Breaking Down the 2019-20 Mavericks Schedule

On Monday, the NBA released its full game-by-game schedule to set the stage for the 2019-20 season. 

For the first time in several years, the Mavs have a favorable start to the season, playing 7 of their first 11 games against teams that missed the playoffs in 2019. The Mavs have been plagued in past seasons by cold starts to the season. To put perspective on the importance of the first 11 games, here’s how the first 11 games of previous seasons played out for Dallas:

  • In 2018-19, the Mavs started 3-8, which included a colossal collapse versus Atlanta to start a 6 game losing streak, which put the Mavs a step behind for the whole season. 
  • In 2017-18, while the Mavs were not considered a playoff threat, they started 1-10. This very quickly put away any dreams anti-tanking fans had for the Mavericks to overachieve.
  • In 2016-17, when the Mavs’ decline towards tanking began, the Mavericks started 2-9, which did enough damage to split the fanbase into arguing over whether to tank or to aim for the 8 seed. The early season struggles ended up being a blessing in disguise, as they contributed to the Mavs getting the ninth pick in the 2017 draft, which turned into Dennis Smith Jr.
  • In 2015-16, the last time the Mavericks made the playoffs, they started the season 7-4 and ended up finishing the regular season with the 6th best record in the Western Conference.
  • In the notorious 2014-15 season, the Mavericks had an incredible 8-3 start to the season. Before the Rajon Rondo trade, that team was historically elite offensively, and despite chemistry issues, they still made the playoffs with 50 wins.
  • In 2013-14, the season the Mavs lost to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in 7 games, Dallas started the year 7-4 en route to winning 49 games.
  • Lastly, in 2012-13, the Mavs started mildly at 6-5. Other issues ended up getting in the way of that season, including the injury to Dirk Nowitzki and clashing personalities throughout the roster.

October/November record prediction:

Optimistic: 12-6; biggest upset: W vs Golden State 11/20 (ESPN). Pessimistic: 9-9; worst loss: @ New Orleans 10/25 

Assuming the Mavs take advantage of business in October and November, the Mavs will have room for error in a tough December. The Mavs’ December schedule is nearly opposite in terms of strength of schedule compared to November and October by playing 7 of 15 December games against teams that made the playoffs last year, excluding Oklahoma City. They will also have a home-and-home with the Pelicans, host the Heat, and also visit the Lakers on the road. The Mavs play 9 road games to 6 home games in December, which will be a true test for the Mavs. Success is relative, and for the Mavs to have success in December, they will need to hover around .500 or better.

December record prediction:

Optimistic: 7-8; biggest upset: wins in back to back games versus New Orleans & Sacramento (12/7 & 12/8). Pessimistic: 4-12; worst loss: Home vs either Sacramento/New Orleans or at home vs Boston.

January is essentially a repeat of December: the Mavs play 11 likely playoff teams, but will be playing 9 home games to 6 road games, including a 6 game homestand to open the 2020 portion of the calendar. There’s only one game against a team not projected to be near the bottom or the top of the league, which is against similarly ranked Sacramento. Dallas plays likely bottom-feeders in Phoenix, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, and Chicago in January, as well as juggernauts from both conferences in the Lakers, Clippers, 76ers, Jazz, Rockets, Nets, and Nuggets.

January record prediction:

Optimistic prediction: 7-8; biggest upset: vs Denver (January 8 on ESPN). Pessimistic: 4-11: worst loss: losing twice to Portland at home and on the road, January 17 & 23 on ESPN & TNT.

February comes as a much needed relief for Dallas after two brutal months, but is still boom or bust and full of potential trap games. The whole month is essentially games against the middle tier of the NBA, including Atlanta twice, Orlando, San Antonio, Sacramento, Minnesota, and Miami. The All-Star break will be helpful for Dallas as they will be rested before playing 4 of their final 5 games of the month on the road, and a road back to back to open March.

February record prediction:

Optimistic prediction: 8-4; biggest upset: None, but closest would be @ Orlando (February 21). Pessimistic prediction: 5-7; worst loss: losing back to back @ Orlando and Atlanta out of the all star break or at home against Sacramento (February 12).

March is the most hectic month for the Mavs, filled with three back-to-backs, with two being pure road back-to-backs, and one being a road/home back-to-back. The longest rest the Mavs will have in March is two days, which could be crucial heading into a potential playoff race.

March record prediction:

Optimistic prediction: 7-8; biggest upset: vs Houston (March 23). Pessimistic prediction: 5-10; worst loss: vs Denver (March 11), meaning 1-5 on back-to-back games in March.

April provides good balance in the final 7 games of the regular season, including a three day gap between home games number 39 and 40. This could be important if the Mavs are in a late-season push for a playoff seed, which would come before games versus Detroit, at enver, and versus Oklahoma City to close the season.

April record prediction:

Optimistic prediction: 4-3; biggest upset: none, but biggest win would be @ Minnesota (April 1). Pessimistic prediction: 3-4; worst loss: @ Minnesota (April 1).

These predictions come, of course, with the assumption that Dallas is not tanking or resting players after a certain point, and does not take into account for guessing injuries.

Total season predictions:

Optimistic: 45-37

Pessimistic: 30-52

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