SocraticGadfly: Can the Mavs really make the NBA West finals without Powell?

January 24, 2020

Can the Mavs really make the NBA West finals without Powell?

ESPN's Seth Greenberg said recently he believes they can.

But, several things have to happen.

Well, two big things.

First, Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis must learn to play together more.

Part of this is the Unicorn still knocking bits of rust off plus adjusting to a new team. I know that without anybody at Red Satan telling me. But, he shot much better during Luka’s recent ankle-sprain absence.

Spacing is surely part of the issue.  But shot selection is too. I will tackle this in more detail in a separate post next week.

Let's just say for now that, if the Unicorn is going to be getting even more minutes for the rest of the year, he's got to become a better shooter. And that doesn't mean just, or even primarily, on the 3-ball. (Hint to Carlisle: It means making him the best player he can be with his skill set, and the best complement to All-Star Game starter Doncic. Period.)

Second, per WHY he'll be getting more minutes?

The team has to find something on options to replace Dwight Powell blowing out his Achilles:

If that doesn't happen? That means reset time. If the Mavericks don't finish higher than No. 6, they're likely facing the Clips or the Nuggets in the first round and not even getting to the second. (If they finish No. 8, they're of course facing the Lakers.)

What are their options besides more Zinger time?

Hoops Rumors says they're kicking the tires on Joakim Noah, first. I agree that he's not optimal. Or close. Out of the league this year after just 42 games at 16.5 minutes per, last year. The trending on Twitter didn't like it either, with alternative suggestions such as Tyson Chandler (barely playing, but Rockets won't trade him to the Mavs) or former Mavs stiff Salah Mejri. No, neither of them is a real improvement over Noah.

Willie Cauley-Stein is "nice," but has different tools than does Powell. Ditto on Tristan Thompson. The same is true for Noah, or his two alternatives, for that matter. While Powell wasn't a big 3-baller, none of that trio is a threat outside 15 feet, period.

(Update: Mark Cuban apparently thinks Willie IS the answer.)

The other options are even worse.

So, that means getting more out of Maxi Kleber as well as the Unicorn. On D as well as O. That said, he just might have the potential, and might embrace the opportunity for a breakthrough.

There's another issue at hand. Kleber is younger than any of those stiffs above AND he is signed for the next three years after this. The team and fans have no idea what time next year Powell will come back, and in what playing condition. So, for not only the rest of this year but beyond, it's time to see what Maxi really has.

Otherwise, on that side of the ball?

Seth Curry is not bad.

J.J. Barea is not good, and while not necessarily horrible, never has been good. So far, Jalen Brunson doesn't grade out well, though he is a good add on the offensive side. Tim Hardaway Jr. is OK at best. Luka has improved since last year on overall D.

Otherwise, I think the continued development of Dorian Finney-Smith as a swingman on both sides of the ball at both the 3 and the 4 is going to be a key for the Mavs.

This is interesting to observe of a Rick Carlisle team, is the need for beefing up the D. They’re only 28th in the league in steals and, despite the height of the Zinger, and height elsewhere, only 22nd in blocks. Most of this lays to the guards, including Luka on the blocks side of that equation. They don’t have very good takeaway defense in particular or perimeter defense in general. That said, their overall defensive rating is 15th in the league.

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