The Dallas Mavericks 2023-24 NBA season is almost here. As the Mavs enter training camp ahead of the new campaign, the team has a lot of questions to answer if it hopes to atone for last season’s playoff-missing debacle. With Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving again taking the court together soon, here are the three burning questions Dallas must answer heading into 2023-24 NBA training camp.
3. Are the new Mavs role players enough?
Heading into the Mavs training camp ahead of the 2023-23 NBA season, there will be a lot of new faces on the court in Dallas.
Christian Wood, Davis Bertans, Reggie Bullock, Justin Holiday, and Frank Ntilikina are out, while Grant Williams, Seth Curry, Dante Exum, and Richaun Holmes are in. The Mavs also have two first-round picks in Dereck Lively II and Olivier Maxence-Prosper, and two undrafted free agents in Mike Miles Jr. and Dexter Dennis on the training camp roster.
Do Williams, Holmes, and Lively provide enough defense, rebounding, and toughness? Can Seth Curry and Maxence-Prosper score without the ball in their hands and space the floor with their long-distance shooting? Can Exum and Miles Jr. play-make when Doncic and Irving are off the floor?
These are the types of questions fans ask about the Mavs role players around Luka Doncic every season, and for five long seasons, when it comes to late in the regular season or the playoffs, the answer is always ultimately no.
This year, the team seems to have really doubled down on specialists with elite skills in the areas mentioned above, which should complement what Doncic and Irving do perfectly. But while it works well on paper, this theory will soon get put to the test.
2. Is Dereck Lively II the next Tyson Chandler?
There are several interesting parallels between Luka Doncic and Dirk Nowitzki’s careers in Dallas. While they are two very different players whose careers have progressed in unique ways, the common thread is that Mark Cuban and the Mavs never could seem to put the perfect team around Dirk, right up until the point they did.
With all due respect to Shawn Merion, Jason Terry, and JJ Barea — who were all absolutely crucial to winning the title — it was Tyson Chandler who paired with Nowitzki and the Mavs current head coach, Jason Kidd, to form a Big 3 that won a championship.
The Mavs head into training camp and the 2023-24 season with their versions of Nowitzki (Doncic) and Kidd (Irving). Can Dereck Lively II provide the rim protection, rim running, rebounding, and overall intimidation that Chandler did?
Lively has the defensive chops and athleticism to excel on that end of the floor like he did at Duke. He also has some untapped potential on offense that he didn’t get to show off for the Blue Devils.
Lively has the profile of a perfect third banana for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. However, the questions surrounding him are, one, how fast can he develop in the NBA? And two, what do Kyrie and Luka look like together this year? Because if the answer to that question is not good, nothing else matters.
1. Can Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving coexist?
The biggest burning question as the Mavs training camp opens ahead of the new season is whether Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving can play and win games together because it didn’t happen last season.
After Dallas traded for Irving, the team went 9-18 after the trade deadline, with the franchise’s two biggest stars and just 5-11 with them in the lineup together.
In a lot of ways, that outcome seemed obvious. Both these players are exceptional talents, but they need the ball in their hands to succeed. Last season, Doncic and Irving finished second and 22nd in the league in usage rate. The Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole were the only other teammates who finished in the top 22.
These two perennial All-Stars should be good enough to find a way to work together. That said, we’ve never really seen Doncic accommodate another star, and Irving is the most mercurial and erratic superstar in the NBA.
If the Mavs want to have success this season, the clock is now running on Jason Kidd to figure out in training camp how to get the most out of these two in the coming season. Joining a team mid-season is tough, so if you want to give Doncic and Irving the benefit of the doubt, that’s the biggest piece.
However, if they play together like they did last season, the Mavs are doomed.