Maverick’s starting lineup does not work

When an NBA season isn’t even 10 percent complete, it’s hard to look at a statistic and come up with any kind of declarative statement. In a completely unrelated note, here are statistics on Maverick’s starting lineup this season:

The Mavericks have used two starting lineups this season. These two lineups have played a total of 64 minutes in five games and have been surpassed by 48 points.

Hey boy, Maverick’s starting lineup stinks.

Dallas has been surpassed in every first quarter so far this season and has not had a single lead at the break. Against the Nuggets Friday night, this trend continued, with the Mavericks trailing 29-21 after a quarter and 54-44 at the break before everything fell apart in the third quarter.

The Mavericks have only used two different starting lineups because Kristaps Porzingis has missed two games in a row with a back injury. Only the replacement of Reggie Bullock for Porzingis has been the difference in the series – Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell have started each match.

Despite 64 minutes being a drop in the bucket for an NBA season, it’s clear things are not working out. The Mavericks are fortunately 3-2 because they have played three lottery-tied teams. It’s too hard to win NBA games when you’re behind at the start of them all. Combine that with the fact that we’ve seen these players play so often before, and it feels silly to expect players to change. Of course there is a new scheme and a new coach, but will it really change the skills of someone like Finney-Smith or Powell?

Taking the ball out of Doncic’s hands for shots like these is unwise in itself, then it is doubled by the poor distance and shot making, which makes things harder for Doncic when he tries to cook. Doncic went 2-of-7 in the first quarter against Denver, and every single shot Doncic took had a defender right on top of him. Doncic attempted zero shots on the edge in the first quarter because defense has little respect for Powell or Finney-Smith. He only tried two shots on the edge throughout the game. Only 13 of Doncic’s 103 total shot attempts have been in the restricted area this season. That’s worrying.

In addition to the hard play from the starters, the bench’s star play makes a transition much more appealing. While Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber were not great against the Nuggets, the two have routinely saved the Mavericks from an undefeated start through the five games this season. Even against the Nuggets, Brunson and Kleber provided the only life in the first half, trimming a 17-point lead to 10 at the break.

With how things are going and the Mavericks are still adapting to a new coaching staff, it might be the way to go until things are settled, playing the best players as much as possible together. Brunson and Kleber are undisputed as two of the top five or six players on the Mavericks list. It’s a gloomy enough statement on the list as a whole, but they do not have much of a choice right now.

Maverick’s coaching staff must have thought the same thing against the Nuggets, because in the 7-0 race to close out the second quarter, Jason Kidd Brunson and Kleber played alongside the rest of the starters. The lineup of Brunson, Doncic, Bullock, Kleber and Powell played just three minutes, but it surpassed the Nuggets by four points in those three minutes. There was nothing worldwide about how that lineup played – Bullock got an open three in the transition, Doncic scored on a drive and a step-back to pointer – but it gets at least more of the currently well-playing Mavericks on the floor and takes the bad playing off.

Some of this is regression. Finney-Smith is 5-of-26 on threes, and most of them are open. He missed two wide openers in the first quarter with the starters. Some of it is worrying though. The Mavericks have been playing the same starting lineup of players a lot over the last three years, and maybe the league is catching up, whether you disagree with the training or not. Defenders know to leave Finney-Smith open and stick to Hardaway, or to attack Powell’s suspicious rim defense. The Mavericks do not sneak up on anyone. There are lots of movies on their entire list playing together. Mixing another playmaker like Brunson and a better defender like Kleber in can help alleviate some of the obsolescence. It will not be the cure, but it’s clear after five games that no matter what Dallas does with how it starts games, it does not work.

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