The Dallas Mavericks are staying in-state with a road game in Houston, where they will be taking on James Harden and the Rockets. These teams are not in the same situation, but both do are looking to win games, which is nice to see at this point in the season. Both teams have made moves at or around the trade deadline that have improved them one way or another.
The moves made by the Mavericks are a really strange combination of “win now” moves and patient moves. I think the truth is that the Mavericks are in “win next year” mode, which is something that we don’t often see. The biggest trade they made this season is the addition of Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Trey Burke, and Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis is unlikely to play this season, and Lee is not in the rotation, which I expect to continue. Burke is acting as scoring off of the bench and THJ is a very nice piece on any team. Hardaway was not worth his contract on the Knicks, especially as the “best player on his team.” Hardaway is a fantastic teammate to go along with a star player or two because he is more than willing to handle the ball and take 20 shots if called upon, but he is a guy that doesn’t need the ball. Productive players that don’t need the ball are great because they typically take away less from your star players, like Klay Thompson in Golden State.
I think THJ and Luka will be a really solid backcourt for the next few years. This trade was to unleash Luka Doncic as the starting PG as well, so they are getting even more production out of him on a nightly basis than they were before the trade. The Mavs also lost Harrison Barnes, who has relatively similar traits to THJ, to a Kings team for a young piece. This trade was a move that showed they were not “all in” this year, but likely will be next.
The Rockets made less of a splash but added a prototypical role player for the stretch run in Iman Shumpert. Shumpert is very willing to play 37 minutes and touch the ball 4 times, which is what the Rockets need more of with Chris Paul and James Harden on the court. The Rockets have struggled this season without Ariza and Mbah a Moute because they have been worse defensively. Shumpert should be expected to fill a role bigger than Mbah a Moute’s and smaller than Ariza’s was last season.
I think that Shumpert may be used a good amount in this game to guard Luka for stretches of the game. Shumpert played 24 minutes last game but had 4 fouls and was taken out for a few minutes after 2 different fouls. I think it looks like he would have been closer to 30 minutes in the last game without these fouls. Other than Luka, the Mavericks do not provide a ton of matchup problems for most teams. Hardaway is a standard 2/3, who wouldn’t particularly feast against guard defense more than other guards would. Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson, and Maxi Kleber all are below average offensively. I hope to see more Dwight Powell in this game and moving forward for more offensive firepower.
The Rockets also don’t provide any weird matchups. I expect both teams to run a 3 guard lineup most of the game with Harden, Paul, Gordon, Shumpert, Green, and Austin Rivers all getting involved to varying degrees. PJ Tucker is a non-threat besides shooting open three. Faried has a good offensive game but isn’t too big for the small Dallas Frontcourt.
Rockets vs. Mavericks Prediction
I think that this game has very few clear matchup advantages/disadvantages to either team. What that means is that picking the game is all about the line. The Rockets should be favored because if all else is equal, they have better basketball players. However, I think the -10.5 is too steep. The Mavericks are coming off of a big win over a solid Portland team and I think they get enough out of Luka and THJ to stay in this game and keep it relatively close. I like the Mavericks here +10.5 on the road.