Author – Spread Astaire
Dallas Mavericks (8-13) vs Atlanta Hawks (10-10)
Wednesday, February 3rd, 7:30 p.m. EST
State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
The struggling Dallas Mavericks travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. Which team should you back to make the right NBA pick?
The Dallas Mavericks have been one of the more disappointing teams for the first quarter of the NBA season. They enter the game on a six-game losing skid. Their season has been marred by the continued absences of key players. Yet the team is finally close to being at full strength now. With a record of 8-13, they are at 13th Place in the Western Conference. If they have any hopes of achieving home-court advantage for a playoff series, they will need to turn things around quickly.
A key return from injury is center Kristaps Porzingis. In 10 games he’s averaged 18.6 points and eight rebounds per game. A center who can run the floor, block shots, and hit threes, he is aptly nicknamed “the Unicorn”. Yet with the limited playing time together, he and Mavericks star Luka Doncic have yet to find the chemistry that they displayed during their dominant run before his injury last season.
Luka Doncic has drawn criticism for showing up this season out of shape. The statistics wouldn’t tell you that however, as he’s averaging almost a triple-double, 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. However, he’s only shooting 30% from 3. His gaudy statistics this season have been more of a testament to his insane usage rather than the excellent play we have seen from him the last couple seasons. Regardless Luka continues to improve and the issues with the Mavericks do not stem from him.
The Mavericks core of role-players has been decimated by covid and injuries. Key contributors such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, Trey Burke, Jalen Brunson, Dwight Powell, and Maxi Kleber have all missed significant time. The team is finally back to full strength but the chemistry issues remain. While other teams are rounding into form, Dallas still sometimes has the cohesiveness of a team working its way through preseason. Dallas has a dangerous roster capable of doing great things, but as of right now this team is still trying to find its way and its players are still trying to define their roles.
The Atlanta Hawks are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-10. While this is quite the improvement for the perennial lottery team, expectations were high after the Hawks went all out in free agency to add veterans to improve to their young core. The Hawks are led by Trae Young, the sharpshooter with excellent vision in the passing lanes. Last season, Atlanta’s offense was absolutely terrible when Young was off the floor. Atlanta made moves to address this deficiency by adding Rajon Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Danilo Gallinari. Bogdanovic is currently out but Rondo and Gallinari have been a boost to the offense when Young sits.
The Hawks have been up and down this season. They had some team tension culminating in a Film room blow-up between John Collins and Trae Young where Collins attacked Young for not setting up the offense more and taking too many deep shots early in the shot clock. There is an underlying tension for the Atlanta Hawks did not resign Colin to the max deal, and he will be a restricted free agent this offseason, leading him to have quite the incentive to put up impressive statistics. Collins is averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds this season, which, while quite adequate, probably will not land him the max contract he desires.
Last year The Hawks were a team in which you could blindly bet the over and cash tickets. This is not been the case however as they have moved into the top 10 in defensive rating this season. While Gallinari, Rondo, and Bogdanovic obviously don’t add much on the defensive end, the major addition has been Clint Capela who was acquired by the Hawks in a 2019 trade but did not make his debut until this season. Capela’s rim protection has been outstanding and it allows John Collins to guard the four(PF). While many believe Collins best role would be as a small ball center, his rim protection was so poor in that role that does not seem that that would be the best option for him. With Capela roaming the middle, Collins has been much better defensively playing against smaller players and not being responsible for protecting the rim when opposing team’s guards blow by the somewhat suspect defense at the point of attack. Capela has made a world of difference to this team and it all starts on the defensive end.
A positive storyline for the Hawks this season has been the development of DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish. While both flashed potential last year, they also had a problem staying on the court due to consistency, especially on the defensive end. Hunter has become much more comfortable in his role defending NBA wings and Reddish is finally starting to add consistent results. Although Reddish is averaging only 12 points a game, he has been able to create his own shot in tough situations much more consistently than he had last season. These two young athletic players continue to fill their “3 and D” role as well as adding the luxury of being able to create their own shot. Their development gives Hawks fans hope that the team will continue To improve as the season progresses.
The game could very well come down to Kristaps Porzingis and Clint Capela. Capela’s rim protection has been key so it will be interesting to see if the Mavericks attempt to bring him outside using Porzingis proficient outside shooting. When the Mavericks run five-out sets, Capela will be forced to play on the perimeter. I would expect him to rotate to whoever the Mavericks put in the dunker spot if they run a 4-out set. Without Capela in the middle, the Hawks could return to their porous defensive ways, leading to plenty of easy scoring opportunities for the Mavericks.
On the other end, Capella’s rim running in the pick-and-roll could put Porzingis to the test. Although Porzingis is quick, with shot-blocking ability, he’s not as comfortable down low as he should be for a man of his size. The Hawks would be quite wise to try and take advantage of this matchup, especially to put Porzingis in foul trouble. Using Capela in the 1/5 pick-and-roll could put pressure on the Mavericks defense early and potentially limit Porzingis minutes due to foul trouble. Keep an eye on this matchup and the floor positions of these 2 players created by each offense.
My Pick and Pop
Although I think Dallas will eventually right the ship this season and become a formidable playoff opponent, as of right now this is not a team you can trust, especially on the road. Dallas is still building chemistry as it tries to reintegrate all the pieces missing from injury/Covid, and are too reliant on Luka offensively. The Hawks increase defense has led them to play much better and their only recent losses are against top teams (Lakers, Nets, Bucks). With the players roles on Atlanta more clearly defined and the players being able to execute their roles better, I believe Atlanta will win this game outright. My NBA pick is Atlanta ML +105
NBA Pick: Atlanta Hawks ML +105 (BKMKR)