas had a 35-12 record in their final 47 games to finish 52-30, good enough for fourth in the West. More importantly, they used the momentum from the regular season to carry them all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
What’s new this season?
One of the biggest moves the Mavericks pulled off last season was when they traded away Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie.
That move was like addition by subtraction. They unloaded Porzingis, who lost his mean streak and didn’t fit the mold as the bruising big man that Kidd wanted to man the middle. Dallas was able to make it work in the playoffs with a revolving door of big men led by Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, and Dorian Finney-Smith.
Making the conference finals is nice and all, but for the Mavs to take the next step, they need someone to pair Luka Doncic with. That’s where Christian Wood comes in.
Dallas traded for Wood in the offseason with the hope that he’s the big man Porzingis was supposed to be alongside Doncic. On paper, it makes sense. He does a lot of the same things Porzingis does on both ends of the floor.
What he brings to the table is a certain toughness that Porzingis was missing. Doncic and Kidd get a shiny new toy to play with next season. If Kleber, Powell, and Finney-Smith worked, imagine what Dallas can achieve with a player of Wood’s caliber.
There’s absolutely no question that the Mavericks are Doncic’s team. He’s the most important driving force in their rise up the West standings.
What’s more interesting is that Doncic is entering next season in the best shape of his NBA career. Last season an “out of shape” Doncic lit the league up to the tune of 28-9-9. It’s downright scary what an “in shape” Doncic does to the NBA next season.
Sneaky fun guy
Dallas lost a key contributor to free agency in the offseason. Jalen Brunson averaged 16 points and nearly five assists last season as the team’s secondary creator. It’s going to be tough for the team to fill in the hole that he leaves.
If there’s one player that’s ready and willing to gobble up all the shots that Brunson left behind, it’s Tim Hardaway, Jr. He’s a known chucker. Last season, he was fourth on the team in field goals attempted while playing only half the season.
It’s going to be fun to watch Hardway Jr. try and fit his chucking ways into the balanced creator role left behind by Brunson. It’s going to be even more fun watching him try to make a statement for himself after his dad was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In 2019, the Mavs missed the playoffs, finishing 14th in the West. In 2020 they finished 7th and were eliminated in the first round. In 2021 they rose slightly higher to fifth but were still booted out in the first round. Last season, they finished fourth and made a deep playoff run.
Where else can the Mavs go but into the conversation of title contention? Even if they make it back to the West finals, that still feels like a step back for Dallas. The upcoming season feels like a boom or bust season for them.
Doncic needs to play at an even higher MVP level. Wood needs to play like an All-Star. Kidd needs to pull out all the tricks up his sleeves. The Mavericks need to be, definitively, one of the top teams in the West.
Isn’t all that expectation exhilarating? Can you imagine if the Mavericks don’t live up to all that? Or, even more exciting, imagine if they actually do.