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Through the Eyes of the Opposition: Suns vs. Mavericks

An on going bubble series: The Suns JAM Session guys have reached out to SB Nation representatives of the competition. Here is what they had to say about their team, their chances, and the Phoenix Suns.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Approaching the first of two match-ups between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks, John Voita and I were joined by the Senior Editor of Mavs Moneyball SB Nation site- Kirk Henderson. As we (Suns JAM Session podcast) continued our coverage from the other side of the ball, Kirk gave us great insight of what he expects to see from the Mavericks inside the bubble in Orlando.

One thing that Suns fans wouldn’t know about the Mavericks?

Suns fans know Mavericks-101- Luka Doncic is good. But what else is there that we are missing and might to look out for in the upcoming match-up? Kirk seemed to be surprised himself when finding out the following: when Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry share the floor together, the Mavs have a true shooting percentage as a team of 57%. Kirk responded, “They just poor it in, in limited minutes. That is really the backbone of their offense.”

Before the pandemic ended the NBA season Hardaway Jr. finished 10th in the league with 185 3-pointers, shooting 40.7% from downtown and Seth making 136 shooting 45.3% from 3, 2nd in the league. The Mavericks led the league with 1026 three pointers made… with the Houston Rockets still playing in the NBA.

The Mavericks have the best offensive rating (115.9) in NBA history.

How are the Mavericks approaching the eight seeding games?

Kirk comparing the Mavericks approach to the original 1993 classic Jurassic Park. The idea is to stay away from the Los Angeles Clippers, if possible.

“There’s a scene in Jurassic Park, where Ian Malcolm is running away with the flair to get the Tyrannosaur away.” Kirk begins, “The Tyrannosaur is the Clippers and the Mavericks are everyone else other than Ian Malcolm. The Clippers are built in a lab to beat the Lakers. The Mavericks are essentially the B version of the Lakers, where you have two very good players at the top and lesser players around them.”

The hope to avoid the Clippers should be the main focus for the Mavericks as they try to find an easier way to the second round. A match-up with the Utah Jazz or the Denver Nuggets is more favorable for the Mavericks and most teams who make their way to the playoffs.

Initial reaction when the Dallas Mavericks selected Luka in the 2018 NBA draft?

We had to go there. It’s like interviewing a rock star from the 90’s and having to ask about Pamela Anderson.

Kirk was very high on Luka from the start “I had spent the better part of a year drunkenly tweeting about games and begging for Luka, and when the lottery happened I was very sad.”

With the Mavericks ending up with the 5th pick in the draft, Kirk added “when the lottery happened I was just very sad. I had gone to the gym to burn off some rage at the fact that they were going to take Mo Bamba and then I saw all the alerts. It was outstanding!”

“At least you’re in a better place than Kings fans,” he said when talking about the Sun’s selection of Deandre Ayton at #1.

Kirk added some touching words on his feelings towards Ayton and also Mikal Bridges who the Suns took with the 10th pick of the draft.

“He seems to have come such a long way defensively this year and that’s really important long term. I think long term you guys will be happy with Ayton. My favorite player on your guys roster is Mikal Bridges. That is a guy that I was clamoring to take with the 5th pick.”

We had to ask the draft questions and it didn’t turn out as bad as John and I thought. Getting compliments about our #1 pick in Ayton and the Mikal love made me feel more confident in the team the Suns have.

What are your thoughts on Kristaps Porzingis?

As a fan of Kristaps Porzingis, I was interested to hear Kirk’s take on how he felt about the addition of a crowned unicorn in the league who has struggled with injury. Kirk was hesitant saying, “I don’t know how I feel about him.”

“For a guy that is 7’3”, this year on post-ups he has averaged .79 points per possession which is good for the 21st percentile in the entire league. That is very bad.” Questions about an unproven player always starts with negatives when asking a true fan how they feel about that player.

“He has awful Bio-mechanics, he lands like a baby deer.” Kirk pokes little fun about the big man’s defects, but realizes maybe it’s the best situation for Porzingis at this moment. “It’s nice that Luka has been so much better than him so there isn’t any of the BS alpha dog conversation. He just seems happy to be there and says the right thing.”

Kristaps may be settling into a secondary role behind Luka and with health issues and still trying to produce at a high rate, it seems to be the best thing to take a back seat.

Kirk ends his Porzingis rant with, “He is very good defensively. Long term I am going to be interested to see how it comes out because I also think he is still very prevalent to injury.”

Who is the one guy we should be watching when we play you guys that we don’t know?

“I would probably have to go with Maxi Kleber,” Kirk replied. Kirk makes a great choice and Maxi deserves a second look as an under the radar player on the Mavericks roster.

“Like Baynes.” Kirk’s comparison to Suns backup center Aron Baynes can help relate, “he can hit the outside shot, he can defend the rim.”

Only in his 3rd year in the NBA, Maxi is averaging 9.1 points per game and 5.4 rebounds. Coming off the bench. That can be comparable to what Baynes brings off the bench in Phoenix with 11.5 points per game and 5.6 rebounds.

Kirk mentions the contract being favorable with making around $8-9 mil per year for the next 3 years. For a big guy that is athletic and can hit the 3, I can see why Kirk would quickly name Maxi as the player to watch.

Prediction for the game?

“If the Mavericks want to do anything they better come out ready to play.” Still not sure on what to see from the Mavericks in the first showdown with the Suns, Kirk decides “I’ll just say the Mavs by 6.”

We hope to meet with Kirk again in the future as the Suns and Mavericks continue their build to the top of the NBA.