The time has come, ladies and gents. The basketball season is finally here! Yes, that means your Dallas Mavericks are ready to take the floor with Luka and KP leading the charge of the new regime. Our Mavs staff decided to preview the season, including the Luka/KP duo, Luka’s sophomore expectations, Mavs season predictions, and more.
1. Teaming up Luka with KP along with the rest of the squad, what’s your excitement level for this team? How long ago was it that you were this excited about a Mavs team?
Clark: I mean the excitement level is higher than ever, in my opinion, and I think that’ll be the case for all MFFL’s. There’s legit hope that this team can continue to contend year-in and year-out. The last time I was close to being this excited was the year after the ‘06 Finals loss when the franchise had its best regular season ever, but unfortunately, we all know how that ended. I also was excited about the team going into the championship year, but I was so pessimistic about the Heat and the squad they had – glad I was wrong about that. I can confidently say this is the most excited I’ve ever been in anticipation for a long, winning future ahead of Mavs basketball.
Dauster: My excitement level for this season is at a 10. HOOPS ARE BACK, BABY! I can’t wait to see the Luka/KP duo start finding its groove. But the roster still has a ways to go before being a real threat for deep playoff run, so my excitement level for the team as a whole is resting comfortably at a 7.
Douglass: While I do not believe this team is a championship contender, I would put my excitement level for the 2019-20 Dallas Mavericks at an 8 out of 10. The most important thing to me for this season is for Porzingis to have a healthy season and show the league that he can coexist with Luka. The better they play together, the quicker the Mavs will become a title contender year after year as I believe this young duo will be playing together for a long time.
Duell: I’ve always been a Mavs optimist so there is always a palpable level excitement from me for a season. This one is definitely shaping up as the most intriguing in a long, long time. The ceiling of a Luka/KP led-team seems to be impossible to judge until they play more games together, but I think it’s sky-high long term. I’m a big fan of all of the role players on this team and definitely think a lot of them will be a lot more respected around the NBA as this season goes on.
Kirby: It’s been a few years since I was this hopeful about a Mavs team. I would probably have to dial back to the 2014-15 season when Tyson came back and we were still optimistic Chandler Parsons could be a big part of our future. Yep, it’s been a minute. Obviously, adding Porzingis to Luka Doncic gives you a foundation to build around for the foreseeable future, but other savvy signings like Delon Wright and Seth Curry shouldn’t be overlooked by any stretch. And, of course, there are the guys we brought back like Doe-Doe, Maxi, Dwight, etc.
Konkle: Very excited obviously. For the first time in forever, it feels like the Mavs have a legit post-Dirk direction. The 2014 team was exciting with the additions of Parsons and some of the vets, but that team was always “good, but not great” material. Not that this particular team is any different, but with Luka and KP they have exciting long term viability they haven’t had since Dirk, Nash, and Finley.
Mulford: I think this is a different kind of excitement for Mavs fans. Of course, throughout Dirk’s career, the Mavs organization and fans went into the numerous seasons with championship aspirations, feeling excitement and confident about the team. But, the Mavericks front office never acquired a talent of the caliber that is Kristaps Porzingis to pair with Dirk during his 21-year tenure in Dallas. Sure, they tried but those free agent or trade acquisitions ending up bringing in more role players instead of a potential superstar, like KP. So, adding Porzingis alongside Luka is certainly an exciting prospect and one that brings a new feel for the Mavs fan base for years to come.
2. What’re your expectations for the first season of the Luka/KP duo?
Clark: Lots of growing pains early on. We can all be realistic here and say that Porzingis has looked a little rusty on the floor in preseason so far. Do I expect him to get out of this funk? Of course, but it may take a couple of months. Once they do get it going and the chemistry gets locked-in, they’ll be scary good and one of the best duos in the league. From an offensive standpoint, the versatility the two carry at their said positions are generational and pretty much unheard of around the world. With that on the floor together and on the same team, I can’t imagine the feats they will accomplish throughout their careers here. Rick Carlisle has got to be salivating these days as he continues to game plan and draw up plays setup for these two.
Dauster: Early on, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was as smooth as a Junior High dance. It’s going to take time for these guys to find the “groove” and build the chemistry that every great duo needs. But by the end of the season, I’d expect they will have figured one another out enough to be terrifying defenses on a nightly basis. Let me just add, between the two of them, I predict Luka will be the clear “Alpha”.
