The Dallas Mavericks were never supposed to make the playoffs this season but expectations surrounding Rick Carlisle’s team called for a competitive showing and a full-season win total in the mid-to-high 30’s. For much of the season, those projections appeared prescient, as Luka Doncic and company operated at a highly competitive level and threatened to knock off any opponent on any night.
In fact, Dallas boasted a 23-27 record on Feb. 1 — when the team elected to pull the trigger on a future-facing deal involving Kristaps Porzingis — and there were was even optimism that the Mavericks would continue to be competitive after that trade came to fruition. Since then, however, that simply hasn’t been the case.
To be fair, the Mavericks actually won three out of their first five games after overhauling their roster, leaning in to the notion that the moves wouldn’t change their outlook to a tremendous degree. Since then, however, Dallas has been the worst team in the NBA and it isn’t particularly close. The Mavs have dropped 10 of 11 games and, during that period, the team has an unsightly -12.7 net rating (worst in the league) and a dismal defensive rating (117.0) that would make anyone blush.
Doncic hasn’t been the issue, as the Rookie of the Year favorite is averaging 22.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists (in 9 games) since the downturn began. The rest of the roster is a mess, though, and at least part of that is by design. Obviously, the biggest domino was the acquisition of an injured player in Porzingis and that was always going to make the team worse to some degree. With that said, Mavs owner Mark Cuban defiantly said in early February his team wouldn’t be “tanking” down the stretch of the season and that goes against what many believe to be happening at this point.
In short, the Mavericks do have some incentive to lose, as the franchise owes a top-five protected pick to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the deal involving Doncic and Trae Young from late June. Dallas has a five-game lead on Atlanta for the fifth-worst record in the NBA and, as such, it is wildly unlikely that the Mavericks will begin the draft lottery with a better chance to keep that pick than they have to convey it. Still, the Mavericks help their chances of vaulting into the top four if they can secure the No. 6 position and, well, there is little reason to believe that Dallas is going to turn things around with how they have played in recent days.
In an overall sense, this can’t be seen as a negative season for the Mavs, simply because Doncic looks like the player they dreamed he would be and Porzingis is on the way for the 2019-20 campaign. That doesn’t change how rough things have been recently, however, and the Mavs are treated as such in this week’s DIME power rankings.
Where does your favorite team land? Let’s find out.