The 2022 NBA season is officially over and the Golden State Warriors are champions once again. The Dallas Mavericks haven’t played in a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I’m done trying to lead them to more success.
The Finals taught us a few things and I hope the Mavericks paid attention. Here are three takeaways from the 2022 Finals.
It feels like the Mavericks are on the right track here, and that’s a good thing. After a few years of jaw-dropping offense and blah defense, Jason Kidd and Co. have turned the script on its head. They slowed things down even more and focused entirely on defense.
The Mavs finished the regular season with a top-seven defensive efficiency rating and entered the playoffs hanging their hats on their ability to get saves. And guess what – it worked! The Mavs exceeded expectations and made it to the Western Conference Finals, ultimately losing to the eventual NBA champions.
The final featured two teams who too hung their hats on the tusk. The two best defenses of the regular season? The Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors. And their defenses were only amplified on the biggest stage. Neither team was extinguished in attack. That’s not how these guys won games. They did it with smart and suffocating defense.
The Warriors won the final three games in the Finals and held Boston to 97, 94 and 90 points, respectively. It didn’t matter how good the Warriors offense was, because it didn’t have need be as good. He just had to be good enough to hold up against their defense. And thanks to Steph Curry, it was.
The Mavericks can follow that same mold. If their defense can be elite, Luka Doncic can carry his half-court attack the same way Steph Curry carried the Warriors’ half-court attack.
So keep focusing on defense, Dallas. It’s a great way to win NBA games when they matter most.
One of my favorite parts of the Warriors championship run was watching how they used their guys on the sidelines. We knew Steph Curry was going to explode. It was obvious. But again and again in the Finals, the Warriors trusted guys other teams had let down.
Gary Payton II was a key contributor to their Finals run and eventually played 20 minutes in the closing game, finishing with a team best +18 over/under thanks in large part to his defensive intensity.
Another guy the Warriors had success with was Nemanja Bjelica. He didn’t play in the closing game and barely played in the playoffs. But, he was good enough to play minutes from the spot when it was advantageous for the Warriors matchups.
Gary Payton II and Nemanja Bjelica aren’t the types of guys who get fanbases excited in the offseason, but they’re the types of guys who can throw crucial minutes into the biggest moments of the season.
Yes, you need a core five to play the majority of minutes, but everyone on the roster is crucial to a team’s success.
It’s the biggest and most important lesson, and despite how many times it’s been thrown in the faces of NBA teams and fans, it feels like it’s always forgotten.
If you have a chance of winning an NBA title, you have do everything in your power to go all out.
Take a look at the Celtics. Their main nucleus is young. Jayson Tatum is 24 and Jaylen Brown is 25. In theory they should be back and should be back more than once. But will it actually happen? Giannis Antetokounmpo is still the Boss Level you need to beat in the Eastern Conference. Trae Young is promising. Joel Embiid is still there. The Raptors have an exciting core. Remember Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets?
Should Boston be back? Yes. But would you be surprised if they missed their window and couldn’t outrun Giannis, Joel or anyone else for the next five years? I wouldn’t be.
On the other hand, the Warriors saw their window and jumped through with full enthusiasm. Golden State will still be a force to be reckoned with next season, but the Western Conference is only getting better. Luka Doncic arrives. Ja Morant arrives. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are still there. LeBron James exists. The Suns are hungry. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is here. Anthony Edwards and Minnesota have a bright future. Did I mention Zion Williamson and the Pelicans ceiling?
This could very well have been the last chance Steph Curry and Co. had to add another ring to their trophy case, and they jumped on it.
The Mavs need to do the same with Luka Donic. There can’t be “Well, Luka is still young” in Dallas. He’s good enough to lead a team to a championship right now, and the Mavs need to do everything they can to maximize any chances they get.
Good news: the acquisition of Christian Wood gives the impression that the Mavs are aware of it.