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RECONSTRUCTED: A Preview of the 2020-21 Dallas Mavericks

Checking the temperatures in Dallas, Texas today as a cold snap covers much of the South.

Yep. 54 degrees. Fairly typical for this time of year. 

Tell me why, then, are the Dallas Mavericks sitting on their hands? Making me almost call this piece, DECONSTRUCTED: A Preview of the 2020-21 Dallas Mavericks.

In the flurry of free agency moves, the Mavericks have thus far proven the adage that when others move and you stand still, you lag behind. 

They shoot horses that do that, don’t they?

HEAD COACHRick Carlisle
2019-20 RECORD43-32  (.573)
2nd in the Southwest Division
7th in the Western Conference
DRAFT PICKSJosh Green (18) – Tyrell Terry (31) – Tyler Bey (36)(via trade)
FREE AGENCY GAINSJosh Richardson – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist*

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM 2019-20: One of the most concerning things about last season is how much Kristaps Porzingis sat, missing 18 of the team’s 75 games. Given his 20.4 points and 9.5 rebounds, the Mavericks could have conceivably finished better than seventh in the Western Conference. Luka Doncic missed 14 games, and while Porzingis played decently in Doncic’s absence, it was akin to watching the European version of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – you rarely were treated to a full season of both players healthy and playing.

GRADING THE COACH:  There’s really never been any question as to Rick Carlisle’s ability to coach, especially in Dallas where – after going 12 seasons in Dallas with a 513-448 record and a championship in 2010-11 – Carlisle is well respected by owner Mark Cuban and has job security. Carlisle was an above .500 head coach for two seasons in Detroit and four seasons in Indiana as well, so coaching is not the problem. He is .534 through a dozen with the Mavericks, and has only been sub-.500 three of those seasons.

GRADING THE DRAFT:  Arizona’s Josh Green (.424 and 12.0 points per game) is a nice pick up for the 18th pick of the draft. They also nabbed Tyrell Terry (.441 and 14.6 ppg) from Stanford, and rounded out the 2020 NBA Draft with what might have been a steal for them – Colorado’s Tyler Bey (.419 and 13.8 points a night), by way of a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Bey came over as a collegiate junior, while Green and Terry were freshmen, so you might see more of them playing in Frisco than American Airlines Center.

GRADING FREE AGENCY:  The chance to land Josh Richardson via trade with Philadelphia isn’t quite the third superstar shot in the arm that Dallas needed, but neither is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who came over to the Mavericks for 13 games last season, and has underwhelmed for most of his NBA career. Richardson spent all of 55 games with the Sixers, and while the #VFL certainly never underwhelmed, I highly doubt he’s the guy to carry the team when Porzingis or Doncic sit – and, believe me, they will. J-Rich was improving year over year in Miami, and leveled out as the sixth or seventh option in Philadelphia. He has a .426 shooting percentage and 12.4 points a night guy, whose rebound numbers and assist numbers are pretty much the same at about four each a night. MKG has worn a Charlotte jersey for eight years before joining the Mavs over the summer, for play in the bubble. A .475 career shooter, his best years were in 2014-15 and 2015-16, which is why he was available going into the games in Orlando. His career numbers are in the single digits. That doesn’t help the Mavericks much if their goal is to get back to the NBA Finals after a decade.

STRENGTHS:  There’s no doubt, and I’m sure no one will dispute, that Luka Doncic is ‘the next LeBron James,’ as in the next generational face of the NBA. But stallions like Doncic can also wear down as we saw last season. It would be nice to see his and Porzingis’ experience finally mesh into the cohesion everyone saw when they put the duo together. But a colleague and I were discussing this recently and neither of us see Porzingis playing more than 42-45 games of the Mavs’ 76 game schedule this season.

OPPORTUNITIES:  Taken the above paragraph into consideration, the Mavericks need another star caliber player if they plan to climb into contention for the Conference’s Top Five. Right now that looks like both L.A. teams, Phoenix, Golden State, and Denver’s, which places Dallas right back at six or seven in the West. As much as J-Rich is my guy, from two of my favorite places – Edmond, Oklahoma and the University of Tennessee – and has some upside, he’s not the guy. Not alone. They need another piece.

PREDICTED FINISH (DIVISION/CONFERENCE):  46-26 and sixth in the Western Conference when all the dust settles. And if they’re worse than that, call for Donnie Nelson’s head, not Rick Carlisle’s.

********************

Tracy Graven is a Senior NBA Analyst for BackSportsPage.com.
He has written the NBA, and done NBA radio, for the last two decades for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, and HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show and NBARadioShow.com, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 20 years in locker rooms in 

  • Orlando
  • Boise (G League) 
  • San Antonio
  • Phoenix
  • Denver
  • Oklahoma City
  • Atlanta 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia 

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