I haven’t written enough about the Mavs this year so I want to start doing quarterly report cards.
Before the season I predicted the Mavs would make the playoffs but I had them in the 7-8 range. However with some of the top teams underperforming for different reasons (Blazers and Warriors injuries, Jazz chemistry) the Mavs looked to be in even better position to make the playoffs, perhaps a 4-5 seed. It appears Luka has other plans though and he has carried the Mavs all the way to the 2 seed 1/4 of the way through the season.
So how did we get here and who is responsible??? For this piece I’ll be handing out letter grades for all of the key players and Coach Carlisle. These are not grades on how good they are, this is a grade on how good they are at doing the things they should be doing.
Luka Doncic: A
Stats: 30.1 ppg, 10 rpg, 9.2 apg, 1.4 spg (4.5 TO) 61.7% from 2, 32.4% from 3, 81.4% FT
I’d have to be completely blind to say that Luka has not earned an A grade. Is he perfect? Of course not, but he’s been amazing across the board.
His points (+8.9), rebounds (+2.2), assists (+3.2), steals (+0.3), 2 point percentage (+11.4) and free throw percentage (+10.1) are all up this year and he’s definitely top 3 in the MVP conversation at this point. Easily first team All-NBA.
Where can he improve this year? His 3 point percentage (-0.3) is about the same as it was last year. He takes a lot of tough shots but I’d love to see him get that to 35%. I’d also love to see him complain less or at least complain in ways that aren’t detrimental to the team and make sure he’s getting back on D. I’m not saying it’s a huge issue but it’s enough to mention.
Kristaps Porzingis: C+
Stats: 16.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 2 bpg 43% from 2, 34.1% from 3, 70.2% FT
Expectations were modest for KP coming off of a serious injury and playing a new role but I have to grade him on what he’s actually done, and not on a curve.
It’s been a mixed bag for KP. He’s had a 30 point game, but he’s had 3 games under 10 points. He seems very much married to his outside shot (6/game, 4.8 in his last two seasons) despite shooting it at a lower clip (-5.4%). He’s shooting his lowest percentage from the line (-9.3%) and from 2 (-2.4%) in his career. However, his rebounding is up (+2.1). We’ve seen him work on his inside game and he’s shown flashes but that’s still a work in progress. If he can get 3-5 baskets off of post ups (the quick turnaround J seems to be his best shot there) he makes us that much more dangerous come playoff time.
Defensively he’s been strong, mobile on the perimeter, and taking rim protection personally. It’s also been great to see him increase his rebounding. We just have to give him more time to figure things out on offense. I have a feeling his grade will continue to improve.
Dwight Powell: B-
Stats: 8.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 72% from 2, 53.8% FT.
Whaaaat I didn’t dump on Powell? Look, for the most part he’s done his job. His points and rebounds are down from the past year but he’s finishing at a better clip and, though he’s taking less than a full 3 per game, when he does he’s hitting them (46.2%). He does a lot of flying around and being close to putbacks or rebounds without securing them but his activity is definitely a plus.
I mostly keep his grade down because he still needs to rebound better and his free throw percentage (-23.4%) is atrocious right now. He’s getting to the ball he’s just not securing it. He could average 3 more rebounds a game if he just went after it more deliberately. I get so annoyed by him smacking at the basketball. Grab it man! On the free throw number, I’ll expect that to get back to normal.
Tim Hardaway, Jr.: B
Stats: 12.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.8 apg 51.1% from 2, 34.8% from 3, 82% FT
Whaaaat, are we sure Bibs wrote this? He’s not killing THJ either? I can’t argue against results. We all know that bench THJ was doing way too much. By moving him to the starting lineup for the last 9 games he’s been reigned in and is playing out of his mind.
All of his shooting numbers have increased since the move and he could easily work his way to an A if he gets that 3 point number up some more. Despite being an atrocious defender in NY, he’s shown a ton of effort since landing in Dallas, playing like a guy who has found a place where he wants to stay. Let’s hope he keeps it up.
Dorian Finney-Smith: A
8.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1 apg, 63.2% from 2, 32.1% from 3, 70.6% FT.
The only positions in question coming into the season were the wings for the Mavs and DFS was the first to lock in his spot. He’s started 19 of 22 games and there’s a reason his spot was secured early. He’s doing his job.
He’s averaging career highs in points (+0.9), rebounds (+0.1), 2 point % (+7.8%) and 3 point % (+1%). He’s in as a 3 and D guy but he’s actually out-rebounding Dwight so far too. His only real weakness is his shot but he has improved that every year. He’d have an A+ if he made a more dramatic leap there.
Maxi Kleber: A-
8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.7 bpg 50.9% from 2, 37.8% from 4, 90% FT. Career highs in points, rebounds, 3 point % and FT%
We miss the blocks.
Seth Curry: B-
8.5 ppg (second only to his first run with Dallas) 38.8% from 3, 93.5% FT
Need the 3 number back above 40%.
Delon Wright: A
7.5 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 spg 53.3% from 2, 35.1% from 3, 82.4% FT.
He’s been everything we could have asked.
Curry, Delon, and Maxi are the key reserves and they’ve all been great. They’re the head of the league’s best bench unit and they are very important to what we do. All 3 have started games and all 3 have made big plays for us in important games.
Justin Jackson: A-
41.8% from 3 is a career high for him and he appears to have found his stroke. The next step is to show what he can do on the other end and earn more steady minutes. It appears he’s close to doing that.
Rick Carlisle: A
Carlisle has taken heat from some fans for questionable decision making. I admitted that his rotation decisions frustrated me, but I also said that I’d do my best to be patient as he experimented with lineups. The patience paid off and Carlisle has figured out the lineup and has fixed his rotations for the most part.
He’s still doing some experimenting and tinkering but I feel a lot more confident in seeing the right guys on the court at the right times these days. It’s been a journey but here we are.
The Mavs are not perfect by any means but we are very close to being the best versions of ourselves that we’re going to be this season. While I don’t think we are a real championship contender yet, we are definitely a playoff team. Lately, we’ve looked like a team that might win a series but I don’t want to get my hopes up yet. That will come down to the matchup.
Needless to say I’m excited about where the Mavs are as a team and looking forward to the second quarter of the season.
Most of the uniforms we have this year are fine, basic but fine. These city joints are an embarrassment though. The font screams Nickelodeon and they hurt my soul every time I see them. I’m sorry.