Expert NBA Handicapping: Dallas Mavericks Off to Strong Start
Even though the Dallas Mavericks spent most of the first 28 games of the season in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, it would have been tough to truly convince yourself that they were a playoff team. But they certainly are fun to watch and easy to root for. With a young superstar and a strong young core, this is a team clearly moving in the right direction. And they have been a treat for bettors as much as for casual fans this year. So, what is going right for Dallas? And wrong? And what does it mean for bettors?:
Luka: It was amazing on draft night that the Mavs wound up with Doncic, and now it seems like it should have been impossible. Remember, it seemed like a lock that he would go to the Kings with the second pick, but they took Marvin Bagley instead. And the Hawks, who had the third pick, decided that they were better off trading the pick and taking Trae Young than they were in keeping Doncic - which was just stupid at the time and is almost criminal now.
Doncic has settled in quickly, and is not only already Dallas' best player but a clear and obvious superstar in this league for years to come. His numbers are nice, but it is when you watch him that his obvious value stands out. He's far from the most athletic guy out there, and that is probably what scared the Kings and Hawks off. But he's just so damned smart. He has a savant's sense of what is going to happen, he is fearless, and his creativity is seemingly unlimited. There seems to be no moment too big for him, and his three years as a pro in Europe have seemingly erased any sense of intimidation he might feel. He's special now and is only going to get better. So much better. And he's the kind of special that only rubs off on the guys around him and makes them better. He isn't a ball hog who needs his opportunities at the expense of everyone else.
The Mavs knew they pulled off a heist when they got him on draft day, but even they didn't know how much cash was in the duffel bag when they grabbed it.
Dirk: After missing the first 26 games of the year recovering from an ankle injury, the legend is back. He is being eased into things, obviously, and hasn't made much of an impact yet. But even if he ends up having his worst statistical year - a likelihood barring a miracle - his presence is still so big for this young team. And he has a pile of history to make this year. He just became the only player ever to suit up in 21 seasons for the same team. His next win will make him just the sixth player to ever win 900 games, and he is within reasonably easy striking distance of sixth on the all-time scoring list.
He won't be a beast on the court, but he can take a lot of pressure off the young guys through deflection with the fans and the media, he keeps things light around the team, and he can provide guidance because there is nothing he hasn't seen at this point.
As we are about to see, this team is horrific on the road, and hopefully he can provide some help on that front, too.
Road woes: Dallas is a spectacular 13-3 at home this year. That has them tied with Denver and Golden State for the best home record in the West and second best overall. But the team is just one game over .500 at 15-14, which means that they are a hideous 2-11 on the road, which is tied with Minnesota and Atlanta for fewest road wins in the league. With an elite home mark and a dismal road mark, they obviously have the biggest gap in performance in the league. Now, playing at home is obviously easier, and Dallas has good crowd support, so some difference would make sense. But this is just ridiculous. It's not like they have had bad schedule luck, either - the team is 7-7 against teams better than .500 on the season and 8-7 against teams below, so they are fairly consistent regardless of who they face. And while they have indeed lost at some good teams, they have also lost twice in Phoenix and once in Atlanta, so the issues are about far more than the quality of the opponent.
There is no simple answer why this happens, and there probably is no quick fix, either. But the team has fallen out of a playoff spot recently, and the road woes are the biggest reason for that. Of course, they were never expected to be a playoff team anyway. And with San Antonio and Houston getting some things figured out, they are likely in some trouble. But if they at least want to stay within sight of a playoff spot, they need to get back on track in a hurry away from home.
Betting performance: At 17-12 ATS, the Mavs have been the third-best betting team in the league to date, trailing on the Nuggets and Kings in profitability. They were even kinder to bettors recently, though, as they have failed to cover their last four spreads. Their profitability does not spread to the totals, though - they have gone "over" 15 times and "under" 14, so they haven't provided long term, consistent profits.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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