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Mavericks Face Lofty Expectations As Preseason Begins

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Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic | Image by Getty Images

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With the NBA preseason getting underway this week, the Dallas Mavericks are gearing up for what they hope will be another very successful campaign in 2022-23.

Last season, Dallas exceeded all expectations by making it to the Western Conference Finals before falling to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. The playoff run was the first time the Mavericks moved past the opening round since 2011 and was highlighted by a stunning upset of the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals.

Dallas’ unexpected playoff success last season, coupled with having superstar guard Luka Doncic, sets very lofty expectations for the team heading into this season, even with the departure of Jalen Brunson.

Doncic is poised to seriously contend for the Kia MVP award, with the NBA’s annual survey of all team’s general managers revealing Doncic as their prediction for who would win the award given to the league’s top player.

During his career, Doncic has faced questions about his conditioning at the beginning of seasons. But this year, Doncic spent the summer dominating opponents as part of the Slovenian national basketball team in the EuroBasket tournament.

The 23-year-old superstar had little more than a week to recover between the Slovenian national team’s elimination from EuroBasket on September 15 and his return flight to Dallas on September 24, just days before the opening of training camp. Expectations are that he should be in top shape for the start of the season.

As a team, the Mavericks have been below .500 at the 25-game mark each of the last two seasons. Getting off to a quick start this season is essential, especially given how other Western conference teams got stronger on paper.

The biggest question Dallas must answer is how to fill the void left by Brunson, the team’s starting point guard last season, who signed with the New York Knicks in free agency. Brunson had a breakout last season with the Mavericks in which he averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists as the clear-cut No. 2 option behind Doncic.

Dallas did not add a true point guard to the team over the offseason, so the team expects some combination of Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr., who is back after suffering a season-ending foot fracture in January, to make up for Brunson’s production.

Just before losing Brunson, the Mavericks traded with Houston for big man Christian Wood, who also might be able to shoulder some of the scoring burden left by the departed guard.

Wood is a significant upgrade to the team’s interior with his versatility and effectiveness off-the-dribble and in pick-and-rolls.

Despite Wood showing throughout his career that he can be an effective starter, head coach Jason Kidd has said the new center will serve as the team’s sixth man, coming off the bench to provide scoring with the second unit.

Kidd confirmed that instead of Wood, Dallas’s starting lineup would feature another new addition to the interior, veteran center JaVale McGee.

McGee signed with the Mavericks on the first day of free agency. His strength is in pick-and-roll situations and grabbing rebounds, particularly on offense, something Dallas struggled with mightily in the playoffs.

“His length and his athleticism is something we haven’t seen as of late,” assistant coach Kristi Toliver said of McGee.

Coach Kidd must also get two other new additions up to speed with the team: rookie Jaden Hardy and two-way signing Tyler Dorsey. Dorsey, a 25-year-old 6’5” shooting guard, played 104 NBA games from 2017-2019 before going overseas to play professionally, spending last season with the Greek club Olympiacos.

Dallas also still has key role players in sharpshooting forward Maxi Kleber, who recently signed a three-year extension, and defensive stopper Dorian Finney-Smith, who signed a four-year extension in February.

Frank Ntilikina will likely see his role increase from last year with the departure of Brunson, as he will now be the team’s primary backup point guard. Meanwhile, forwards Dwight Powell and Davis Bertans may see their roles diminish some with the additions of Wood and McGee.

The Mavericks are also counting on third-year wing Josh Green to take a step forward. After falling out of the rotation in the playoffs, Green followed a detailed training plan all summer in Las Vegas — alongside the mentorship of veteran Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry.

The returns have been promising, with Mavericks coaches praising the 21-year-old former first-round pick throughout training camp.

“His aggressiveness is night and day,” assistant coach Jared Dudley said of Green.

The Mavericks will begin working on building cohesiveness with the new additions and new roles for multiple players when preseason play begins Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dallas will play three preseason games before the regular season opens on October 19 in Phoenix.

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