Dallas Mavericks X-Factor: Kristaps Porzingis

As the NBA season approaches and the preseason comes to a close, we’ll be taking a look at the player on each team that holds the key to unlocking their full potential.

In Dallas, it is their supposed second star, Kristaps Porzingis, who has yet to create the 1-2 punch with Luka Doncic the Mavs had hoped when they traded for he and Tim Hardaway Jr. two years ago. For the Mavs to be the contender they believe they should be with an MVP-caliber star in Doncic, the new coaching staff led by Jason Kidd is going to have to figure out how to get Porzingis more involved in ways that he’s comfortable.

Porzingis has lamented the way he has been used in Dallas, reportedly feeling like an afterthought as he would often find himself stationed as a spot-up shooter to provide Doncic with the room to work as a ball-dominant force. Finding a little more balance is going to be necessary if Porzingis is going to buy in, but it comes with the added difficulty of getting Doncic on board with having a little less control over the offense. It’s clear how Porzingis can make an impact with Doncic given the production next to each other in the regular season (20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds per game on 44.8/36.2/81.7 shooting the last two regular seasons), but last playoffs against the Clippers saw Porzingis fade to the periphery (13.1 points, 5.7 rebounds per game), in part due to clearly not being 100 percent health-wise.

The Mavs made an effort to add some more shooting this offseason, most notably with the addition of Reggie Bullock, but for the most part this is a team that looks an awful lot like last year’s squad with a new coach at the helm. That means improvement has to come internally and the biggest area of need is for their second star to look the part, which falls on the shoulders of Porzingis, Kidd, and Doncic to all do what’s needed to buy in and find the chemistry and fit that has been lacking when it matters most. A lot of that will come down to trust between Doncic and Porzingis, because if this season ends with another early exit and struggles by Porzingis, a shakeup will be necessary next summer.