Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (1) reacts after forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) makes a three point shot against the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter at American Airlines Center.
- The pick: Over 34.5
- Confidence: 10 out of 10
The case for the over: Let’s start with just the numbers.
Last season, with a pretty wretched team with a rookie point guard and very little in the way of versatile talent, the Mavericks finished with an expected win total of 31 against their actual total of 24. It was a pretty strong indicator that this team was considerably better than its final record.
Now let’s add in Doncic who is a divisive rookie, but whose greatest asset is his ability to influence the game in multiple ways, bolstering both the Mavericks’ strength (shooting) and weaknesses (pick and roll offense, defense).
Add Jordan, a legit rim protector and finisher for Dennis Smith Jr. and Doncic in the pick and roll, and internal progression from Smith. Add all those up and you need to clear only 3.5 wins over Dallas’ expected win total to hit the over here.
That’s the key: the Mavericks were better than their record last season, which is why their over/under total jumps 11 games off last season’s finish.
The Mavericks played 50 clutch-time games last season and won only 12. you should be able to trip and stumble your way into at least 30% win rate in clutch time, which often comes down to simple luck.
Dallas was also actively tanking the second half of last season, something the Mavs will not do again after landing Doncic. With Dallas having a win total below 35, good veteran talent and great coaching from the often-forgotten Rick Carlisle, this one projects as one of the strongest over values.
The case for the under: Their role players are unexceptional and their stars are young. That’s a tough combination.
DeAndre Jordan doesn’t create his own shot, and while his defense has gone from overrated to underrated the past four seasons, he’s never been a hyper-active difference-maker like Rudy Gobert.
Harrison Barnes was actually shockingly good in the pick and roll last year (84th percentile) but it still always feels like empty calories. Dirk Nowitzki is in what is in all likelihood his last season.
Dennis Smith Jr. struggled last year as so many rookie point guards do; his eye test was exceedingly better than the 10,000-foot view and his metrics.
We don’t know if Doncic is going to be a bigger, stronger, faster version of Manu Ginobili or a cheap clone knockoff.
Their guards behind DSJ remain unable to ride Space Mountain alone. And Wesley Matthews, despite having had a pretty remarkable comeback from Achilles surgery, isn’t the same guy he was before.
There’s also the issue of the China trip. Last year’s Warriors talked about how exhausted and out of sorts they were from the preseason trip to China. It throws off teams’ rhythm and robs their conditioning.
It’s not just the overseas travel, it’s so much media jammed into a small timeframe, especially in a country that loves the NBA as China does.
Teams that went to China for preseason have hit their under 13 out of 24 times since 2007, and 8 out of 14 times since 2013.
The number remains low enough to think that even if the Mavericks are unexceptional, they clear the bar.
The Mavs will be trying to win and they have the talent to do so.