Do the Dallas Mavericks need defense upgrades to become title contenders?
The Brooklyn Nets could be an interesting test case this season. They have an otherworldly offense, but their defense leaves a lot to be desired. Every NBA champion since 2002, except the 2018 Warriors, has finished inside the top ten in defensive rating. They were not all elite defensive teams, but the threshold seems clear.
The Mavericks made improving their defense a priority in the 2020 offseason because it was their next step in jumping into title contention. Dallas made the playoffs but was eliminated in the first round after finishing 18th in defensive rating last season. The Mavs currently sit 23rd. The addition of Josh Richardson has not been a home run, but the team continues to climb since getting healthy.
Dallas needs to improve their perimeter defense to jump into title contention. Dorian Finney-Smith is a plus defender, but he would be better suited as a team’s second or third best option. Josh Richardson is also above average. The Mavericks still do not have that option that can slow down the league’s best scorers.
When teams go small in the playoffs, Dallas could use another wing option or two that can defend multiple positions. The Mavs struggled mightily against Kawhi Leonard in the 2020 playoffs, and would likely face a similar fate this year.
Next: How can Mavs become contenders?