Mavericks: 3 players facing the most pressure in 2019-20
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Mavs: 3 players facing the most pressure in 2019-20

The Dallas Mavericks are coming off yet another offseason in which they largely struck out on the free-agent market. Yes, they retained Kristaps Porzingis on a max deal, but overall, the Mavericks weren’t able to lure any big names.

Still, with a duo of Porzingis and Luka Doncic, there are reasons to be excited about Dallas heading into the 2019-20 campaign, as the Mavs should be better than they were this past year and could very well be in playoff contention.

Now that the Mavericks are kind of relevant again, pressure is beginning to return. Here are the three players in Dallas facing the most of it next season.

3. Tim Hardaway Jr.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is entering the third year of a four-year deal that he originally signed with the New York Knicks (he was traded to Dallas along with Porzingis midway through this past season), but with the fourth year having a player option, this could essentially be viewed as a contract year for Hardaway.

Hardaway would make just under $19 million if he picks up his player option for 2020-21, so he might end up exercising it regardless of what happens in 2019-20, but it would still be nice for Hardaway to have a good year.

The 27-year-old puts up counting numbers, averaging 18.1 points per game this past season. The problem is, he’s been consistently inefficient throughout his career, a trend that continued in 2018-19 when he posted a true shooting percentage of just 52.4 percent.

Hardaway is too far into his NBA career to not be able to be at least league average in terms of efficiency. Maybe next year will finally be the year he breaks through.

2. Luka Doncic

Doncic is just 20 years old, but he has already set the bar absurdly high for himself, kind of like Jayson Tatum did a year ago – and just ask the Boston Celtics wing what happens when you don’t meet those unrealistic second-year expectations.

Doncic averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists per game during his rookie campaign, which has just about everyone wondering what’s next for the Slovenian wunderkind.

Plus, now that Porzingis is aboard, there is already some pressure on the Mavericks to make a playoff push. If Doncic only shows slight improvement or levels out in his second year, he is going to unfairly hear it from fans and media pundits.

It seems ridiculous that a 20-year-old entering his second season could face this type of burden, but nevertheless, here we are.

1. Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis missed all of 2018-19 while recovering from a torn ACL, an injury he sustained all the way back in February 2018. He also had a falling out with the Knicks and asked for a trade midway through this last season, finally being maxed out by the Mavericks despite having never played a game for the team.

Basically, Porzingis got what he wanted, and now it’s up to him to deliver.

There is no doubt that this kid has All-NBA potential. Kevin Durant didn’t dub him “The Unicorn” by accident. But at just 24-years-old, Porzingis already has an incredibly checkered injury history that even goes beyond his ACL tear.

Given that he is 7-foot-3, you have to wonder if he will ever be able to stay healthy and reach his full potential, but it all starts in 2019-20. Porzingis is past the point of excuses. He is now at a juncture where development and production is expected.

If he puts it all together and can avoid injury, he could end up being one of the best players in the league very soon, and this season could end up being a big indicator of what’s to come.