Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors proved to be too much for the Dallas Mavericks to overcome in the Western Conference Finals with an NBA Finals appearance at stake. Can they take the next step in 2022-23?
The Mavericks finished the 2021-22 regular season with a 52-30 record, which was good for fourth in the Western Conference. Dallas did lose Jalen Brunson in free agency, but added Christian Wood, JaVale McGee, and Jaden Hardy.
What are the expectations for the Mavericks? Some experts seem to think a step back is coming given the rising competition in the Western Conference in addition to Brunson's departure. Others see it differently.
During an appearance on ESPN's "NBA Today" on Thursday, Luka Doncic told Malika Andrews that his expectation for the Mavericks is to make the NBA Finals.
"My expectation is to make it to the [NBA] Finals, first of all," Doncic said. "I know it's gonna be really, really hard, but we gotta believe, everybody's gotta believe it. And if the whole team believes, then it can probably happen, but it's gonna be really hard."
It's challenging to bet against a team that is led by such a dynamic playoff performer as Doncic. He routinely puts on a masterclass running pick-and-rolls and attacking switches in isolation. He's also highly effective at handling double teams and hedge-and-recover techniques.
Doncic is a rare talent, simply put. Surrounding him with as much shooting as possible is a winning formula. Adding such a talented center like Wood could make a substantial impact. Having a bigger rim roller like McGee should help, too. Above all else, there is more size to crash the boards.
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There is still a potential concern with the Mavericks' guard depth. They thrived after acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie midseason because it finally presented a guard rotation with three competent options. Is there enough depth in this regard after Brunson's departure?
It remains to be seen how Wood will handle a sixth man role. However, he has a dynamic stretch-five skill-set that could be maximized playing alongside Doncic, if all things go accordingly. It's the type of combination that raises a ceiling.
For any NBA team, injuries play a key role in how a playoff run will ultimately unfold and the Mavericks are no exception. It's also unclear what midseason move(s) a team or their competitors will make. For now, having Doncic and some key pieces goes a long way in their outlook.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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