The 2021-22 Dallas Mavericks exceeded expectations, but there’s more work to do

After defeating the Utah Jazz in the first of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks 2021-22 NBA season became a success, and anything after that was gravy. After defeating the Suns in seven in the second round, they kept adding gravy to this season, but it all ended in Game 5 at Chase Center against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

The Mavs got out of the first round for the first time since they won an NBA title in 2011 and had their highest win total(52) since the 2014-15 season.

With the addition of Jason Kidd as the head coach and 23-year-old Luka Doncic as their star, the future looks pretty bright for the Mavericks. 

“I’m really proud of this team, everybody, every player, every staff member,” Doncic said after their Game 5 loss to the Warriors. “Nobody had us here. But I promise we fought until the end.”

No one had the Mavs in the conference finals, especially after they were 16-18 on December 29 and down 2-0 to the Suns in the second round, but they never gave up.

“To be able to play into May and to make it to the Western Conference finals is a great accomplishment for this team and for everyone, coaching staff included,” Kidd said after the Game 5 loss to the Warriors. “We have to go back, we’ll review the last three series and see where we can get better as coaches, and then we’ll spend time with the players this summer to make sure that they’re working on the right thing.”

The Mavs became a one-star team after trading Kristaps Porzingis away to the Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans before the trade deadline.

It was Doncic and role players, and it worked.

Kidd acknowledged that the Mavs did not have a second star, and he feels if the Mavs don’t add a second star, things still will be good in Dallas next season.

“We didn’t, so-called, have a second star; we had a team,” Kidd said. “Luka got a lot of the attention, but I think when you look at what (Mark)Cuban and Nico(Harrison) will do this summer, and (Michael Finley)Fin, they’re going to look to improve the team. I think that’s just a natural thing in sports that you’re going to try to improve, and if you can, you will, but if you don’t, you have a core here that’s pretty good.”

The Mavs biggest free agent is Jalen Brunson, who had a great season and playoff run. Brunson averaged 21.6 points per game in these playoffs. He’s going to get paid! Maybe Dallas will pay him, or perhaps somebody else will pay, but he’s getting paid in the end. Some believe around $20-plus million a year.

“I think it’s easy; it’s the top priority,” Mavericks GM Nico Harrison recently said about bringing Brunson back. “We’ve got to figure that out. Obviously, we’re not in control of it, but he’s definitely a priority. We want to re-sign him. He knows that we want him back. He’s a big part of our future.”

The Mavs have to find another star to compliment Doncic, but not sure they should pay Brunson. They still have Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr., so they can afford to let Brunson go via sign-and-trade, which could get them another piece. 

It should be interesting to see if the Mavs’ success was fool’s gold, and possibly a fluke, like last year’s Hawks, who made it to the Eastern Conference finals but brought everybody back and could not get out of the first round this season. Dallas does not want to be that, so this offseason will be significant. 

Dallas surpassed all expectations this season, but taking that next step won’t be easy.

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