Judging by the major offseason changes they made, the big buzz around the Dallas Mavericks is that this very well could be the year they qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The additions of center/forward Kristaps Porzingis, guards Seth Curry and Delon Wright, and center Boban Marjanovic are reasons why the Mavs think they have checked all the boxes they need to in order to become a legitimate addition to the playoff conversation.
“People are justifiably excited — we’re excited internally,” coach Rick Carlisle told Mavs.com. “A big part of my job is to manage expectations on a day-to-day basis, but I’ll just say that the excitement is justified.
“This is going to be a fun team to watch, this is going to be a fun team to watch develop over time. The really exciting part of it is the depth that we have at all positions.”
Indeed, the Mavs are at least two-deep at every position with quality talent. And it’s not just the depth that has the Mavs as an intriguing team in a Western Conference that once again is stacked with a slew of top-shelf playoff-caliber squads.
It’s also the fact that outside of 35-year old JJ Barea, 33-year old Courtney Lee and the 31-year old Marjanovic, the rest of the Mavs are 29 years old or younger.
“I’m excited about our team,” Barea said. “We’re young, talented, big, small – we’ve got it all.
“It’s going to be a super fun season. Me and coach are going to really make a point of making it fun and win some games.”
While the Mavs will open Media Day on Monday and training camp on Tuesday without the legendary Dirk Nowitzki for the first time since the 1997-98 season, they know that pairing Porzingis with guard Luka Doncic gives them one of the most promising one-two punches in the NBA.
“Luka and KP fit together extremely well,” said Carlisle, whose team was 33-49 last season. “They’re both inside-outside players and they both do many things to compliment each other, as well as the other guys on the team.
“The possibilities are exciting.”
Doncic is coming off a magnificent season where he burst onto the scene and finished with head-turning averages of 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists while capturing NBA Rookie of the Year honors in runaway fashion. The 20-year old also lost approximately 20 pounds over the summer, which should make him much faster and more effective at both ends of the court as he gets on the same page with Porzingis.
“I hope we can do a lot of damage,” Doncic said in reference to playing alongside Porzingis. “We’re two young kids and we want to just play.
“We’ve got a lot of great teammates – they’re going to help us.”
By the time the Mavs open regular season play on Oct. 23 with a home game against the Washington Wizards, it will have been over 20 months since Porzingis last played in a game. The 7-3 talent from Latvia tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a Feb. 6, 2018 game while he was a member of the New York Knicks.
Before the injury, Porzingis averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while shooting a healthy 39.5 percent from 3-point range during the 2017-‘18 season. Those accolades netted him a berth on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Porzingis, 24, underwent surgery, then was traded to the Mavs on Jan. 31 this year, then re-signed by Dallas to a five-year, $158-million contract this summer. Now, the Mavs are giddy about what kind of damage Doncic and Porzingis can do to opposing teams.
“Those two could be the best duo in the league if they get it right,” Barea said. “If they help each other out, if they support each other and respect each other, they’re going to have a great time.”
Forward Justin Jackson has no doubt that Porzingis will live up to his moniker of being the Unicorn. A swiss Army knife type of player who can beat an opponent in multiple ways.
“He’s 7-3, he can shoot it from three, he can make plays off the dribble and do all those little things,” Jackson said. “I think he adds, obviously, a lot more length to us defensively — kind of that presence down low.
“You add that to a nucleus of guys that we already have, and you add his skill set and his talent, I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
The Mavs also hope to have some additional fun after welcoming back Curry and signing him to a four-year free agent contract this summer. Curry had his best season when he averaged 12.8 points and shot 48.1 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from 3-point range for the Mavs during the 2016-17 campaign.
However, Curry sat out the entire 2017-’18 season and had to undergo surgery that involved a stress reaction of his left tibia. Curry eventually played last season for Portland, where he averaged 7.9 points and shot 45 percent from beyond the 3-point arc and was a major factor on a Trail Blazers’ squad that advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
“Seth is a great scorer and is one of the best shooters in the game,” Carlisle said. “His driving and finishing ability are underrated, his passing gets better every year, and defensively he took a real step forward last year with Portland.
“He stepped it up and did some great things picking the ball up full-court and really fighting the guys that he guarded. It’s a guy that we know from his two years before. We’re very proud of the fact that he probably had his most important breakout year with us three years ago.”
In addition to Porzingis and Curry, the Mavs are also excited to have Wright, a 6-5 rangy and versatile point guard who can cover a lot of territory.
“He’s a guard that can guard point guards, and he can play with and without the ball,” Carlisle said. “He drives it, he’s smart, he has length, and in the pickup games I love the way that he’s mixed in with our guys.
“He has a real good feel for how to play with the guys on our roster.”
The other major offseason addition for the Mavs is Marjanovic, a massive 7-3, 290-pounder who split time last season between the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers. Add rookie second-round pick Isaiah Roby to the mix, and the Mavs believe they made enough offseason moves to put their three-year run of playoff omissions to an immediate halt.
Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Barea should be fully recovered by the time training camp starts. Hardaway underwent surgery on Apr. 18 to address a stress injury to his left tibia, while Barea had surgery on Jan. 14 to repair a torn right Achilles tendon and told Mavs.com that he has no restrictions going into training camp.
In the meantime, Jackson admitted that he’s “expecting huge things” from the Mavs this season.
“We’ll definitely be playing for something this year,” he said. “Obviously our main goal is to make it to the playoffs and get better each and every day trying to do that, and then hopefully see wherever that puts us.
“But I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, we’ve got a young group that enjoys being around each other and enjoys playing with each other. I think that’ll be very key going into this season — just having fun and trying to win as many games as we can.”
And hopefully, Carlisle acknowledged, however many wins the Mavs are able to secure this season, it’ll be enough to get them an invitation to the postseason party.
“We really like the roster that we have in place,” Carlisle said. “I don’t like to put numbers — try to put numeric predictions on wins or anything like that — but our players are excited for the challenge.
“We’re a franchise that is a championship franchise that is ready to move back into the playoff hunt.”
Here’s the preseason schedule for the Dallas Mavericks for the 2019-’20 season.
|Tues.||Oct. 8||Oklahoma City||7 pm||Tulsa, Okla.||BOK Center||ESPN/103.3 FM/1270 AM|
|Wed.||Oct. 9||Detroit||6 pm||Detroit||Little Caesars Arena||FSSW/103.3 FM/1270 AM|
|Fri.||Oct. 11||Milwaukee||7:30 pm||Dallas||American Airlines Center||FSSW/103.3 FM/1270 AM|
|Mon.||Oct. 14||Oklahoma City||7:30 pm||Dallas||American Airlines Center||FSSW/103.3 FM/1270 AM|
|Thurs.||Oct. 17||L.A. Clippers||9:30 pm||Vancouver, Canada||Rogers Arena||FSSW/NBATV/103.3 FM/1270 AM