The 2021-22 NBA season is officially underway, with the Dallas Mavericks tipping off their schedule on Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks.
With high expectations and a new head coach, the Mavs have a real chance to be among the top teams in the Western Conference this season and perhaps make a deep postseason run.
How good can they be?
The Mavericks are projected to win just under 50 games this season, which would likely put them just inside the top-10 in the NBA in terms of record.
How many games does the DallasBasketball.com crew think the team can win?
As you guys know, my fancy "journalism hat'' doesn't always allow me the freedom of homerism. But when it comes to the Mavs, I allow myself to bend my rules.
I think a 50-win season is an accomplishment. And I think 50-32 is realistic. The challenge, even as Luka Doncic maybe continues to ascend, even as Kristaps Porzingis seems healthy and happy: What if you win 50, but that's not good enough? Some oddsmakers have Dallas as the No. 7 seed in the West.
That doesn't sound that fun anymore.
I went on the record recently by saying the Mavs will win 55 games this season. So that would put their record as 55-27, which should be good enough to secure a top-3 seed in the West this year.
I felt that way before preseason, and now afterwards, I’m feeling even better about it after seeing the energy and joy this roster is playing with. Say what you will about the Jason Kidd hire, but anyone with eyeballs can see how these players are responding to him and his coaching staff in the most positive way possible.
Having Luka Doncic already guarantees that you’ll win a decent amount of games. Having a roster and staff full of guys who actually like each other could elevate the Mavs to the next level.
I'll take the Mavs in the No. 3 or No. 4 playoff seed in the West. That may be a bit of a conservative step forward, given expectations. But, the Mavs have a new coach in Jason Kidd, have several new pieces surrounding Luka Doncic and the Western Conference isn't any easier than it was a season ago.
I think the Mavs will struggle a bit early as they continue to build chemistry and Kidd gets the pieces in the right places. But, by midseason I think this team will find a groove and 50 wins might not be out of the question. Given the night-to-night grind in the West, finishing just below 50 wins seems a bit more realistic.
Although I don't envision the Mavericks finishing with the third-best record in the Western Conference, I'd still bet the over of 48.5 wins. Yes, obvious variables are working against the case for Dallas finishing in the top five. We keep beating the dead horse that is Jason Kidd as the problematic head coach.
I, for one, was adamantly against the hire. However, we must move on as the franchise made its choice. The team's apparent jolt in overall happiness is the theme of the preseason. Honestly, maybe we should give Kidd a chance before we doom the season.
Doncic and Durant Duel; Nets Rally To Beat Mavs
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis both returned in a big way vs. the Nets.
Reality Hits the Mavs: ‘The NBA is Hard’
Mavs Talk: ‘NBA is hard’ admits Dorian Finney-Smith after Dallas loses 97-90 to the Memphis Grizzlies
Luka & Mavs: Good Injury News?
Will Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis play in the nationally broadcast game?
While teams that have a new front office and coaching staff to go along with a handful of new players in the locker room typically take time to mesh, the Mavericks seem to be ahead of the curve. Especially in a conference in which many of the top teams have one of their core pieces out with injury for a good portion of the season, Dallas has a real chance to capitalize on a high playoff seed.
I'd guess the Mavs go 52-30 on the season, which should be good enough for homecourt advantage in the playoffs. On the back of Luka Doncic, who's the MVP favorite, the sky is the limit for this team.
While it appears the DallasBasketball.com staff thinks the Mavericks have a really good shot at 50 wins, there's more to the upcoming season than just a win total. Kidd will hope to coach the team past the first round, where they've gotten knocked out the past two seasons.
With high expectations, what hot takes does DallasBasketball.com have for the upcoming season?
I don't think this qualifies as a "hot take,'' because I find it to be so logical. But I bet it's an unpopular take: I think a great deal of Jason Kidd, who I've known for 23 years. And I'm impressed with Nico Harrison as a person.
But for the Mavericks to make a real leap to true contention, the coach and the GM are going to have to be improvements, too.
Is Jason Kidd ready to be a "better'' coach than Rick Carlisle? Is Nico Harrison ready to be a "better" GM than Donnie Nelson?
My "hot take'' is that evolution might have to take a while.
As if my Mavs record prediction wasn’t hot enough, I can see a legitimate path for Jalen Brunson winning the Sixth Man of the Year awards this season. Brunson has improved every season since joining the league with Doncic back in 2018, and there’s no reason for me to think that won’t continue to happen this season, especially with Brunson being in a contract year.
Physically, Brunson looks as good as he ever has, and his improved first step in preseason killed other team’s bench units. That’s one preseason thing I would expect to rollover into the regular season.
Kristaps Porzingis is going to stay healthy this year. While I'm not sure his numbers will really take that much of an uptick — he's averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds since he joined the Mavs, and there's nothing wrong with those numbers by the way — keeping him healthy and on the floor for 65-70 games is what this team needs. And, frankly, he needs it too. KP doesn't lack for confidence, but he hasn't played more than 60 games since the 2016-17 season.
He came closest in the bubble season (57 in 2019-20), and I think it's forgotten that he was, aside from a 10-game stretch in December, on the floor for most of that COVID-shortened season. He missed 29 games last season. I'm thinking a full offseason will do him, and the Mavs, a lot of good.
Hot takes aren't typically my cup of tea, as I can barely sit through any sports debate show. However, if I were to heat the blogsites, I'd say Tim Hardaway Jr is a dark-horse candidate for an All-Star nod. Now that he is an official starter, his aggressive shooting will gain the eyes of voters, especially if the Mavericks play to the level many of us think they will.
Entering a contract season, Jalen Brunson has a lot on the line. As such, I think he's going to have a breakout season. He may not win the award for the NBA's Most Improved Player, but I do think he has a shot at being the Mavericks' third best player behind Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.