The Dallas Mavericks’ play of late is the reason why every single fan is terrified Luka will be a “decision” and take his talents to Manhattan Beach.
Losing consecutive games at home against the New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings is not only a good way to avoid making the playoffs, but also an even better way for Luka Doncic to wonder why his team isn’t any better.
Now in his third season, the Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward is one of the best players in the league and his team is not. This is not his fault, but it’s his problem.
The Mavs can point at their grill-cheesed compressed second-half schedule, the mystery injury that forward Maxi Kleber is playing through, or other excuses but none of those are their biggest problems.
Their biggest problem is the same problem Dirk Nowitzki had early in his prime years with the Mavs. The difference is we all knew Dirk was as loyal as a German Shepherd, and we don’t know about our favorite Slovenian pup.
Luka’s problem remains talent. He needs to be surrounded by more of it.
The Mavs have good guys, but they need better players.
The only way this happens is if Mark Cuban can get past his personal feelings for the players on his team that he likes and dump them to surround Luka with talent.
Since Cuban bought the Mavs in January 2000, he has consistently brought in a long list of good guys. There have been only a few Lamar Odoms and Rajon Rondos, but there have also been a lot of Raef LaFrentz types.
Good guys off the floor, and not quite good enough on it.
When you’re a seventh seed and your big offseason acquisitions are keeping Trey Burke, Willie Cauley-Stein and trading for James Johnson and Josh Richardson, you’re going to be a seven seed again.
The Mavs built a seven seed, and are playing like a seven seed.
When the Mavs are good, they can beat the Milwaukee Bucks, as they did on April 8.
When the Mavs are bad, they lose at home to the Sacramento Kings, as they did on April 18.
Despite sixth-seeded Portland begging someone to take their spot with their own issues, the Mavs refuse to comply.
The Mavs are still a seven seed, and still on track to lose in the first round of the playoffs again.
Defense remains an issue, Kleber’s importance to this team is undervalued, and Kristaps Porzingis is a wonderful collection of numbers that are not resulting in this team being more than four games over .500.
Nothing about this team says a matchup with either the second-seeded Phoenix Suns or LA Clippers will end any differently than the Mavs’ previous playoff performances.
The Mavericks last won a playoff series in 2011, and are 0-5 in playoff series since winning the NBA Finals.
Not a good look for head coach Rick Carlisle. For those who believe RC is this team’s biggest issue, he should be OK for at least one more year.
He’s under contract through 2022-23, and it’s hard to envision Cuban eating Rick’s $7 million salary.
Unless Luka thinks otherwise.
The Mavericks have 16 games remaining to improve their position in the NBA’s Western Conference, and avoid the dreaded “play-in” tournament; only six of those 16 games are against teams that are in the top eight of their respective conference.
And yet there is not one good potential playoff matchup for the Mavs to advance to the second round.
The Mavs have one of the best players in basketball, but they are a seven seed.
Until they prove they’re better than that, and Cuban can surround Luka with more talent, everyone associated with the Mavs will sweat his ultimate destination will be elsewhere.