The Dallas Mavericks finished the 2020-2021 season with a 42-30 record. This record landed the team the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Dallas is a rare organization, where the team rarely changes front offices and the coaching staff. Carlisle has been with the team since 2008, and Donnie Nelson has been with the team since 1998. Both have been influential to the organization and have built up the team to what they are now.
In most sporting organizations a bad season would have both their head coach and executive replaced, to rebuild the team. However, owner Mark Cuban kept both and had them build with future superstar Luka Doncic. Doncic is not only the face of the Dallas Mavericks but arguably the newest face of the NBA. He has been dominant since entering the league. Doncic has also made the Mavericks once again one of the NBA’s most feared teams.
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With Carlisle under the helm, Doncic took yet another huge step forward in progression. With many projecting Doncic to have another spectacular season, the team was given high expectations. Before the season started, many believed that the Mavericks would not only make the playoffs but would be either the second or third seed in the Western Conference. This could have been done if the team did not struggle in the early stages of the season. Once the team got fully healthy, the Mavericks were a dark horse candidate to win the NBA Finals. The team saw great progression from many players, including Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, and Dwight Powell. Although the team finished with the fifth seed, the organization is still thrilled with how the team performed.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Luka Doncic
Doncic finished sixth in the NBA’s MVP award voting, which in turn is enough to garner him winning his team’s MVP award. In only his second season the Slovenian guard was able to lead his team to the fifth seed in the western conference. Doncic averaged 27.7 points, eight rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game, on nearly 48 percent field goal shooting.
Defensive Player of the Year – Dwight Powell
The Mavericks ranked in the bottom half of defensive rating this season. As the team is built more around their offensive attributes. With that said there was a player who when on the court made the team better defensively. With a 110 defensive rating, and averaging a half block and steal in under 20 minutes a game, Powell has been the guy defensively. Although stats do not tell the whole story, his rim protection is the best on the team. He is able to muscle his way to block or contest post shots and is nimble and quick enough to move around box-outs. Powell has been a great defensive player off the bench for the team.
Sixth Man of the Year – Jalen Brunson
Brunson is an offensive machine, as the guard can score at any location on the court. The third-year guard had incredible efficiency throughout the season. As he shot 52 percent from the field, and 40 percent from three. With his incredible consistency, Brunson was a great compliment to come into the game when Doncic needed to rest. He is capable of leading an offense himself, even though his assists numbers do not show it. Brunson can navigate the Mavericks offense fluently and can control his team’s tempo.
He averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Brunson took a step forward with the team, as his ability to conduct an NBA offense skyrocketed. This ability off the bench helped Dallas maintain large leads and kept them in games when the team’s stars were off the court. Brunson is also able to play against better opponents, as he is capable of finishing games for the team.
Biggest Surprise – Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway came to Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade in 2018. Since then he has been a good rotation piece to compliment Doncic and the Mavericks. This season, Hardaway has become a vital piece to the Maverick’s success. The shooting guard was always a great shooter and an average defender. Becoming a solid ‘three and D’ player. Hardaway would take a step forward and become the second-best player behind Doncic for most of the season. Hardaway was just an additional piece during the Porzingis trade.
However, after this season, it looks as if the deal should have been centered around him as he averaged 16.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He would have games where he would drop over 25 points in a dominant win. His success even flourished in the playoffs. As he averaged 17 points a game and shot 40 percent from three.
Biggest Disappointment – Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis only played half the season and has been struggling with injuries all season. The 7’3” forward had a good regular season for a player who came off an injury. He averaged 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. But, he was not consistent enough with the standards that the team needed from him. There would be stretches of games where he seemingly looked slow and passive. During these stretches, he rarely took the ball in the post and would rely on his fade-away shooting. He would even pass the ball during mismatches that were in his favor. Porzingis did just come off another injury, and a lot of the slower and passive movements could be excused with rust and discomfort.
Porzingis’s playoff performance against the Los Angeles Clippers is where the team needs to heavily look into. The forward was awful in the series. The team played better when Porzingis was not involved in the plays. Porzingis only averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and only averaged 10 shots per game. In games five and six, Porzingis only took six and seven attempts. Anything less than ten attempts from your No. 2 guy is disheartening and baffling. The forward looked terrible throughout the whole series and was a major factor in the team’s first-round departure.
The team needs to add more shooters for their bench. Hardaway and Brunson were great this season, but the team still needs to find replacement wings for when Doncic and Josh Richardson are off the court. There will be plenty of free agents that will match what the team is looking for. Otto Porter Jr. or Evan Fournier would be great additions to the roster. Both players can space the floor very well and can put up 15 or more on any given night. Porter is also a great perimeter defender, something Dallas lacked this season.
The biggest situation for Dallas this offseason is not in their bench or re-signing Hardaway. It is deciding on whether Porzingis is the right choice next to Doncic. The forward can not stay healthy and has been regressing since coming to Dallas. Porzingis’s ceiling is looking like a 20 point, seven rebounds a game type of player in the regular season. Which is good, but not great in today’s NBA. Dallas could trade Porzingis for a starting-caliber wing, or trade him away for draft capital. This move would give Doncic a help scorer and wing defender or clear cap space to try and sign a bigger name in free agency.
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