The Dallas Mavericks entered the 2021 postseason having won 12 of their final 16 regular-season games, sliding into the Western Conference’s 5-seed via a three-way tiebreaker with the Portland Trailblazers and Los Angeles Lakers. Yet few picked the Mavs to win their opening-round matchup against the 4th-seeded Los Angeles Clippers. While LA had beaten Dallas […]
The Dallas Mavericks are matching up again with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2021 playoffs. Will it be anything like last year though?
In last year’s 4-2 opening-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Luka Doncic was sensational, averaging 31 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He did the majority of this without his number two option, Kristaps Porzingis, who had been on an absolute tear throughout the Bubble tournament. Despite his efforts, however, Doncic and his Mavs were simply unable to match Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers, and Leonard was perhaps the biggest reason why.
Last season, the Dallas Mavericks snapped a two-year playoff drought by obtaining the 7-seed in the first season of the post-Nowitzki era. Although they would fall to the 2-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, a team booming with hype thanks to the offseason signing of reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and acquisition of another two-way star in Paul George, Dallas would push the series to six games. They did this without their secondary ball-handler, Jalen Brunson, who was lost to a torn rotator cuff earlier that season, and without Dwight Powell, Dallas’s starting center before a torn Achilles in January. There were other noteworthy absences, including Porzingis after tearing his meniscus midway through the series, but the losses of Brunson and Powell put the Mavs’ backs against the wall before the postseason even began.
Despite Sunday night’s 136-121 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks clinched the Western Conference’s 5th seed for the 2021 NBA Playoffs —their highest seeding since winning the 2011 NBA Finals. Before Luka Doncic and the Mavs can concern themselves with a shot at the franchise’s second championship, however, they’ll first have to contend with an old foe in the opening round.
Last season the Dallas Mavericks touted the most efficient offense in NBA history. While part of that may be a byproduct of this current era, the fact remains that Luka Dončić and company could score against the best of them. What they lacked, and what limited how far they could ultimately go, however, was the defensive end of the equation. The Mavs might score 120 or more on a given night, but they were likely going to give up somewhere around 115 points in the process. This meant that whenever Luka Dončić or Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t in optimal health, or even if they happened to be sharing in a poor shooting night, Dallas was unlikely to walk away with a “W.”
The Dallas Mavericks found themselves at a crossroads entering the offseason. Although they’d built the most efficient offense in NBA history, spearheaded by 21-year-old wonderboy and MVP finalist, Luka Dončić, their season amounted to the Western Conference’s seventh-seed and a first-round exit. With less than $10 million in a mid-level exception (MLE) at their disposal and no real path to further improving their offensive firepower, a philosophical shift was necessary. They needed long, athletic defenders who were versatile and could knock down three-point shots whenever asked. They needed someone like Josh Green.
The label stuck to Tyrell Terry like an old sticker, tearing away in strips as he struggled to remove it from the experts’ assessment of his game. “TOO SMALL,” it read in faded black Sharpie ink. NBA teams and draft experts alike told the Stanford sharpshooter he should go back to school rather than declare for the 2020 draft. But Terry knew—even in high school—that he had the skill set to become an NBA player. Just as he had when he chose Stanford over schools like Indiana, Iowa State, and his hometown Minnesota Golden Gophers, Terry bet on himself and then doubled down when he declared anyway and then began working to shuck the narrative that his size would limit his potential.
Saad Yousuf of The Athletic stops by to talk Dallas Mavericks free agency, and even a little bit about the 2020 NBA Draft. The new NBA season is only a month away, people, so I’m gonna need you to buckle up. We’re in for a show!
Despite Mark Cuban’s best efforts, Dallas has never been a premium destination for NBA free agents. You know the tale by now: following the franchise’s first championship, Cuban set about a controlled demolition of the Mavericks roster before the trophy wax could so much as dry, baiting his hook year after year in the hopes of luring that proverbial “big fish.”