30 Teams in 30 Days

2020-21 NBA Season Preview: How far can MVP candidate Luka Doncic take the Dallas Mavericks?

The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 22. To get you ready for the year to come, we'll be dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.

Today, the Dallas Mavericks take the spotlight.

2019-20 season record

43-32, 7th in Western Conference

Notable additions

Josh Green, No. 18 pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Tyrell Terry, No. 31 pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Tyler Bey, No. 36 pick in 2020 NBA Draft

Josh Richardson, Trade

James Johnson, Trade

Wes Iwundu, Free agency

Notable departures

Seth Curry, Trade

Delon Wright, Trade

Justin Jackson, Trade

J.J. Barea, Free agency

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Free agency

Courtney Lee, Free agency

Depth chart

Starter Second Third Fourth
PG Luka Doncic Jalen Brunson Trey Burke
SG Tim Hardaway Jr. Josh Green Tyrell Terry
SF Josh Richardson Dorian Finney-Smith Wes Iwundu Tyler Bey
PF Kristaps Porzingis Maxi Kleber James Johnson
C Dwight Powell Willie Cauley-Stein Boban Marjanovic

3 key storylines

Can Doncic win MVP?

Following an impressive first NBA season where Luka Doncic more than lived up to the hype, earning Rookie of the Year while putting the entire league on notice, the 21-year-old somehow exceeded expectations again in Year 2.

Averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, Doncic was a legitimate MVP candidate in a season he earned his first-ever All-Star bid (as a starter, nonetheless) and First Team All-NBA nod. He led the league with 17 triple-doubles and his first playoffs performance didn't disappoint, either.

Dropping 42 points to go with nine assists and seven rebounds in his playoff debut, Doncic was just giving NBA fans a taste of what to expect in the future. He'd later top that performance with a triple-double of 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, capped off by a game-winning buzzer-beater that set the basketball world on fire.

His Mavericks may have been eliminated shortly thereafter, but it sets the stage for another breakout season in Year 3. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Doncic is currently the favourite to win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award in 2020-21, meaning he'd be chasing Derrick Rose for the youngest MVP (22) in league history should that projection come to fruition.

If Doncic can lead Dallas toward the top of the Western Conference, winning MVP is a reasonable goal for the Slovenian superstar.

Getting Porzingis back to 100%

Just a few weeks ago, Mavericks president Donnie Nelson announced the team will be without star forward Kristaps Porzingis for the start of the 2020-21 season. Porzingis is still rehabilitating from the surgery to repair the torn meniscus he suffered in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

"We're going to make sure that that's 100 percent before we put him out there, so that's going to be into the season before we are able to have him join us," Nelson told 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas, stating that the team is targeting a Jan. 1 date for Porzingis to be cleared to resume basketball activity.

This delivers a blow to the Mavericks start of the season, losing a player who was stellar in his first year in Dallas. Averaging 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, the 25-year-old once again showed flashes of the former All-Star we saw prior to suffering a torn ACL back with the New York Knicks. He was equally as great in the first three playoff games of his career, with his last outing being a 34-point, 13-rebound double-double playing on the torn meniscus.

It's crucial the Mavericks take their time with his return as the tandem of Doncic and Porzingis has the potential to be among the best in the league. When Dallas is back at full strength, they have all the pieces in place to contend in the tough Western Conference. Until then, they'll rely on a mix of Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Willie Cauley-Stein and Boban Marjanovic to fill that void.

The supporting cast

While the majority of the Mavericks supporting cast returns from last season there are some key new additions in players like Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Wes Iwundu along with rookies Josh Green, Tyrell Terry and Tyler Bey.

In looking at that list, Dallas' intentions are clear in furthering what they already had in place - athletic wings with position flexibility and guys that can score the rock.

Richardson adds a defensive-minded wing to pair with Tim Hardaway Jr. in the starting lineup alongside Doncic. Johnson adds some physical toughness to the bench and Iwundu is another versatile wing who can defend and score a bit.

In my opinion, the Mavericks hit on all three of their draft picks as players with legitimate potential to succeed in the NBA. Green was one of the best 3-and-D prospects in the draft and has the size and polished skillset to thrive immediately in the NBA. Terry may take a little time to adjust to the league's physicality, but he was without a doubt one of the best pure scorers in the draft. Bey was the most athletic player in the draft class, setting an NBA Combine record with his 44-inch vertical and also has a 7-foot wingspan, making him an intriguing small-ball big.

Adding these players to a core supporting cast that included players like Powell, Kleber, Finney-Smith, Cauley-Stein, Marnjanovic, Jalen Brunson and Trey Burke and you're looking at one of the deepest rosters in the NBA.

5 games to watch

Note: The 2020-21 NBA schedule will be announced in early Dec.

Dec. 25 at Los Angeles Lakers

Luka Doncic versus his favourite player growing up, LeBron James. Who could forget last season's matchup where Doncic dropped a 31-15-13 triple-double only to be topped by LeBron's 39-16-12 triple-double? For the remainder of James' career, every matchup between these two will be in the headlines.

Dec. 27 at LA Clippers

The Clippers bounced the Mavericks out of the playoffs in the first round last season, but it was a different Dallas team with several injuries, including Kristaps Porzingis for the final three games of the series. The Mavericks will be out for revenge and are certainly circling this matchup on their calendar when the NBA schedule is released.

Jan. 7 at Denver Nuggets

Doncic and Porzingis versus Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. The NBA's top international duos are on display in this matchup and these are teams that could very likely see each other come playoff time, too.

Feb. 3 at Atlanta Hawks

When the Hawks traded Doncic for Trae Young on draft night, swapping one incredibly talented prospect for another, it linked these two players together for the rest of their careers. They're both progressing nicely, each earning their first-ever All-Star bids as starters last season, and any time they suit up against one another it's always going to be a show.

Feb 4 vs. Golden State Warriors

Because of the various injuries Stephen Curry suffered last season, we've still only seen two meetings between two of the league's most entertaining players in Doncic and Curry. In one of those meetings during Doncic's rookie season, Curry put the young star in his place, going off for 48 points. Two seasons later with Doncic progressing the way he has been, you'd have to imagine he's eager to pay it back to the two-time MVP.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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