We’re at the halfway point; 41 games in.
Ah, 41 games. We miss you, Dirk.
The Mavericks currently hold a 26-15 record and sit as the 6th seed in the Western Conference. Luka has been nothing short of outstanding, supplanting himself in the MVP conversation, an All-Star starter, and likely earning himself a spot on an All-NBA Team.
At the halfway point, we evaluate the Mavericks season so far and look ahead to the last 41 games and beyond.
1. 41 games into the season, halfway there, have the Mavericks met your expectations? Surpassed? Failed?
Duell: Surpassed. I expected the Mavericks to finish with a winning record this season, but I didn’t expect them to already be 11 games over . 500 and on pace for 52 wins at the halfway point of the season. When I was setting my expectations for Luka Doncic’s sophomore season, I certainly didn’t have him slated as a top five MVP candidate. Even coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign, I did not see Luka averaging close to a 30 point triple-double every night. Hard to have any complaints about the Mavericks first half when you look at it from a wide angle with a 26-15 record.
Konkle: Oh, the Mavericks have 100% surpassed the expectations that I had for them. Coming into the year, I was thinking they would maybe compete for an 8th seed. Here we are at the halfway point and they’re positioning for home court advantage. I think, if health permits, they’ve got a real chance to advance to the second round. They’ve got a really, really nice team and I didn’t see that coming.
Mulford: I’d say the Mavs have certainly surpassed what I foresaw for them this season so far. The consensus was that the’d be fighting to sneak into the playoffs as the 8th seed and as it stands now, they’ve supplanted themselves as a lock to make the playoffs, barring any injuries. Luka has clearly taken another step or two towards becoming a superstar in this league as the role players around him have continued to grow and become stars in their roles. A rough stretch of late with KP being injured and suffering some tough losses but as a whole, the team has surpassed expectations so far.
2. What improvements as a team, whether that’s just overall play or roster wise via trade, can they make for a playoff run?
Duell: The team will tell you it themselves until they’re blue in the face: defense. They know they’re capable of scoring with anyone in the league, but even with strong stretches, the Mavericks still sit at just 17th overall in defensive rating, according to Basketball Reference. The team has certainly missed Kristaps Porzingis’ presence in the paint over the last several weeks, but hopefully his return to the lineup can get the Mavs defense trending back in the right direction.
I don’t see the team making any sort of significant trade in the weeks before the deadline. I know that Rick Carlisle loves this group of players and it is really important to him to continue to help them get better as the season goes on. I really do not think there is a realistic trade out there during this season that can elevate this team’s ceiling past a first round playoff series winner/being competitive in the second round.
Konkle: They desperately need to add a jumbo-sized wing to help bolster the perimeter defense. A couple of guys come to mind like Covington, Igoudala, etc… Adding another stopper on the wing could vault them from an average defense to a Top-10 unit, which history says is a necessity for title-contending teams. A secondary ball handler would also be welcome, but isn’t as pressing of a need.
Mulford: The offense is there. That’s clear to anyone who watches the team. The defense is where the issues come in. That has been significantly iffy as of late. Way too many open layups and easy looks at the basket for the opposing team. Certainly they miss KP holding it down in the paint and protecting the rim, but still. If there was a position of need, I’d say another elite 3-and-D wing along side Doe-Doe would be nice, a la Robert Covington, who has been mentioned time and time again as a potential Mavs target. The Mavericks like their current roster. It’s one of the deepest teams in the league with a number of guys coming off the bench who can make an impact night in and night out. I’d have some hesitance of breaking up that depth in order to acquire a singular player but if someone of the likes of Robert Covington was in the Mavericks’ cross hairs, I’d pull the trigger.
3. Looking forward, where do you see the Mavericks sitting in the Western Conference come playoff time and what is their fate this season in your eyes?
Duell: Currently three games ahead of the 7th seed and 2.5 games back of the 2 seed, it’s really hard to predict where the Mavs will finish in the conference standings. If Clairvoyant Dylan needs to make an appearance, I would guess they finish where they are now at number six in the West and find themselves in a first round playoff series against the Clippers. I think Kawhi and the Clips end up finishing third (currently fourth) because the 4.5 game lead on first place by the Lakers is probably already out of reach and they care JUST enough about the regular season to utilize their own on and off switch to avoid falling into the 4th/5th seeds that would pit them against the Lakers in the second round. A Mavs/Clippers first round series would be fun, but obviously I’d have to take LA in that matchup this season assuming both teams have similar rosters and full health in April.
Konkle: If you asked me a couple weeks ago, when Luka and KP were healthy and thriving, I would have told you this team was a second-round, potentially Western-Conference Finals type team. However their recent average play is concerning, as is KP’s health. But I trust that the medical staff knows that the priority with KP needs to be good health in the postseason. I still believe this team is built for postseason basketball. They’ve got a bonafide star and an elite coach with pieces who fit. They will win a playoff series, depending on the matchup. And they will do it as the road team.
Mulford: I think where they are now, the 6th seed, is about where they’ll finish. Anywhere between 4-6 feels about right. Obviously, the higher the seed, the likeliness that you avoid playing the likes of the Lakers and Clippers in the first round. Really outside of the two LA teams, I feel the Mavs could win a playoff series against any of the other Western teams. Now, will they? Maybe not. But, looking at the field, outside of the teams in Los Angeles, you could legitimately argue that the Mavs could have the best player in any series, being Luka of course.
At the end of the day, playoff basketball will be back in the American Airlines Center come April. Anything is possible.
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