When watching the Dallas Mavericks, it feels like walking aimlessly through the desert and seeing a mirage. Just like one sees a false image, distorted by light and hunger, the Mavericks to look better than they are due to the bright light exuded by their star Luka Doncic.
Earlier in the season, the Mavericks looked like one of the teams that could separate themselves from the rabble in the Western Conference. Instead, at the mid-season mark, they’re just as close to the 3rd seed (2.5 games) as they are from being out of the play-in entirely.
At just two games over .500, Dallas looks to be squarely stuck in the middle of the NBA. They rank 16th in the NBA in Net Rating at 0.2, speaking to their need for a spark. They haven’t exactly faced a murderers row either, as per ESPN, they’ve only faced the 16th toughest schedule so far.
Despite having a consensus superstar in Luka Doncic, the Mavericks appear a long ways away from contention. When looking into how they ended up here, there are a number of reasons outside of their control, but just as many self-inflicted errors that are hamstringing them as a team today.
What has hurt Dallas that isn’t their fault?
It’s not all the Mavericks’ fault that they’ve disappointed. Like most teams, they’ve dealt with a myriad of injuries, but Dallas has had a tough roll of the dice with their various ailments.
Doncic has missed five games, while Christian Wood, arguably the team’s second star, just broke his thumb and will be out for a few weeks. Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas’ defensive skeleton key, has missed almost a third of the season with a strained abductor. Both Josh Green and Maxi Kleber, key role players for the Mavericks, have missed more than half of the team’s games, with Kleber slated to be on the shelf for a few months at least.
While every team in the West seems to have dealt with injuries, Dallas can also blame some unfortunate big man regressions for their drop in the standings. Dwight Powell and Davis Bertans, two vastly different players who can fit into important niches for the team, have both been some of the least effective versions of themselves this year.
Even worse is that JaVale McGee, signed to a sizeable contract as a role player in the offseason, doesn’t look close to being the impactful bench center who can impact the game on both ends of the floor like he was for Phoenix last year.
When combined with Wood and Kleber’s injuries, it’s clear that the Mavericks’ “big…