The Dallas Mavericks have a 36-23 record and 23 games left in the first year of the Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis era. Making the playoffs has been the franchise wide goal for this individual season and with the team in position to accomplish that goal, discussions have started on what a successful season looks like for the Mavs.
Is just making the playoffs enough? Is playing a competitive first round series enough? Do they need to win a series?
On December 20th, Dallas had just improved to 19-9 after an impressive road win against the Philadelphia 76ers without Luka. At that point, Dallas had also defeated the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks on the road.
After making a brief appearance in the 2nd seed, they settled into the 4/5 mix before injuries took a toll and as it currently stands, the Mavs sit in the 7th seed with an outside chance to creep back into the top four.
Whether it’s their record in “clutch” games, lack of presence in the paint, or inconsistent rotations, something has left those in Mavs land frustrated despite the team being in position to accomplish their main goal entering the season.
The frustration arguably went to an even high level after the Mavs stood pat at the trade deadline aside from smaller moves like acquiring Willie Cauley-Stein via trade and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist via buyout.
Are those frustrations valid?
The answer to this question can be yes and no.
If you find yourself frustrated because your expectations are championship or the season is a failure, the frustration is misplaced.
But if you are frustrated because the Mavs have passed on opportunities to upgrade this version of the Mavs with minimal disruption, the frustration is valid.
I will give you an example of what I mean. Ahead of the trade deadline, there were conflicting reports on whether or not the Mavs were interested in Andre Drummond. You could argue why not give up a minimal trade package for a player like Andre Drummond after the compensation the Detroit Pistons received for him. With an opt out available after this season, I thought he fit a clear need for this team and there was no longterm commitment required if things didn’t work out.
What’s considered a successful season?
I’m not going to pretend that Mavs fans haven’t been frustrated on several occasions after losses this season but I realize this season was always about making the playoffs and Luka and KP developing chemistry. The 2020-21 season is where I expect Dallas to make a leap into no less than a top four seed.
Very rarely do you see teams jump from the lottery to an immediate championship contender. With the Mavs likely looking at having to start a playoff series on the road, success would be battling in a 7 game series against one of the top teams in the west and gaining that playoff experience.
The only way I would come away from the 2019-20 season disappointed is if Dallas got into the playoffs and didn’t look like they belonged on the floor.
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