The Mavericks won’t be contenders until they resolve their defensive issues

    The Dallas Mavericks finished the 2020-21 NBA season with the seventh-best defense in the league. Last season, that tumbled to the 25th-ranked defense. They’ve slightly improved this year and currently sit 22nd out of 30 teams. 

    Winning an NBA championship requires elite production on both ends of the floor. Until Jason Kidd’s Mavs can remedy their defensive issues, they’re destined to fall short in pursuit of the ultimate goal. 

    On Monday, ESPN’s Tim Legler questioned the Mavericks’ commitment. 

    “I’m just going to call them out,” Legler said. “They don’t play hard enough. It’s that simple. They do not lay it on the line defensively the way you have to, to be considered a legitimate contender. They have everything they need offensively, every single night, to go toe-to-toe with any team in this league …They don’t compete on the defensive end of the floor to the extent that you need to. Plain and simple … If they don’t, they go home early.”

    Dallas has a top-10 offense. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are a superstar pairing. They can both win games with their incredible scoring abilities. However, neither is known for being a stout defensive force. The Mavericks lack legitimate wing defenders. 

    P.J. Washington was acquired to provide some versatility on that side of the floor but has never been viewed among the elite 3-and-D players in the NBA. 

    To win in the NBA, you need balance. You need defensive-minded players. Doncic and Irving need versatile wing defenders and rim protectors to empower them on offense. They need to trust that missed shots won’t quickly spark an offensive run by the opponent. 

    Dereck Lively II will undoubtedly develop into a high-level rim protector. However, there are only so many expectations you can put on the rookie big man’s shoulders.

    Dallas failed to make a significant improvement on defense at the trade deadline. Kidd will need to galvanize the players at his disposal. He needs to sell them on digging deep on the defensive end. 

    Otherwise, this will be another lost season in the Doncic era. The Mavericks can’t afford too many more of those. Not if they want to keep their generational talent happy and committed to the franchise. 

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