Dallas Mavericks: Ceiling of team tied to Kristaps Porzingis

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Slowly but surely, the Dallas Mavericks are digging themselves out of the hole and climbing back into the playoff picture. Once nearly at the bottom of the conference standings, the13-15 Mavs are now the tenth seed in the West.

Not exactly where they were expecting to be, but considering all the lost games their roster has endured, either through injury or COVID protocols, it’s understandable. But they’re making up ground and since February 4th, they’ve gone 5-2, putting some pretty impressive point totals along the way.

In fact, since that February date, the lowest point total the Dallas Mavericks have put up is 118 points. Last season when they were the most efficient offense of all-time, they were only averaging 117 points.

Granted, we’re mixing totals with efficiency here, but the point is this team is finding it’s groove on offense and much of that thanks should go to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. If they keep improving, it seems reasonable to think they could finish as high as the 4th seed and do some damage in the playoffs.

The Dallas Mavericks can only go as far as Kristaps Porzingis’ defense takes them

But while the offense is starting to hum, the defense remains an issue. Despite all offseason efforts to the contrary, defense continues to be poor in north Texas. And the Achilles heel of that defense happens to be one of the leaders of the offense: Kristaps Porzingis.

Kristaps Porzingis and defense

If the Dallas Mavericks want to improve from last season, they’re going to need to get a grip on this whole defense thing. And that starts and ends with Kristaps Porzingis. KP has been nothing short of abysmal this season on defense.

Yes, he’s getting the blocks, but the guy is 7-foot-3, blocks are basically automatic for a human that long. And at an average of 1.6 blocks per game, they are actually the lowest of his career by a pretty safe margin.

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According to Cleaning the Glass, the Mavericks are almost 10 points per 100 possessions worse when KP is on the floor (from +3 last year). Watching the games it’s easy to see why. KP is slow to action on defense. He arrives late and plays hesitantly. There’s no edge and it appears to be just as much between the ears as it is in his ability.

Whether he’s lost or confused, or if he’s out of position and unfamiliar with the lineup, or just easing back into things after his surgery and late start to season – we really don’t know exactly but it appears to be all of the above.

KP is vital to the Mavs offense but a detriment to the defense. The Dallas Mavericks will only go as far as KP will let them. If KP can simply get back to where he was last year, this team is primed for a run.

The good news is, I think he can. We can’t control how his body works but we can control everything between the ears. If Rick Carlisle and him can get on the same page and KP buys in and increases his effort accordingly. Knowledge and effort would do wonders for his defense.

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The Dallas Mavericks are marching back into the playoff conversation but that’s because of their offense. The only way they can improve or even sustain that progress is by improving KP’s defense.