Douglass: My expectations are high for these young superstars but I realize it is going to take time to learn each other and how to play off of each other. From a numbers standpoint, I expect them to average 46-48 combined points a game and to elevate the game of others around them.
Duell: I can’t think of a time in recent history that the Mavericks have had a more exciting 1-2 punch. It’s easy to default to Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, but Nash was never close to the MVP-level superstar he was in Phoenix during his Dallas days and Dirk didn’t reach his MVP level until a year or two after Nash left in 2004. It’s well covered how seemingly perfect their games are for each other and the possibilities of it offensively are delicious. While Porzingis has struggled with his perimeter shot in the preseason, he seems to be open pretty much anytime he wants to be with the defense so drawn to scoring/playmaking abilities of Luka. It will be a blast to see these guys develop into one of the best duos in the league over the next few seasons.
Kirby: Luka and KP should form a lethal one-two punch given how well their games compliment one another. On the one hand, Luka is a maestro with the ball in his hands, while Porzingis has never played with a teammate of Luka’s caliber -that’s right, I said it, Carmelo! On the other hand, however, there will be obstacles. It’s already been stated that Porzingis is going to miss anywhere from 15-20 games due purely to load management as the team attempts to protect him in his first season back from a severe injury. There’s also the element of how the team plans to handle pick and roll situations that may expose KP’s horizontal footspeed, or lack thereof. Teams will attack the big to bring him out from the basket and negate his tremendous shot blocking ability while creating open looks for themselves. For his part, Luka is a pretty decent team defender, but their ability to adapt in those situations will be key in determining how far this team can go this year.
Konkle: I expect them to go through some growing pains in trying to learn to play with each other, but I also expect signs of brilliance in between. Their games naturally completely one another, so i don’t expect this process to take too long. Then we can really see some offensive brilliance, both individually and in tandem. And given the state of the Western Conference, they’ll need to establish that chemistry if they they want to make a playoff push this early in their partnership.
Mulford: Of course, when you talk about pairing two young players of this talent together, it’s always intriguing. And the two have surely shown flashes of what could be during their time on the floor together during preseason. But, it will take time to fully blossom into what their peak potential is. KP never played with a playmaker let alone an overall player as good as Luka in New York and Luka certainly didn’t have a player of the caliber of KP on the Mavericks last season so the possibilities are endless for these two. Living in this gauntlet that is the Western Conference, it’s a necessity to have a 1-2 punch of two stars and that’s exactly what the Mavericks have in their arsenal.
3. Luka took the basketball world by storm in his rookie season. What do you foresee for his sophomore campaign and what aspects of his game will you be watching closely?
Clark: This guy has a solid chance to be a top-10 player in the league when the season is all said and done. His playmaking ability and consistent opportunity to fill out the stat sheet says that alone from his rookie campaign. I don’t expect him to slow down one bit in any aspect of his game. So far, he looks quicker, stronger and smarter on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. I know it is preseason, but on the offensive end, Luka is one that gives it all he has once he steps on the floor. To me, that is terrifying for other teams to prepare for. As far as his defense goes, that is what I’ll be playing close attention to. He seems to be lackluster and sort of lazy (at times) on the defensive end, kind of like some other guy down in Houston. I want to see how he transitions back on defense off of turnovers and fast breaks. Delon Wright is fantastic on this area of his game, so maybe he’ll get some pointers or even be competitive in that realm with is backcourt mate. All in all, I expect his sophomore campaign to be nothing short of great coming off his historical rookie year.
Dauster: I’m MUCH more interesting in watching Luka’s %’s than keep tabs on his raw production. We know the kid has the capacity to put up massive stats, but can he do it the efficient way?…the Dirk way?
Douglass: After a very successful rookie campaign, I am going to be watching Luka from a efficiency standpoint in his sophomore season. I want to see his shooting percentages rise, especially from 3 with better players around him this season. I would like to see Luka shoot closer to 45-46% from the field (42% in 2018) , 35-37% from 3 (32% in 2018) and above 80% from the free throw line.
Duell: I haven’t seen anything to suggest he will take a step back (notice that was two words, not one) this season. He has picked up right where he left off last season with every single Mavericks possession where he’s on the floor, he is the focal point of the offense. With a player of Porzingis’ caliber on the roster, I do think that Luka’s scoring average could dip just a tad, but his assist numbers could be towards the top of the league. With his increased physique, I expect him to shoot better as the season goes on and hopefully the Mavericks’ improved roster prevents him from needing to take the large number of bad shots he was forced to take late last season.
