In order to get a bit more insight on the current state of affairs of the Portland Trail Blazers’ next opponent, the Dallas Mavericks, we spoke to Mavs Moneyball contributor Lauren Gunn.
You can follow Lauren on Twitter @lgunnnn.
Thank you Lauren for participating in our Q&A.
1. The Mavericks are dealing with a boatload of COVID issues, including Luka Doncic’s absence. How have the Mavs reacted to COVID and who is stepping up?
The Mavs have reacted about as well as anyone. It’s been a rough stretch for everyone, so right now, it feels like everyone is just trying to get past this brutal time in the season. I’ve been really pleased with the performances of Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, and Frank Ntilikina. Marquese Chriss and Theo Pinson, two guys that have been brought in on the 10-day hardship deals have also been great. They both have brought lots of defensive energy and their experience has been evident. I expect to see both of them stick around past their 10-day deals.
2. The Blazers were reportedly interested in Jason Kidd as the new head coach, but he opted to join the Mavericks instead. How is the team adjusting to his coaching style from Rick Carlisle’s?
The team is adjusting well. Kristaps Porzingis has talked about how free his system allows them to play. Jalen Brunson mentioned in the Christmas Day game that he’s always looking for any reason to talk to Coach Kidd to absorb as much information and wisdom as he can. At the beginning of the year, it did appear as if they were playing a little too freely and that there might be a lack of structure, but it was difficult to attribute that to Kidd, a new roster, or a combination of both. As time has gone on, the group has gotten to know each other better and the structure has tightened up. Unfortunately, they’re struggling to knock down shots this year and the defense still needs improvement.
3. If the Mavericks win this game, what would be the reason why?
If the Mavs win, it’ll be because Kristaps Porzingis took initiative and was aggressive in his shot selection to maximize against a Portland defense that’s currently ranked 28th in the league. The Mavs are also going to need another big performance from Jalen Brunson because they’re injury report is going to still have 8-9 guys listed. It’s going to be a tough one for the Mavs.
4. What is one thing you want Blazers fans to know about the Mavs that can’t be seen through box scores?
I would tell Blazers fans to not jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what the Mavericks’ numbers are so far this season. The game tomorrow isn’t the one to worry about. The West is going to be tight once again, so any assumption that Dallas is a team that can’t get it together could be premature. Dallas went out and signed good shooters in Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown to prioritize surrounding Luka with shooters as opposed to playmakers. The shots haven’t been falling this season, but shooters keep shooting. I expect their percentages to sway back towards their career averages especially considering the quality of looks Doncic gives them. I also would anticipate a move to be made at the deadline. Dallas was criticized for an underwhelming offseason and new GM Nico Harrison is ready to get this team in a position to contend given how good Luka is and the kind of season KP is having. Don’t get me wrong, Dallas has a lot to address, but don’t underestimate them.
5. What is your prediction for Monday’s game?
With Nurkic and Zeller going down today, that certainly levels the playing field in terms of guys out. If Dame is available, Dallas will try to match his offensive production by setting up Porzingis a lot. If Covington also remains out, that leaves Nance Jr. and Greg Brown Jr. (primarily) to fill in the frontcourt gaps. Like I mentioned before, Dallas will be missing 8/9 guys, so it’s difficult to pinpoint what will happen. It all comes down to Porzingis’ ability to knock down shots. I’ll give it a 102-98 victory for Dallas.