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Dallas Mavericks 2021-22 Season Preview: Can Luka And Co. Make A Leap?

The Dallas Mavericks, for the second year in a row, lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Los Angeles Clippers. In the aftermath, the team went through a bit of a shakeup, adding some players to its roster (although most of them are rotation guys and not the kinds of superstars that can change a team overnight) while making changes in its front office and with its head coach. The good news for Dallas is that might be enough — Luka Doncic is so good that any sort of progress he makes could catapult him directly into the best player in the world discussion. The bad news is if it things don’t work out and they find themselves wondering why they can’t move on in the postseason, perhaps the Mavs will find themselves needing to make even bigger changes next summer.

Roster:

Moses Brown
Sterling Brown
Jalen Brunson
Reggie Bullock
Trey Burke
Willie Cauley-Stein
Luka Doncic
Dorian Finney-Smith
Josh Green
Feron Hunt
Carlik Jones
Maxi Kleber
Boban Marjanovic
JaQuori McLaughlin (two-way)
Frank Ntilikina
Eugene Omoruyi (two-way)
Kristaps Porzingis
Dwight Powell
Tyrell Terry

Projected Vegas Win Total: 47.5 wins

Biggest Addition: Reggie Bullock

Bullock comes to Dallas after a strong stint with the New York Knicks. The team places a premium on the guys they put around Luka Doncic, and Bullock is the kind of three-and-D threat who should be able to thrive next to the All-NBA playmaker. If he can meet the shooting benchmarks he hit with the Knicks last season — 44.2 percent of his field goals, 41 percent of his threes, 90.9 percent of his free throws — he’s going to fit like a glove in his new digs.

Biggest Loss: Rick Carlisle

While the biggest loss to the roster is probably Josh Richardson, he never seemed to quite fit. As such, the biggest loss is probably Carlisle, who left the team on his own accord and before deciding to return to the Indiana Pacers as head coach. There had been plenty of rumors about Carlisle butting heads with Luka Doncic, but the dude knows how to coach up a team and win games. In his place is Jason Kidd, whose head coaching career has been less-than-stellar. Has he grown enough as a coach during his time as an assistant with the Lakers that he can make this work? Or will the Mavs find themselves wishing they were able to make things work with Carlisle?

Biggest Question: Can Kristaps Porzingis be the No. 2 the Mavs imagined when they got him?

A whole lot of people got jokes off last postseason about Kristaps Porzingis being a throw-in in the trade that brought Tim Hardaway Jr. to Dallas. This is absolutely not a knock on Hardaway, who is a very good basketball player, but considering Porzingis got a hefty payday after the trade and was viewed as the guy who would take over games alongside Doncic, it’s a bit eyebrow-raising.

In fairness, Porzingis spent last year working his way back from knee surgery, but he has a way to go to look like the kind of second banana who can help take Dallas to the promised land in the postseason. The Clippers, so eager to go small and switch like crazy, were the worst matchup for him in round one and it showed — Porzingis averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while hitting 29.6 percent of his threes in the series. He needs to be better, particularly when the postseason rolls around. Can he be the kind of rim protecting big and floor spacer that he looked like he was going to be in New York? If not, can the Mavs get to where they want to go with so much riding on his shoulders?

What Makes This Season A Success: Getting past the first round of the playoffs. It’s not exactly Dallas’ fault that it ran into Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers in back-to-back postseasons, and they deserve credit for giving them really good, competitive series both times despite being led by a player as young as Doncic. But it’s now time for them to take that next step, and they very much have the chance to do that with Doncic and the cast of players surrounding him.

What Makes This Season A Failure: Barely making the playoffs and getting bounced in the first round again. The Western Conference is going to be a grind, and while this Dallas team is going to be good, missing the playoffs is possible if only because it’s possible for just about everyone in the conference. Doncic is so good and there is enough talent here that they should be able to make it in, but the Mavs would not be content with making it and having a short playoff stint again. It’s been a decade since they last made it out of the first round, the expectation is that changes this year.

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