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Mac Engel: Luka Doncic may average a triple-double, and it won’t matter if this doesn’t change
AP

Mac Engel: Luka Doncic may average a triple-double, and it won’t matter if this doesn’t change

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The Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic, left, takes a shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards during a preseason game at American Airlines Center in Dallas on December 17, 2020.

The Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic, left, takes a shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards during a preseason game at American Airlines Center in Dallas on December 17, 2020. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/TNS)

Andre Drummond is a player the Dallas Mavericks can use, and he is now officially available.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly planning to sit their center as they attempt to trade him to a team that is willing to give up something of value in return.

The Mavs may be interested in Drummond, on the condition he is basically free of charge.

Sources familiar with the team said the Mavs are only interested in Drummond if the Cavs agree to buyout out the remainder of his contract and make him an unrestricted free agent. Drummond would then be able to sign with whatever team he chooses.

Don’t plan on buying your own Andre Drummond Dallas Mavericks jersey just yet.

Considering the Mavs don’t have a lot to offer, your better play is to simply prepare for the Mavs to go with what they have, and pray a terrible defense can be somewhat less terrible, or Luka Doncic can average 48 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists per game.

He’s currently averaging 29.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game, and it’s still not enough.

The Mavs lost on Sunday night to the Portland Trail Blazers to end their four-game winning streak, and are now 13-15.

The problem remains the problem — the acquisitions to improve a bad defense from a season ago have yielded ish results.

Center Willie Cauley-Stein has been a nice find, but Josh Richardson and James Johnson have not made a significant difference on this team as projected.

The Mavericks defensively thus far may actually be worse than last season, when they were not good.

The Mavs currently allow 114.6 points per game, which ranks 24th in the NBA. Opponents are shooting 47.2% from the floor, 21st in the NBA. And the Mavs allow opponents to shoot 37.6% from 3-point range, 20th in the NBA.

Other than that ...

Add those totals up, and the Mavs’ record fits. Their defense isn’t the worst in the NBA, but they’re not even average, and as a result they don’t even look like a playoff team.

Because right now they aren’t one.

The defense is so unpredictable and erratic, the Mavs are essentially asking Luka and his buddies to never have an off-night shooting. That’s a wonderful way to prevent prolonged winning streaks in the NBA.

Against Portland on Sunday night, the Blazers scored 34 and 45 points in the first and third quarters, respectively. In the second and fourth quarters, the Mavs held the Blazers to 24 points and 18 points.

The ability to defend is in there.

“That’s our battle right now. It’s to get more consistent and be more consistent,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told the media on a Zoom call after the game.

I asked Rick where they need to be better specifically defensively.

“I think we need to be where we were in the second and fourth quarters,” he said. “It’s pretty clear. There is a greater sense of urgency. We are sitting down in a stance. Unfortunately, too many times it comes when we’ve been knocked back on our heels. Having a hit-first mentality is a very, very important thing.”

That’s about effort, and taking it seriously. The Mavs get hit, and then react.

Forget contending for a top spot in the Western Conference. The Mavs have played so poorly thus far reaching the seventh or eighth seed in the West is now your goal.

The goal is now to prevent total embarrassment.

They are not as bad as they have played at times during the season, but this is a still a slightly above average team. It has one top-five NBA player and a slick sidekick in Kristaps Porzingis.

They simply need more talent after Porzingis. In the West, they aren’t as talented as the Lakers, Jazz, Clippers or Nuggets. At least.

And there is still no good explanation why the 2020-21 Dallas Mavericks are two games under .500 after Valentine’s Day.

Dealing Seth Curry in the offseason should not result in this.

Defense has never been predicated on talent. A decent NBA defender should be able to get into his player and force a few stops.

The Mavs have NBA players, and they collectively don’t force enough stops.

Force a few more stops, the Mavs are winning more games.

Until then, we’re watching a team that won’t make the playoffs.

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