As long as Luka Doncic is suiting up for the Dallas Mavericks, the team will have a legitimate shot to go on a postseason run. Just look at last season, when Doncic led the Mavs to a second-round upset over the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.
Doncic was masterful during the Suns series, scoring the Arizona club with 32.6 points, seven assists, and 9.9 rebounds over the seven-game series. Even more impressive was that Doncic found a way to blitz the box score against a Suns team with the league’s third-best regular season defensive rating.
While the Mavericks ultimately fell to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the deep playoff run was just a taste of what should be a flourishing NBA career for Doncic.
And he’s already expecting another lengthy postseason run, this time setting his sights on being the best in the West. Doncic knows it won’t be easy and knows it will require even more of him and his teammates. To that end, Doncic made a strong plea to his Dallas peers.
“My expectation is to make it to the [NBA] Finals, first of all,” Doncic said on ESPN on September 22. “I know it’s gonna be really, really hard, but we gotta believe, everybody’s gotta believe it. And if the whole team believes, then it can probably happen, but it’s gonna be really hard.”
Doncic might be hedging his bets a little in that quote. But it would make sense to enter the season with some skepticism after Dallas’ offseason.
Dallas’ Roster Labeled ‘Underwhelming’ by Expert
Next season’s Mavericks team projects to look slightly different than last season’s Western Conference Finals iteration. For starters, the starting five should benefit from the addition of a healthy Tim Hardaway, Jr. Hardway finished with 14.2 points per game before going out after 42 games with a season-ending injury.
The Mavericks also added centers Javale McGee and Christian Wood to the rotation, who should provide strong offensive options at the five for Doncic to run through.
But the biggest difference will be the absence of Jalen Brunson. Brunson, Doncic’s backcourt teammate, departed Dallas for the New York Knicks this summer. It’s a huge loss, especially considering how well Brunson ran the offense during periods when Doncic was out with injury. In his stead comes Spencer Dinwiddie, certainly a downgrade over Brunson.
At the end of the day, a roster in need of strengthening only looks…different. It remains to be seen whether Wood and McGee are real difference makers, but after news that Wood will come off the bench for Dallas was reported, one analyst panned the roster.
“If Wood indeed ends up coming off the bench, this starting lineup seems very underwhelming,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz on September 22.
The lackluster summer wasn’t enough to move the Mavericks firmly into “contender” status. But that doesn’t mean Dallas can’t replicate as a sleeper.
Mavericks Named a Top “Sleeper” Next Season
The Mavs proved last season that they are the most dangerous when the league counts them out. And with the roster constructed as is, the team might once again have to embrace the underdog narrative.
But is Dallas capable of going on another postseason run? As long as Doncic is healthy, there’s no question.
“The simple truth behind the Mavericks’ standing as sleepers is this: They could be scary good, and they simply aren’t regarded that way,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report.
In the alternative, Dallas could jump out to an early lead, building on last season’s great finish. If they do, it will be because Doncic and head coach Jason Kidd found a way to make the sum greater than its parts in Dallas.