In what many anticipated to be a successful and promising season of basketball, the Dallas Mavericks fell short of their expectations; and by a considerable amount.
Coming off of the most successful year the franchise has had since 2011, beating the likes of the first-seeded Phoenix Suns and reaching the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks had firmly inserted themselves in the conversation for legitimate teams in the West.
Unfortunately, they played themselves out of that conversation to the surprise of the entire NBA. Here’s a breakdown of the Mavericks chaotic and frustrating season:
There is no other grade to classify just how poorly the Mavericks season went in terms of expectations. To say the season was a disappointment would be understatement; it was an absolute disaster.
After the Mavericks success unfolded the way it did in the 2022 playoffs, they were expected to be a sure-fire team for the playoffs and a serious competitor at the very least.
Christian Wood’s acquisition in the offseason added fuel to the fire of Dallas’ faithful and their expectations for the year. Analysts and media alike felt this was the move that could potentially get the Mavericks to the finish line. After a slow start to the season, the Mavericks found their footing and stood at the fourth seed prior to All-Star break.
After the acquisition of All-Star guard, Kyrie Irving, expectations skyrocketed and rightfully so. The Mavericks did not have to give up their biggest offseason acquisition in Wood and were able retain the majority of their roster in the process. Championship aspirations quickly became expectations.
It became quickly apparent those aspirations were unrealistic as the team struggled horrendously on the defensive end and saw a string of losses ultimately end their season.
As far as scoring the basketball, the Mavericks ranked among the leagues best. Posting an offensive rating of 116.8 (sixth in the NBA), they saw an improvement in their rating compared to the previous season at 112.8 (15th in the NBA).
Luka Doncic had another All-NBA caliber year posting averages of 32.4 PPG, 8.6 TRB and 8.0 AST. Irving was stellar alongside Doncic with averages of 27 PPG, 5.0 TRB and 6.0 AST in twenty games with the Mavericks while posting a plus minus of +96.
Shooting the basketball was an area the Mavericks saw improvement in as well. The teams shooting percentage from beyond the arc shot up to 37.1%, compared to 35.0% last year. The Mavericks attempts per game from beyond the arc rose as well from 37.4 to 41.0, a welcome sight indicating higher efficiency on increased volume.
While the Mavericks did make improvements across the board statistically, their offense was not perfect. With the loss of Jalen Brunson, the Mavericks began to rely much more on Doncic’s offensive production. Doncic’s usage rate jumped from 37.3 last year to 37.5 this year, an average which deflated in the latter of the season with the addition of Irving. It’s clear that Irving and Doncic are still not entirely comfortable on the floor together, but they undoubtedly remain one of the leagues premiere offensive back courts.
By all accounts, the Mavericks are amongst the league premiere firepower offenses. One of the few positives to turn to ahead of next year after a disappointing season.
The Mavericks’ demise was easy to pinpoint, their inability to produce stops on the defensive side of the floor lost them countless games and ultimately a spot in the playoffs.
This was an especially frustrating dilemma for the Mavericks, as their defense was much of the catalyst that propelled them to the Western Conference Finals last year, in addition to their success shooting from beyond the arc.
The team’s defensive rating saw a steep drop, posting the sixth best rating in the league last year at 109.4 to now standing twenty-fourth in the league with a rating of 116.7. Many point to the loss of Dorian Finney-Smith in the the trade to acquire Irving, but Mavericks General Manager Nico Harrison made it clear their defensive woes did not start or stop with the departure of Finney-Smith.
I asked @dallasmavs GM, Nico Harrison, about the team’s defensive drop off in light of Dorian Finney-Smith’s departure.
He shared the love and admiration he has for Finney-Smith, but emphasized that clear defensive problems were still present even when he was with Dallas. pic.twitter.com/0ZuFAE9PuV
— Prabhat Seelamsetti (@PrabSeelamsetti) April 11, 2023
Many have pinpointed Jason Kidd as the team’s problem, with claims circulating he has failed to galvanize the locker room and have them buy into a system.
This was likely a frustrating dynamic for Kidd, as complaints of Wood’s playing time were also in question, yet he posted the worst defensive rating among the Mavericks’ big men this year (113.4), making it difficult to insert him in a rotation that already needed help getting stops.
Harrison assured the media that Kidd still has control of the locker room, however, and feels that the team is still behind him despite the noise.
I asked @dallasmavs GM, Nico Harrison, if the Mavericks players and organization still believe in head coach, Jason Kidd.
“Yeah absolutely,” he said. Harrison also added that everyone needs to “take a step back and do some soul searching,” ahead of next season. pic.twitter.com/mWokPzRds0
— Prabhat Seelamsetti (@PrabSeelamsetti) April 11, 2023
Scoring was never a problem for this team, but defense is what killed their season. After being one of the league’s best in defense just a year ago, the Mavericks have to find ways to return to a similar defensive stature.
Overall Grade: C
The Mavericks obviously fell far short of their expectations, it is no stretch to say the season was disastrous strictly in terms of playing basketball. However, there were multiple positives to turn to in light of a disappointing year.
However you look at it, the addition of Irving to the Mavericks’ roster is undoubtedly the teams biggest success of the season. In a league dominated by scoring, having two of the premiere scorers will never be a negative. As seen with other teams, however, the supporting cast is equally as important.
Additionally, the development of Jaden Hardy was a welcome sight for fans. Losing Brunson in the offseason was a role that many felt would hurt the Mavericks offensively.
The organization’s decision to sit players in the last three games was one that was met with heavy controversy and frustration, fans and media alike. The Mavericks will now retain their top-ten lottery pick, but it is yet to see if that pick will pan out similar to the way Hardy did.
(Photo Retrieved via Sunstar Network)
Considering the moves the Mavericks made in the offseason and prior to All-Star break, it begs the question if deliberately tanking for a lottery pick was worth missing out on a chance to compete in one of the most closely contested Western Conferences in years.
For these reasons, the Mavericks season from a holistic standpoint earns a grade of a flat C. Solid acquisitions and moves were made but a handful of things need to be cleaned up, and above all, a repeat of this year’s play absolutely cannot continue next season.
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