Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors proved too much for the Dallas Mavericks to overcome in the Western Conference Finals with an NBA Finals appearance at stake. Can they take the next step in 2022-23?
The Mavericks finished the 2021-22 regular season with a 52-30 record, which was good for fourth place in the Western Conference. Dallas lost Jalen Brunson in free agency but added Christian Wood, JaVale McGee and Jaden Hardy.
What are the expectations for the Mavericks? Some pundits appear to be anticipating a step backwards amid mounting competition in the Western Conference on top of Brunson’s departure. Others see it differently.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “NBA Today” Thursday, Luka Doncic told Malika Andrews that his expectation for the Mavericks is to reach the NBA Finals.
“My expectation is to make it to [NBA] First of all, the final,” said Doncic. “I know it’s going to be very, very difficult, but we have to believe, everyone has to believe. And if the whole team believes, then it can probably happen, but it’s going to be really difficult.”
It’s a challenge to bet against a team led by such a dynamic playoff player as Doncic. He regularly hosts a master class performing pick and rolls and attacking switches in isolation. He is also very effective at using double teams and hedge and recover techniques.
Put simply, Doncic is a rare talent. Surrounding him with as much shooting as possible is a winning formula. Adding a center as talented as Wood could have a significant impact. A larger rim roller like McGee should also help. First of all, there is more size to topple the boards.
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There’s still a potential issue with the Mavericks’ depth of cover. They thrived after taking on Spencer Dinwiddie midseason because they finally presented a guard rotation with three competent options. Is there enough depth in that regard after Brunson’s departure?
It remains to be seen how Wood will handle the sixth man role. However, he has dynamic stretch five skills that could be maximized playing alongside Doncic if all goes accordingly. It’s the kind of combo that lifts a ceiling.
For any NBA team, injuries play a key role in how a playoff run will ultimately play out, and the Mavericks are no exception. It’s also unclear what moves a team or its competitors will be making midseason. Having Doncic and some key pieces makes up a big part of their prospects for now.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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