Monday, October 3, 2022

Maverick’s strong postseason run in question

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The Dallas Mavericks pulled off an epic upset last season when they toppled the top seeded Phoenix Suns en route to the team’s first conference finals in a decade.

Luka Doncic was simply masterful, unloading Phoenix for 32.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and seven assists a night in the seven-game streak. This stretch features a crazy seventh game in which the Slovenian star scored 35 points with over 63% shots from the field. Doncic’s pal Jalen Brunson also put in an admirable performance against the Suns. Ultimately, the Mavs were no match for the juggernaut Golden State Warriors, who defeated the Boston Celtics in the Finals.

But a few months after Phoenix’s excitement and deep playoff run, the Mavs still aren’t getting the full recognition they deserve. According to Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley, the Mavericks are not a guaranteed playoff squad next season. They’re just “sleepers” who can surprise teams next season. However, Buckley acknowledged that having a former conference finalist only as a “sleeper” is a bit odd.

“Wait, weren’t the Mavericks just finalists at the conference? How on earth did they qualify as sleepers just a few months later, right?” Buckley wrote.

But Buckley explained his position by waving Dallas’ offseason moves and giving credit to the Mavs for their postseason run, instead describing it as a Suns failure.

“Well, people weren’t exactly thrilled about their offseason – they didn’t bother to replace Jalen Brunson – and their postseason success was not at all expected. The fourth-placed Mavericks went six games in the first round and all seven games in the second. And their triumph over the top-seeded Phoenix Suns was portrayed far more often as Phoenix’s failure than Dallas’ triumph,” Buckley explained.

Despite the scrutiny, Buckley still had positive things to say about Dallas’ potential this season.

Despite calling out the Mavericks for their lackluster offseason, Buckley still found reason to find hope for the Mavericks this season.

“The simple truth behind the Mavericks’ status as sleepers is this: they could be frighteningly good, and they just aren’t viewed that way,” Buckley observed.

And to be fair, the Mavericks made their way onto Buckley’s sleeper list in pretty decent company: The Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Toronto Raptors were all last season’s playoff teams that showed scuffles and potential. But questions still remain about Doncic’s support in Dallas, especially now that Brunson is gone.

But even as Brunson ran, the Mavericks made several moves that would set the team around their young superstar on the road to success. In addition to the trade for Christian Wood, Dallas expects the return of a revived Tim Hardaway Jr. and the hopeful rise of former first-rounder Josh Green.

But Buckley also noted that Dallas will only really go as far as their best player.

During the regular season, it helps to have a stable of quality rotating pieces. In fact, it could be the difference between winning or not on a random Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

But when playoff time comes, stars matter most. As lineups tighten and coaches are forced to be extremely picky about playing time, the crème de la crème rises. And when the playoffs come around, there’s only one name that really matters for Dallas: Luka Doncic.

“But Dončić is the real key here. He’s a basketball magician — the fourth player of all time to have 6,000 points, 2,000 assists and 2,000 rebounds in his first four seasons — who might have new tricks up his sleeve. Mavericks Gov. Mark Cuban told B/R’s Taylor Rooks that Dončić was working on an “insane” shot, meaning it could be even harder now to deal with one of the most indomitable players in the game,” concluded Buckley.

Doncic has the talent to single-handedly postpone a playoff series. If he fires like he did last season, the Mavericks have a real chance to turn the Western Conference on its head.

Doncic has the talent to single-handedly postpone a playoff series. If he fires like he did last season, the Mavericks have a real chance to turn the Western Conference on its head.

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