The Mavericks are one-quarter of the way through the season.

They can only hope that they also are just one-quarter of what their finished product will look like.

Hitting the 20-game mark typically means the NBA season is one-quarter done. It’s usually the first legitimate point in the season where we can take stock of how the Mavericks have done. There’s enough water under the bridge that it’s no longer a knee-jerk reaction.

Trends in place now often stay there the rest of the season.

Let’s assume that’s not the case in this instance.

This season, the 20-game mark, which the Mavericks hit Saturday night against Phoenix, actually is more than one-quarter of the season, which has been shortened to 72 games, down from the customary 82.

Technically, 18 games was the 25-percent mark of the season. But why quibble?

So what have we learned about the Mavericks?

Let’s review five of the key points that the Mavericks had going into the season and how they have done so far in those areas.



This was the priority from the first day that players convened in training camp. Coach Rick Carlisle stressed that while having the most efficient offense in NBA history was a lot of fun last season, it only got the Mavericks to the first round of the playoffs.

To go further, the other end of the court had to improve.

So the braintrust brought in some well-regarded defensive players in Josh Richardson and James Johnson. They drafted Josh Green, who was raised on the importance of defense. And the returning talent had it drilled into their heads that defense would be the best way to move up in the Western Conference. Do the dirty work on defense, particularly when it comes to communicating and helping each other and good things will eventually happen.

The message stuck – for a while.

The Mavericks were in the top five in the league in defensive rating until the COVID-19 quarantines hit and they were without many of their best defenders.

So they reached the quarter mark of the season in the bottom half of the league in overall defensive rating, very near the spot they resided last season.

“It just comes down to focus,” James Johnson said. “And sustaining that for a whole game instead of one quarter or two quarters. If we take heed of what happened, we can be better going forward.”

The two games in Utah last week were vivid examples of what the Mavericks need to improve upon. The Jazz ran the high pick-and-roll relentlessly and the Mavericks never did figure it out. Kristaps Porzingis and others were left dangling in no-man’s land too often while Jazz shooters feasted.

It has to change or the year is going to get very, very long.



This one would be a big, fat no.

Tim Hardaway Jr. had a great comment on the state of the NBA last week when he said: “It seems like everybody’s best defense is the virus at this point in time. If it affects your team, it shows. We’re a perfect example of that.”

It certainly has impacted the Mavericks, who lost five players for significant stretches to the virus and the subsequent health and safety protocols that the NBA has commendably enforced. Not having Josh Richardson, who looked like an excellent acquisition in the first couple weeks, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell left this team in disarray, even if Luka Dončić was doing his thing.

The Mavericks had one game postponed and played eight others without their best defenders. But that’s no excuse for the next expectation we had coming into the season.



Hardly an interview session goes by that coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t use the words “disposition,” “force” and “communication.”

Those are all foundation pieces to get a team locked in on defense and playing to its potential, even if that potential might be minimized by players who are missing.

The good news is that we saw how good the Mavericks can be when they do things the right way, help each other defensively and share the ball – really share the ball – on the offensive end.

The problem is that the ball has stopped too frequently on the offensive end lately. And the defense has been a flat-out disaster as they allowed nine consecutive opponents to score at least 112 points going into Friday night’s tussle with Phoenix.

The Mavericks went 2-7 in those games.



Maybe this one slipped under your radar, but the Mavericks have reached the point in their rebuild where they need to wear out the free-throw line. And so far, they’ve done that by going to the stripe.

When you have Dončić, you need to make a living at the line and the Mavericks have averaged nearly 24 trips per game, eighth in the league.

“It’s obviously it’s a big part of Doncic’s greatness,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. “He has a great knack for creating contact, getting people off balance and getting to the free-throw line.”

Unfortunately, their making fewer than 75 percent of those shots, which ranks no better than 23rd in the league.

Also worth noting: opponents are shooting nearly 25 free throws per game.



Part of being a better defensive team means capping a stop with a rebound.

Hasn’t happened.

The Mavericks on one defensive possession at Utah gave up four offensive rebounds to the Jazz, ending with a dunk by Rudy Gobert.

That’s the sort of inattention to detail that gets a team in a four-game losing streak like the Mavericks were on before Saturday.

Carlisle calls rebounding possession of the ball and you can’t argue with Luka, who is averaging nearly 10 boards per game.

The problem comes when you miss a lot of 3-point shots, like the Mavericks have, it creates long rebounds and chances for opponents to get the ball on the run for easy opportunities.

It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be reversed, like a lot of the problems the Mavericks have had so far.

Twitter: @ESefko

Share and comment

More Mavs News