DALLAS - Our Mavs NBA Training Camp Preview Donuts: How High Can Luka Doncic Lift Dallas ... And The Rest Of The Questions And Answers
DONUT 1: BUILDING ON ...
Mavs training camp begins on Tuesday and COVID-19 remains in play, creating certain restrictions on the size of practice groups and the like. What the fellas will be building on?
Last year's 43-32 record, good for seventh in the Western Conference ... and an understanding that they were a sliver away from being a top-four team in the West.
Which is absolutely a goal of coach Rick Carlisle's this year.
Carlisle, Luka Doncic and Josh Richardson, by the way, are scheduled for media visits today in the noon hour. DBcom is on it!
DONUT 2: GETTING TO KNOW THE KIDS
The Mavs have added three kids: Josh Green, the No. 18 pick in 2020 NBA Draft, Tyrell Terry, The No. 31 pick, and Tyler Bey, the No. 36 pick.
READ MORE: Mavs Sign 'Great Fit' Rookie Josh Green
Green (who will wear No. 8) has a chance to be a rotational player right now due to his motor-on defense. Terry (No. 1) is thought by some to be a Seth Curry replacement; we'll suggest that might take some time. And we'll also add that maybe Trey Burke, a bubble surprise who re-upped with Dallas, might have a say as to those minutes. Bey (No. 2) is on a 2-way contract so he'll show off some of his high-flying defensive skill in the G-League at Frisco.
DONUT 3: GETTING TO KNOW THE NEW VETS
The Mavs added two vets via trade, Josh Richardson and James Johnson - "Dawgs,'' they've labeled themselves. NBA watchers know them both. Richardson is a two-way starter who can guard almost anybody. Johnson is a brawler.
READ MORE: Mavs Camp: Doncic Meets 'The Dawgs'
The Mavs will not get pushed around this year.
READ MORE: Mavs' Iwundu 1-On-1: 'I'll Bring The Energy'
Dallas also added 6-6 defender Wes Iwundu via free agency. Not everybody knows him (even as he started 21 games for Orlando last season) ... but we think we're about to - and we think we'll like what we learn.
DONUT 4: LUKA FOR MVP?
Is there really another level for Luka Doncic to reach? Rookie of the Year his first season. First-team All-NBA his second. And now, after averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, Doncic is to some the leading candidate this year for MVP candidate.
Every single time we turn around, Luka is raising the ball. The latest example? In his playoff debut, he went for 42 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Later in that series against the Clippers, Doncic went for a triple-double of 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, capped off by a thrilling buzzer-beater that adds to his do-everything reputation.
Can he do more? If the Mavs are good enough, he can be the MVP. Or ... if he can play like an MVP, the Mavs will be good enough. We'll take it, either way.
Said Carlisle: “I expect that he’ll come back next year even better, with something new in his game the same way that Bird, Magic and Jordan and all those great players did every summer.”
Sidebar: We should add a name to that list: Dirk.
If Doncic can add a tool (better free-throw shooting?), there truly can be another level here. For everybody.
DONUT 5: HOW'S KP?
The team will be without star forward Kristaps Porzingis for the start of the 2020-21 season, so this won't be a "KP camp.'' Porzingis is still rehabbing from the surgery to repair the torn meniscus he sustained in the 2020 NBA Playoffs while trying valiantly to play on it.
"We're going to make sure that that's 100-percent before we put him out there, so that's going to be into the season before we are able to have him join us," GM Donnie Nelson said.
That "100 percent'' should come to fruition by about Jan. 1. So Dallas needs to hold down the fort for a bit And then?
KP should go back to averaging 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, as the 25-year-old did last season.
P.S.: As you can see above, KP, is already getting in some work.
DONUT 6: WHO IS THE CENTER?
Dallas believes Dwight Powell, also going through rehab, is close to being back to full strength. But a combination of Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein and Boban Marjanovic will be used to fill that temporary void.
By the way, there is a fun debate to be had about whether KP should even be the center, that playing him at the 4 allows the Dallas lineup more versatility. But KP at the 5 put him in a comfort zone, and the numbers prove it.
With all due respect to the idea of Powell starting (somewhere) ... It shouldn't be that much of a debate.
DONUT 7: THE SCHEDULE
The regular season is scheduled to begin on Dec. 22. And it'll be odd; it's a 72-game slate constructed to come out in two parts, "The First Half'' and "The Second Half.'' (The schedule for the First Half of the season, which will run from Dec. 22 to March 4, will be released shortly).
But first comes this week of camp, followed by a trio of preseason game: At Milwaukee, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., at Milwaukee, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m and home vs. Minnesota, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
DONUT 8: WHO LET THE DAWGS OUT?
We mentioned "The Dawgs'' above. It should be noted that they will join a team that has been defense-and-toughness-starved ... but that that status is not the fault of a couple of guys, especially Dorian Finney-Smith. This year there will be a viable quintet of Mavs who can be on the floor together who can win games on defense.
And with all due respect to J-Rich, Finney-Smith remains pivotal to that cause.
Also, during our Mavs Step Back Podcast 1-on-1 yesterday, newly signed Maverick Wes Iwundu says to add him to that “dawg” list too.
“For the Mavs’ fans, I’m a hard worker. ... I'm always trying to get a stop, lock (someone) up,” said Iwundu. Listen to our full pre-camp sit-down with the Mavs new versatile wing here:
DONUT 9: QUOTABLE
“Coming off of last year our offense was historically great. We need to get our defense better, and some of it is going to be the kind of work that we put in during training camp. But the other part of it is when we draft and when we acquire players, we want to acquire players with that mindset and with that ability.” - Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
DONUT 10: CHEMISTRY SET
Carlisle's long-time mantra for his bench is "Be Ready.'' Lineup changes not only take advantage of the foe's weakness but also keeps his own guys on their toes and invested.
Starting this camp, however, he's got too many guys to get "Ready.''
When the season starts, 15 roster spots are allowed (not counting two 2-way players; on game night, 13 players can dress). Dallas presently has 16 guaranteed contracts.
Something's gotta give.
Another trade? Not likely. Waiving someone with a guarantee? Almost certainly. That leading candidate? J.J. Barea, who just signed a new one-year, vet's-minimum contract ... and he's got value here.
JJB was the first guy to befriend Porzingis when KP came to town. And then when Luka arrived? Same thing. Barea is part of the chemistry here, part of the fabric. Is there a way for Dallas to benefit from that, even if he's the 16th guy on a team that can only keep 15?
We've detailed before Barea taking on the role of a staff member. He's earned the right to try to make the team. Failing that, there are plenty of ways for the Mavs - and Luka and KP and a bunch of guys who need to gel quickly by using the same "chemistry formula'' that's worked before here thanks to guys like Nowitzki (who you also want hanging around) and Barea - to benefit from the non-uniformed presence of JJB.
DONUT 11: 'THE THIRD STAR'
Josh Richardson isn't a "star.'' Nor is Tim Hardaway Jr., though he sometimes scores like one.
So that pursuit will continue. It's no secret anymore that Dallas has its connections with Giannis, who as we write this still hasn't locked in to staying in Milwaukee via his supermax offer. (He has until Dec. 21 to do so).
What Dallas did do this offseason, in addition to bettering its roster, is clear out a bit of cap space for 2021 in case Giannis (or someone else who can be a "third star'') wishes to come here.
READ MORE: Mavs Roster Strategy - Not Confusing
It was a subtle thing. But it's also a connect-the-dots thing. Dallas plans to be good now ... but knows it is another great player away from being great.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
“My goal at the start of every season is to win a championship. There is no other goal, so that is going to be mine." - Luka Doncic.