Dallas Mavericks: Is there a depth issue that needs addressing?

Seth Curry, SG, Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Seth Curry, SG, Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Mavericks have recently dealt with a multitude of injuries, especially to important players. As a result, the Mavericks have had a harder time winning games in the month of December. Is the Mavericks depth an issue?

The headline may seem hyperbolic but hear me out. In the month of December, the Mavericks played 13 games. In those games they went 7-6. Their six losses came to the Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Most of these losses came against the best teams in the NBA and in most of these games, at least one key player was out with injuries. Point guard Luka Doncic was out with a sprained ankle against the Heat, Celtics, and Raptors. Power forward/Center Kristaps Porzingis and guard Tim Hardaway Jr were both out against the Thunder after suffering from knee soreness and a hamstring injury respectively. Both of these players obtained these injuries in the loss to the Lakers.

Throughout December, the Dallas Mavericks were without at least one of their top three scorers and still won 7 games. This is quite a noteworthy achievement. The Mavericks played the 5 best teams in the East without their best player and very recently beat an Eastern Conference playoff team without their second and third best scorer.

Now with Porzingis and Hardaway Jr out, the Mavericks might have met their match.

Up until December, the Mavericks did not encounter serious injury issues. Center Dwight Powell started off the season with an injury but has played in every game since his return. Even after Luka Doncic went down, the Mavericks had enough depth in the backcourt to overcome his absence.

Now with Porzingis and Hardaway Jr out, the Mavericks might have met their match. Having played over 30 games into the season, a significant amount of talk surrounding the Mavericks has been about finding the “third piece” to complete a trio with Doncic and Porzingis.

At the start of the season it seemed that was the best way for the Mavericks to compete against the best. As the season has progressed Hardaway Jr has filled in nicely as a third option even though he is averaging 13 points per game.

The play of these three have propelled a lineup of Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, and Kristaps Porzingis to the highest offensive rating of any lineup to play at least 200 minutes this season. The sharp shooting and defense of Porzingis, Hardaway Jr, and Finney-Smith combined with the efficient interior scoring of Powell and Doncic very easily explain why this lineup is so effective.

What happens when you take out Doncic?

The next highest rating belong to the same lineup with Jalen Brunson. While the offensive rating dropped by almost 13 points (108.9) their net rating increases by 19.2. The defensive rating (89.7) of that group is among the best in the league for lineups with over 70 minutes on the court.

This is also apparent in the record as the Mavericks went 2-3 with Doncic. Against some of the better offensive teams (MIA and TOR) they struggled pull out wins while against the weaker offensive teams (PHI and MIL) they won confidently. (Some late game antics against Milwaukee made that game more stressful than it needed to be)

What happens when you take out Porzingis though?

Not a lot…The lineup to log minutes without Porzingis consists of: Delon Wright, Jalen Brunson, Justin Jackson, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Dwight Powell. This lineup has only played 6 games and an underwhelming 33 minutes. While the lineup’s offensive rating is 127.9, we don’t know if that rating is sustainable with more time.

If you take out Hardaway Jr, this lineup doesn’t exist. (Per Captain Obvious)

As the season has progressed, we’ve learned the Mavericks bench has been very important to the team’s success. With efficient scorers in Seth Curry, Justin Jackson, Delon Wright, and even Ryan Broekhoff before his fibula injury, this team could find a spark from just about anyone.

Defensively, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Wright, and Boban Marjanovic have been able to provide the Mavericks with defensive intensity whenever they get substituted onto the floor. All these players are able to do play their game without the team having to sacrifice anything offensively.

Even with all this fantastic depth, we failed to realize how much time is allocated to the star players of the team in Doncic, Porzingis, and to a degree Hardaway Jr.

So let me rephrase the question from the title. The question isn’t “is depth an issue?” The question is really, “Is the lack of playing time between the depth an issue?”

The Mavericks have struggled to win games as of late, and with the recent onslaught on injuries, it’s not hard to see why. While no one on the team is playing more than 32.4 minutes per game (Luka Doncic), the lineups currently constructed are to be played with the best players on the court. It isn’t very often you see lineups consisting of all bench players.

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With the Mavericks bench playing more minutes than most other teams’ benches, the expectation is they should have an easier time coping with injuries. However, the reality is if one player goes down, it is actually harder to follow the “next man up” mentality. The lineups are always so fluid and more minutes in this case might not result in a lot more volume.

I don’t doubt the coaching of Rick Carlisle as his understanding of the game has allowed Dallas to have a historically great offense, but at a point in the season where injuries are more prominent, is it time the bench units work things out together?

Next. Ranking the top-10 Mavericks of the past decade. dark

Regardless of what happens, the Mavericks have been playing some exciting basketball this season and should eventually overcome a not-so-hot December.

  • Published on 01/04/2020 at 12:30 PM
  • Last updated at 01/04/2020 at 11:20 AM