The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Next up? The Dallas Mavericks.
2020-21 season record
42-30, 5th in Western Conference
Reggie Bullock, free agency
Sterling Brown, free agency
Frank Ntilikina, free agency
Moses Brown, trade
Josh Richardson, trade
JJ Redick, free agency
|PG||Luka Doncic||Jalen Brunson||Trey Burke|
|SG||Tim Hardaway Jr.||Reggie Bullock||Frank Ntilikina|
|SF||Dorian Finney-Smith||Sterling Brown||Josh Green|
|PF||Kristaps Porzingis||Dwight Powell|
|C||Maxi Kleber||Moses Brown||Boban Marjanovic||Willie Cauley-Stein|
3 key storylines
A healthy offseason for Kristaps Porzingis
The 2021 offseason has been Porzingis' first without having to rehab an injury since joining the Mavericks.
Based on his social media posts, the Latvian has spent this summer getting fitter and stronger while continuing to hone his skills. Injuries have held him back from realizing his potential in his role with the Mavericks, limiting him to 57 games in 2019-20 and 43 games in 2020-21.
Year 7️⃣ coming 🔜- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) August 21, 2021
(📸 @kporzee) pic.twitter.com/fOzTmVkdYD
The last time Porzingis came off a healthy break was the NBA's hiatus in 2020, which saw him erupt in the Orlando bubble. Across nine games in the restart (regular season and playoffs) he averaged 28.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks on .488/.424/.885 shooting splits, including five games of scoring at least 30 points before a torn meniscus sidelined him.
By his standards, the 2020-21 season was a down year but this healthy offseason combined with new leadership could see him bounce back and become the bonafide No. 2 alongside Doncic the franchise envisioned when they first traded for him.
His evolution could justify the relatively quiet offseason the Mavericks had, where they mostly re-tooled.
After 13 years with Rick Carlisle as head coach and a total of 16 with Donnie Nelson as top basketball executive, the Mavericks hit the reset button in the offseason. To replace them, Dallas brought in Jason Kidd and Nico Harrison as its new head coach and general manager, respectively.
This will be Harrison's first time running an NBA front office. Previously, he was part of Nike's basketball division for 19 years, most recently as vice president of North American operations. On the other hand, Kidd, the starting point guard on the franchise's championship team from 2011, does have seven years of NBA coaching experience, including five as a head coach.
Both hired in late June, they haven't made many changes since joining the franchise in the hopes of improving on last year's result by maximising the current roster.
How the team performs on court will depend a lot on the new front office's transactions and the philosophy and coaching methods of the new staff under Kidd.
Kidd's coaching staff includes former NBA head coach Igor Kokoskov, recently retired 14-year NBA veteran Jared Dudley, Sean Sweeney, Greg St. Jean and current WNBA player Kristi Toliver, who has had prior experience as an assistant coach.
Luka Doncic's MVP leap
At the age of 22, Doncic has already displayed MVP potential. He finished fourth in MVP voting in the 2019-20 season and sixth in the condensed 2020-21 season.
It would be a safe bet to project him finishing in the top five this upcoming year as well.
Injuries and COVID-19 tore through the Mavericks last season, especially in the beginning, but when healthy, Doncic has shown the capability of catapulting them to among the league's best. Following a 9-14 start, the team's 33-16 record for the remainder of the 2020-21 season was fifth-best in the league.
MORE: Can Doncic become NBA's best player in 2021-22?
As a 21 and 22-year-old, Doncic led the Mavericks to push the favoured LA Clippers to six and seven games in the 2020 and 2021 postseason, respectively. However, he seemed to tire out towards the end of these games, perhaps a product of the condensed schedule and the load of carrying a team that has dealt with injuries and inconsistent form.
If Porzingis can step up with the rest of the role players in the rotation finding their rhythm, it makes Doncic's life easier which would only see him elevate his game to a higher level.
5 games to watch
Oct. 21 at Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks and Mavericks will forever be connected because of their draft day trade in 2018, which involved Doncic and Trae Young.
In the three years since the trade, only one of six Hawks-Mavericks matchups have been decided by double-figures, and Doncic didn't play that one game. And in all of their head-to-head contests, both young stars have balled out and should do the same this year as they open their respective campaigns against each other.
Oct. 29 at Denver Nuggets
Doncic and Nikola Jokic are not just two of the top international players in the NBA but two of the top players in the league overall.
Over the past few years, these two teams headlined by these two superstars have provided several close head-to-head battles. Five of their nine games have been decided by seven points or fewer, including a couple that were decided by just one point.
Nov. 21 at LA Clippers
The Mavericks and Clippers have battled in the first round of the playoffs over the last two years and although Los Angeles has come out on top both times, the matchup has been competitive and entertaining, to say the least.
The two teams play the first of their four matchups in 2021-22 in the week prior to Thanksgiving.
Dec. 15 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
If the Brooklyn Nets are the prohibitive favourites in the East, it's the Lakers in the West with their new Big 3, which includes Doncic's mentor and idol, LeBron James.
In Doncic and James' seven head-to-heads, they've had a couple of close contests and gone to post similar numbers while going up against each other. How will the young Mavericks superstar fare against the star-studded Lakers?
Dec. 23 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Just 48 hours before playing the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City for the final game of the Christmas Day slate, Doncic and the Mavericks will host the reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the NBA's defending champions in the Bucks.
Each year, the reigning NBA champions always receive every team's best shot and this scenario will be no different.
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