Dallas Mavericks 2020 Playoff Preview
Updated: Aug 16
The Dallas Mavericks enter the playoffs with a 43-32 record, a 10-win improvement on the previous season (while playing seven fewer games in total). By all accounts, this was a successful season, especially when considering that many thought they would be on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in. Luka Doncic's rise to stardom has propelled this team from a rebuilding phase to back to the perennial playoff team they were under Dirk Nowitzki.
One of the strengths of this team early on was their depth, however, as the season is nearing an end, the Mavericks find themselves somewhat limping to the finish line. They are without starting big man, Dwight Powell, and their backup point guard, Jalen Brunson. They also are without veteran wing, Courtney Lee, and mid-season acquisition big man, Willie Cauley-Stein. However, this team still has a more than capable supporting cast around Doncic to give any team in the league fits on any given night.
The team finished the season in the bubble as they did pre-pandemic, struggling to close out games, but still showing signs of potential. They went 3-5 with three of those games going into overtime and three of those losses by four points or less. The skill and ability is there, however the wisdom that comes with experience hasn't caught up yet.
Biggest Strength - Luka Doncic. While I was initially reluctant to put an actual player in this category, Doncic is the engine behind the NBA's most efficient offense. The Mavericks finished the season with an offensive rating of 115.9, which bests the previous record of 115 set by the Golden State Warriors last season. MVP frontrunner, Giannis Antetokounmpo, recently commented on how Doncic elevates his teammates, and it's easy to see that playing alongside Doncic, helps everyone else on the team.
Biggest Weakness - Delivering in the clutch. It's no secret that the Mavericks have struggled all season long with closing out games. Whether it is missed free throws, untimely turnovers, failing to snag just one more rebound, or relying on hitting shots from beyond the perimeter, this team has fans sweating bullets at the end of games. This weakness will only be exposed more in the playoffs, when every single game is important. You could also add in the team's defense here, they have a 111.7 defensive rating, which puts them in the bottom-half of the league.
Team's X-Factor - Three pointing shooting. In the NBA, if you live by the three, you'll eventually die by the three. The Mavericks attempt over 41 three-pointers a game, which is second-most in the league, behind the Houston Rockets 45 a game. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, except they are 10th in the league in made three-point attempts. If they can shoot even slightly better from behind the arc, this is going to be a tough team to outscore.
Players to Watch - Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Trey Burke. Finney-Smith and Kleber are the Mavericks most versatile defenders and the two who will be tasked with guarding the opposing teams' best players on a nightly basis. They both attempt 4.3 three's a game and hit at a rate higher than league average, so needless to say, these two guys may not be household names outside of Dallas, but they are vital parts on both sides of the ball for this team. Burke joined the team during the bubble and will serve as the backup point guard, but beyond that, his ability to score points in a hurry and willingness to do so, will prove to be a valuable asset to this team.
Estimated Playoff Run - Facing the Los Angeles Clippers is probably the worst-case scenario for this team. They have playoff experience and a toughness that the Mavericks currently lack. They also can deploy multiple good defenders aimed at slowing down Doncic. Everything would have to go right for the Mavericks, while a few things go wrong for the Clippers before the Mavericks have a true shot at making it out of the first-round. So, unfortunately, my prediction is that the Mavericks will have a first-round exit.