Kirby: I expect Luka to improve mostly across the board in year two. He’s shown tremendous growth in every year of his professional career thus far and is still a pup at 20 years old. Add in having some more sharpshooting teammates like Porzingis and Seth Curry and those assist numbers could certainly see a rise. The rebounds will be about the same, clocking in around a solid 8 per game, but Dallas will employ a rebound-by-committee approach most likely this year, and Delon Wright is a solid rebounder for a guard as well, which could create a little healthy competition on that front. As for his points per game, I think that could rise a tick as well as KP’s gravity will create for his teammates much like Dirk did for others in his days here. And with that last note, I just made myself sad…
Konkle: Luka seems to have addressed his biggest issue last season, that being his conditioning. That should naturally enhance other aspects of his game, more specifically, the free throw shooting and three point shooting. For someone who takes so many of both, those percentages needs to be higher. And I think we the viewers, and Luka himself expect it to go up this season.
Mulford: I’d expect to see a lot of the same but in a more efficient fashion. It’s clear that Luka took his fitness and conditioning serious this summer as he has slimmed down. Adding an offensive threat like Porzingis to the lineup surely changes how the offense will be dictated to an extent but that only gives Luka a bigger scoring option to create offense for and takes some eyes off him as well. Luka’s scoring could take a hit, which is fine, but overall, I’d look for a more conditioned version of Luka with more efficient shooing numbers from three and the charity stripe.
4. What offseason acquisition, excluding Porzingis, do you feel will have the biggest impact on the team this season?
Clark: Seth Curry. Let’s face it, the Mavs love to shoot the three-ball and so does Curry. Last year the team ranked fourth in the league in three-point attempts, but ranked 27th in three-point percentage. They shoot the rock, but are not efficient at all. Seth Curry is the exact opposite. While he did shoot a ton of threes, he ranked second amongst all players in the league in percentage. He alone will make a huge difference on this team because at the end of the day, if you can’t shoot threes efficiently in this league you can’t compete.
Dauster: I want it to be Seth Curry so bad! Because if we’re talking glowingly about Seth this season, that means that the Luka/KP duo is humming and defenses are collapsing and ole’ Mr. Curry is being left wide open on the regular. And we ALL know what Curry’s do when left open. #DeathFromDistance
Douglass: I am going to go Delon Wright to have the biggest impact for a Mavs off-season acquisition because of his all-around game. His rebounding from the guard position will really help and his ability to make plays with Luka off the ball will help to keep Luka fresh throughout the season.
Duell: Delon Wright. I do not think his stats will jump off the page much, but he will be an absolute glue guy for Dallas with his all-around game. His ability to defend the opposing team’s best wing will be greatly needed in a likely starting lineup surrounded by players like Doncic and Dwight Powell. While he has struggled to find his place in the offense for the most part during the preseason, I expect him to find more comfort and willingness to shoot as the season rolls on.
Kirby: I think Seth Curry is a phenomenal addition and will bring a lot to this team, but I’m going to have to go with Delon Wright. Wright has sat behind point guards like Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley his entire career, so we haven’t ever seen what he’s truly capable of, save for glimpses. With this being his first real crack at starting, his playmaking ability should be a huge lift for Dallas. What’s more, he’s a versatile defender who can guard the 1-3 and rebound well. Should he find a way to add a decent 3 point shot, he could be a fantastic addition to this team and starting lineup at a low cost.
Konkle: I’ve been pretty outspoken about how well I think Delon Wright fits in here. Luka is currently the best/most important player on this team and Delon Wright’s sole purpose is to make things easier on him. Handle some playmaking responsibilities, gets some easier looks for Luka, guard the best perimeter guy on the other team, help on the glass, etc… It’s been a quiet preseason for him and he’s clearly struggling with where to fit in, but ultimately I think they get the kinks worked out and he plays well.
