The Dallas Mavericks made a nice move to acquire Kristaps Porzingis last January, and so far things seem to moving in the right direction for him as he’s finally healthy and can start to play with reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic. A team that had struck out repeatedly in free agency finds themselves with a 24-year-old in Porzingis, and a 20-year-old in Doncic, that they can build around for the next half decade or so.
Doncic, in particular, appears to have no ceiling. He’s averaging 26 points on above average efficiency, 10 rebounds, and eight assists a night through five games. The league is saturated with high end stars right now, but the kid could be a top five player in the world in a couple short years. He was very good against the Cavs last year, so we’ll see what he has in store this season. Note: he’s listed as day to day after a head collision with Dwight Howard, so he might miss the game. This would be unfortunate; for his sake you hope for health, and from an entertainment aspect you want to see the best players.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (2-3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (3-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — Cleveland, Ohio
Where to watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Cavs have pleasantly surprised this season due largely to the solid performances of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, as well as modest steps forward in play from Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and Jordan Clarkson. Darius Garland has mostly held his own, impressive in its own right after a year away from competitive basketball. On Friday night in a loss to the Pacers, the bench was less helpful, Thompson got himself in foul trouble, and Darius Garland ... did not hold his own.
Without knowing what to expect from Garland on a night-to-night basis, one of the biggest question marks is if Thompson can stay in the same neighborhood of effectiveness as he’s been to start the year. His Player Efficiency Rating is almost six points higher than it has ever been, and his win shares per 48 minutes is significantly better than it was even during the 2016 championship season. He’s playing more minutes than ever, using more possessions than ever, and turning the ball over at a minuscule rate. It seems unlikely to me that he’ll stay this good.
So then the question is, what kind of margins do the Cavs have? If he’s 80 or 90 percent of the player we’re seeing now that’s pretty good, but the Cavs might go back to being an easy lottery team. Darius Garland is much more important, but conclusions aren’t fair or worthwhile at the moment. Still, the Cavs will need something close to replacement level play to stay competitive in his minutes, which will surely continue to come regardless of performance. A true shooting rate of 36.5 won’t quite do it, and a turnover percentage that outpaces his assist rate doesn’t help either. Does it matter? In the long term, no, not yet. In terms of winning and losing games? Yeah, it does.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless prediction
Garland makes some jump shots. Tristan Thompson struggles, but Kevin Love does not. The Mavericks win fairly easily, 112-101.