Ben Graziano of Des Moines, Iowa, is a diehard Dallas Mavericks basketball fan. Like many Dallas Mavericks fans, Ben Graziano felt extremely confident heading into the latest NBA season. On the heels of a Western Conference Finals appearance, where it took a dynasty to thwart Luca Doncic and company, it felt as if this would be the year. Unfortunately, the Mavericks find themselves fighting for a playoff spot in a cluttered Western Conference. With no true dominant force in the West, Ben Graziano has to ask can the Mavericks turn it around and go on another run?
Since the acquisition of Kyrie Irving, the Mavericks were set to outscore any opponent they played. When you combine the historic ball-handling skills of Kyrie with the MVP-level offensive output of Doncic, Maverick fans thought they would ascend the standings. Instead, Dallas has struggled. Ben Graziano of Des Moines believes their struggles can be traced back to their lack of size and prowess on the defensive end of the floor. If you have Luca Doncic, you will always be able to score, but you need defenders to surround him.
While the Mavericks enjoyed postseason success last year by playing their smaller lineup, it was also the cause of the loss to the Warriors. Dallas had no answer for Kevon Looney, of all players, who dominated with rebound after rebound. General Manager Nico Harrison was quoted after the series saying the abysmal rebounding performance cost the team at least two of their four losses.
Dallas attempted to add size in the offseason by adding JaVale McGee and prioritizing touches for Christian Wood. Both of these attempts have failed, and several important rotational bigs suffered injuries. Once again, the Mavericks are near the top of the league in playing five-man rotations without a single player above 6-foot-7. In a league that has shifted towards shooting, the most successful squads still seem to have a big man to anchor their defense. Whether it’s Bam Adebayo down in Miami or Joel Embid in Philly, a dominant physical defensive presence is always important come playoff time.
Ben Graziano of Des Moines, Iowa, laments that his Mavericks are second worst in the league in terms of rebound percentage. Too many opponents are enjoying success thanks to second and third chances on the offensive end of the floor.
While size alone is not a guarantee for a good defense—Orlando, Utah, and Washington are among the biggest teams, and none of them are precisely lockdown on that end of the floor—elite defensive teams such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Memphis all have plenty of length in the frontcourt. And size matters when it comes to rebounding: there is a strong correlation between playing tall players (6-foot-11 and above) and rebounding percentage. Dallas ranks second worst in the NBA in that category. While the Irving trade finally supplied the team with the second superstar to Luca, it also only worsened their biggest problem. The Mavericks left the trade even smaller than they were before.
It’s deflating that a team with so much potential hits the court and almost knows they need 130 points to win. This is not a winning formula in playoff basketball when teams are playing maximum minutes and will deal with tired legs as the game goes on. No one can deny that Dallas has the offensive firepower to win any game in any series, but you need to win four out of seven. Losing Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie for Kyrie Irving sounds better than it has proven to be. Unless Dallas can find a way to get bigger this offseason, Ben Graziano worries about the team’s ability to compete for a championship in the next few years. Luca’s window is now, so it remains critical to give him the help he needs to bring an NBA Championship to Dallas.
While Ben Graziano has his doubts that this Mavericks team can put the pieces together for a run this year, he still can’t wait for the playoffs. Not many people predicted Dallas could reach the Western Conference finals last season. As long as they make the tournament, hope remains.