Mulford: The answer is both Wright and Curry, for different reasons. With Delon Wright, he’s a Swiss-army knife with his defense being the blade. His long arms and tenacious pride in shutting down his matchup is contagious. Wright’s versatility defensively lets him guard the best wing on the floor while letting Luka shadow the weaker option. But, Wright can play make and get to the rim as well. He can do it all well. For Curry, we know what we’re getting here; a knockdown flamethrower. Playing alongside playmakers like Luka, Wright, Barea, and Brunson, Seth will be able to spot up and catch fire in each and every game this season.
5. Finally, what are your expectations for this Mavericks team? Playoffs?
Clark: This has been the conversation in my realm of Mavs fans. It’s very tough to gauge in a Western Conference that’s the strongest and deepest it’s ever been. My expectations for this squad are a slow start, but a very strong finish. Strong enough to slip-in to the eighth seed. People forget that the Mavs have one of the best coaching staffs in the league and have taken teams to the playoffs seven of the 11 years Carlisle has led this staff. That alone is why I have this team in the playoffs, because of the track record in this winning franchise and the talent this year’s squad possesses. Aside from that, injuries happen and teams like the Lakers, Blazers, Spurs and Rockets are one injury away from missing the playoffs. So much is relied upon the duos of those teams that if one of them went down for the year, they could pretty much be ruled out in the West. All in all, if we eliminate the injury hypotheticals, I still see this team slipping in the postseason as the eighth seed.
Dauster: I don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but I don’t think this is our year. Our roster has to gel and our stars are extremely young. And we still do not have a reliable third scorer. All that has me predicting a 40 win season. I really want to be wrong, but I don’t see the playoffs as a reality this year. I do expect that Carlisle will have them fighting every night and we’ll be heading into NEXT season with a ton of well founded MFFL enthusiasm!
Douglass: Like I stated earlier, I do not believe this team is a championship team but I do believe this can be playoff team. I believe the Clippers, Lakers, Jazz, Rockets, Nuggets, Warriors and Trailblazers will all make the playoffs. That leaves the Spurs, Mavs and Pelicans competing for the 8th and final playoff spot and those teams will play each other four times so the season series will be crucial in deciding who makes it.
Duell: While it’s easy to say I expect the Mavericks to be much better this season with all that they’ve added, what does that mean in the landscape of the monstrous Western Conference? Simply worrying about the Mavs, I expect them to be a .500 or better team. There’s no doubt in my mind that the pursuit of a playoff spot is something they’ll be chasing all the way through the final week of the season. What happens if KP needs to sit out about 20 games for “load management” while coming back from an ACL injury? This team won’t contend for a playoff spot. I think that issue will fade after the first four to six weeks of the season and Dallas will be able to go full speed ahead in their pursuit of a return to the playoffs with their dynamic duo on the court.
Kirby: I think this Mavs team, as currently constructed, will be in the thick of the playoff race but fall just short. However, should they make a trade at or near the deadline, as they’ve shown a propensity for in the past, they might be able to steal away a few more wins in the final stretch before sneaking into the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. It took 48 wins for the Clippers to nab the 8 seed last season, which is 15 more than the Mavs won on the year, but with more parity in the West, I think that number will be closer to 45 wins this coming year. So if Dallas can be a 41 win team as currently constructed, a deadline move would only need to add a little bit more to the arsenal to get over the hump. That said, I’m optimistic and think Dallas does just that, snatching the 8 seed in the final game or so of the regular season.
Konkle: Unfortunately I do not foresee a playoff berth. A lot of people won’t like that answer, but the West has such a logjam. There are legit 12 teams that could put together a solid season and sneak in. The Mavs are certainly one of those teams, and I anticipate them being right there, but ultimately I think they just miss the cut.
Mulford: First off, let me say that the Mavericks will definitely be an improved team compared to last season. The Luka-KP duo will begin to take the league by storm as they’re surrounded by one of the deepest teams in the league led by new acquisitions in Wright and Curry. With that said, the West is dog fight. Like, 12 pitbulls in a cage fighting over 8 toys type of dog fight. The Mavs in this case, are one of the younger pitbulls in that cage. Has the potential, but like I said, it’s a dog fight. Competing for the 7th and 8th seeds is what the Mavericks will be fighting for and in my opinion, they’ll fall up just short. Though if the Mavs strike gold with the health bug and KP isn’t held back with too many load management games, then we could be seeing Dallas back in the playoffs.
And for those wondering, the Grizzlies, Sun, and Timberwolves give off more of a terrier vibe, just napping in their kennels while the big boys go at it.
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