The NBA has turned into a tag team tournament of sorts with all of the electric duo’s across the league. And to the surprise of some I’m sure, the Mavericks could have one of the best, with Luka Doncic soaring into his sophomore campaign, and Kristaps Porzingis returning from injury to look the best that we’ve ever seen him physically.
That pair got off to a terrific start Wednesday against the lowly Washington Wizards in their season opener, combining for 57 points and a victory. As the Mavs try to build chemistry between stars, the New Orleans Pelicans will look to find a rhythm of their own with a roster that goes at least 12 deep —and that’s without rookie phenom Zion Williamson. At the close of Friday, will star power or fantastic depth reign supreme?
To help us in the meantime specifically with Dallas we linked up with The Athletic’s Tim Cato who helped us cover everything Mavericks related. Be sure to follow Tim on Twitter @tim_cato, and enjoy the latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective.
1. I mentioned above that the Mavs could have one of the best tandems in basketball with Luka and KP, but they also arguably complement each other better than the rest. Both are so fundamentally talented, unique, and unselfish at young ages. They seem to be a match made in heaven.
How special can they be? Can you make an argument that out of all the new duo’s these two naturally fit the best together?
Doncic and Porzingis could both become top-10 players in the league, and they could probably even do it this season. I truly don’t believe that’s hyperbolic. A large part of that is their fit, like you said, because they each possess skillsets that should play off each other. Doncic is the ball-handling playmaker who keeps defenses honest with that killer stepback, while Porzingis stretches the defense for him and provides an efficient, easy scoring option on the interior.
What I’m most interested in with Porzingis is his defense; he was an anchor in New York and has the potential to be absolutely game-changing. Think about how Milwaukee used Brook Lopez, keeping him near the rim as much as possible while scheming with players around him. If Dallas can create a facsimile of that, oh boy.
2. What are the expectations for the Mavs around those who follow the team? Do some expect/see the playoffs? Would it be a disappointment if they’re at home in late April?
Of course it would be a disappointment, because there’s definitely belief that this team can get that far and sneak into the Western Conference’s seventh or eighth seed.
I definitely believe it’s possible, too, although the West is so demanding that it’s certainly an uphill climb. Dallas could win 47 or 48 games if everything falls right for them, particularly from a health standpoint. But I think 42 or 43 feels more likely — it’s what I’ve been predicting this offseason — and that does probably mean they fall a little short of the postseason.
3. We talked about the significance of Porzingis and Doncic together. Who’s the third most important Maverick currently on the roster and why?
It’s an interesting question, right? And it definitely shows the limitations to this roster, that the third-best player is likely Dwight Powell. Dallas has a lot of good players who I like, but they’re asking most of them to do more or be more than they should be. Powell would be a great fifth starter, but he will probably be stretched thin if you want him averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds every single night.
That goes the same for, let’s say, Jalen Brunson or Delon Wright as your fourth-best player. Or Maxi Kleber as your starting big man next to Porzingis. All these players are good at basketball. Dallas is just missing some higher-end talent beneath the Doncic-Porzingis star duo.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Mavericks?
This might sounds like it run counter to what I literally just said … but I think it’s best that Dallas didn’t sign a max free agent this past summer. It’s not that a player like Kemba Walker wouldn’t have made them instantly better, because he would. But it’s more about the long-term fit, and how the Mavericks really shouldn’t be compromising Luka and KP’s future by adding a max player who might be a questionable fit and doesn’t fit their same timeline.
The same goes for Al Horford, or Jimmy Butler, or other players like that. Similarly, players who might have been long-term fits simply weren’t available, like Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon (who Indiana traded for using assets Dallas didn’t have). I think the quiet summer was alright for this team. It might not quite make them a playoff roster, as we discussed, but a season of improvement and development of youth makes inherent sense to me.
5. Your Outside Perspective on the Pelicans?
I love what David Griffin is doing with the team. I love the potential of Zion Williamson. I’m trying not to just say the same things that I feel like everybody else has been saying, ha, but I do really feel that way. I’m not sold on Brandon Ingram ever being a truly great player, despite all his raw potential, but I like almost all the other pieces on the roster.
Jrue Holiday is one of the most underrated players of the decade. All that said, I think that the Williamson injury puts them out of the playoff race before it even begins. With Zion, I feel like New Orleans would be a massive challenge for Dallas. Without him, one roster clearly looks superior to the other.
That was our time with Tim Cato and we hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to keep up with all of Tim’s work at The Athletic this season. Enjoy the game and as always...