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5 burning Mavs questions heading into the 2018-2019 season

5 burning Mavs questions heading into the 2018-2019 season

 

When the Mavericks seemingly put all their eggs into Luka Doncic’s basket back on draft night, this became the most anticipated Mavs season since the title defense.

The team quite frankly floundered during those years post-title. There was a revolving door of players around Dirk and Carlisle, which understandably made winning consistently difficult.  And while I think most Mavs fans would do it again, trying to give Dirk every last chance to compete by staving off a rebuild, put them on the dreaded “mediocrity treadmill.” Not that those players or teams were bad, because most of them were very competitive, but so much of success in the NBA is correlated to having bright young stars on your roster.

I think we can finally say the Mavs have those two guys in place. And they’re surrounded by some great vets in Harrison Barnes, Wes Mathews, and DeAndre Jordan. Which will bring us to our first question:

 

5. Is this a playoff team?

Unfortunately, I don’t have that answer for you. But I am going to temper your expectations a bit on the count of one thing; their two primary ball handlers will be first and second year guys. Luka is as NBA ready as any rookie we have seen in a long time and improvement is expected from Dennis, but trying to learn how to run a team consistently in the NBA is an unforgiving proposition.

The vets on this team should help out the young bucks quite a bit though. Even with heaping such a workload upon two youngins’, I expect this team to hang around the 40 win mark. Much higher than their over/under mark of 34.5 from Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

In the East? That’s a playoff team. In the West? Probably not. There is simply too much competition for me to say confidently they will crack the top 8. Teams like Denver, Portland, New Orleans, Memphis, etc… all will be fighting for those last couple spots out West. Can they beat those other teams out? I guess we will see.

 

4. Can HB take the next step? 

If memory serves, we were asking this exact same question at this time a year ago.

Well, did he? I would assume most would say no, but there definitely was subtle growth. For instance, he did up his 3PA, 3P%, and his free throw attempts, albeit marginally. That was really what people wanted to see most out of him. Playing more like a traditional wing by attacking from the perimeter, whether off the dribble or catch. And towards the end of last season, coach Carlisle began playing him as a traditional small forward, which coincided with an improvement in his play. Most notably, improved three point shooting on higher volume.

Playing a more natural wing position, paired with the fact that he gets to play alongside two exciting young playmakers should only enhance the version of Barnes we already know.

It’s easy to think he’s peaked. I’ve fallen into that trap before, but he’s still only 26-years old. He hasn’t even hit his prime, so there should still be plenty of room to grow.

 

3. What can we expect from DSJ in his sophomore season?

Dennis Smith Jr. was asked to carry a near impossible burden for a rookie. He was one of the highest usage first year players of all-time, on a bad basketball team. Putting that much on the plate of a 19-year old breeds inefficiency, mistakes, and has a way of exposing holes in their game.

And it did for Dennis. But that’s okay. Rookies almost exclusively struggle, especially the ones who play point guard. But it’s the flashes of brilliance that we hold onto. It’s being one of the youngest players to ever record a triple-double that we remember. It’s closing out a road game in OKC by scoring the teams final 11 points. With a full year of NBA experience under his belt, an entire offseason with NBA level training, and an improved supporting cast, things are looking up.

Heck, he has already packed on some more muscle and has really cleaned up his shooting mechanics, by virtue of working with Steph Curry’s trainer. I suspect big things are on the horizon for Dennis.

 

2. Can Luka and Dennis coexist?

I personally believe that this tandem is a match made in heaven, at least on paper. Dennis is an ultra athletic, unrelenting attack guard who can not only get his own, but create for others. Luka is a methodical playmaker, wrapped in a 6 foot 8 inch frame, with an incredibly versatile skill set that allows him to play multiple roles or posistions. It creates and interesting yin and yang dynamic that I think will excite Mavs fans for many years.

The real concern is whether or not Dennis can learn to function without the ball in his hands. He’s always been able to dominate the ball wherever he was, but sharing the court with Luka he is going to have to adjust.

Gone are the days in the NBA where there is just one initiator on the floor. It is essential to have multiple guys out there who can put the ball on the deck and create something when the opportunity presents itself. It creates a dynamic where the offense is entirely unpredictable and no matter what coverages or strategies a defense uses, they have the personnel out there to take advantage.

It is why this pairing theoretically works. While it may take some time to adjust, both Dennis and Luka should benefit from it. If they can’t ever figure it out? Well, then they aren’t the cornerstones you thought them to be.

 

1. Is this it for our hero?

Dirk Nowitzki is 40-years old coming off of ankle surgery, albeit a minor one. But at that age, the body doesn’t recover quite so quick, as Dirk would attest to.

There is no doubt that Dirk would like to keep playing, but it all depends on how his body is feeling. And that’s what is so scary about this season. We have no idea, for the first time in his career really, if his body will cooperate.

Having two promising kids to carry the franchise after he decides to hang them up makes it a little easier to take, but it’s still not anything I’m ready to think about or deal with. Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest player in franchise history, he is one of the greatest players of all-time, and he embodies and is what the Mavericks seek to be. So let’s take this unknown, and use it as motivation to appreciate the greatness for possibly the last time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff writer covering the Dallas Mavericks, Texas Legends and TCU basketball | Stephen "Reese" Konkle. 21 years old, currently enrolled at UNT working towards my degree in Digital/print media with a sports certification. Have a passion for basketball, and the Mavericks. Looking to bring Mavs fans a fresh, interesting perspective on the greatest game in the world.

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