Boy, that Luka Doncic guy is really good, isn’t he? The Dallas Mavericks expected to be a potential playoff squad this season, but thanks to Doncic morphing into one of the best basketball players on Earth during his second year in the league, the team currently sits at 19-10, good for fifth in the Western Conference.
But the last couple of games, Doncic has been out, dealing with an ankle sprain he suffered against the Miami Heat 10 days ago. As you can guess, the team’s holiday wishlist puts an emphasis on making sure the team gets Wonder Boy back onto the floor.
#1: Get Luka Doncic Healthy
Doncic has been the biggest reason for this team’s success. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate, and with him at the helm of this squad, Dallas has serious aspirations of becoming a contender in the Western Conference going forward. We have not, however, seen him suit up since he went down with an ankle injury on Dec. 14.
The Mavs are 2-3 in that time, and it does sound like Doncic might be able to make a return sooner than anticipated — original reports indicated he could be out a couple of weeks, but he’s already practicing with the team. It goes without saying, but a healthy Luka Doncic changes everything for Dallas, and if the franchise had one Christmas wish above everything else, it’d be getting him back and better than ever. (The concept of Doncic being better than ever, of course, is terrifying.)
#2: Kristaps Porzingis to keep playing like Doncic is out
In essentially five games without Doncic, Porzingis is averaging 22.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. He was averaging right around 17 points and nine board a game without him, and the only reason he hasn’t had five straight 20-10 games is because Porzingis scored 19 points against Toronto on Sunday.
The Mavericks gave Porzingis a max contract without ever seeing him take the floor in their uniform, and while there were certainly some growing pains, he has looked like a potentially good investment alongside Doncic — per Cleaning the Glass, lineups Dallas throws out that include those two are outscoring opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions, putting them in the 84th percentile of all lineups league-wide. If Porzingis can keep playing like this and Doncic doesn’t slow down upon his return, they could get even more dangerous, a potentially horrifying thought for the league in the short and long-term.
#3: Now or later?
Every year, there’s one or two NBA teams that finds themselves slightly ahead of schedule. Dallas could be one of those teams — the squad is a mere 4.5 games back of first place in the Western Conference, and while there was plenty of chatter about how this team could be good, being in this position a third of the way through the season is still a bit of a surprise.
Mark Cuban understands as well as any owner that all it takes is one special season and you can win a ring. The question to answer is whether this has the potential to be one of those seasons, and if so, if they have enough to go star hunting on the trade market, especially after they got rid of a few picks to get Porzingis last year. And if this is merely the start of things to come, perhaps cashing in whatever chips they have to get someone right now is making things go a little too fast.
Dallas is really good. If the front office decides that the window will open up in a year or two, then staying the course is the best move. But if that’s opening right now, then perhaps the Mavs will be buyers on the market in the lead up to the trade deadline on Feb. 6.