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NBA Fastbreak: Team with the best buzz right now is the one missing its superstar

Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis dunks against 76ers center Joel Embiid during the first half Dec. 20 in Philadelphia.
Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis dunks against 76ers center Joel Embiid during the first half Friday in Philadelphia.
(Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

Are the Lakers going too hard too soon? When are the Clippers going to come together? Do the Milwaukee Bucks have a second star around Giannis Antetokounmpo? What’s Philadelphia going to do about Ben Simmons’ shooting?

Most of the big questions asked between scouts and executives about the NBA’s teams carried at least a tint of negativity. But almost no one had anything bad to say about the Dallas Mavericks.

Even with second-year sensation Luka Doncic out with an ankle injury, the Mavericks had a great week with wins at Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

While the Mavericks say that Doncic’s injury isn’t serious and he could be back soon, the time without him has helped elevate the Mavericks’ place in Western Conference because it’s allowed Kristaps Porzingis to shine.

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Forgotten about after he missed a season and a half because of torn ACL, Porzingis is starting to regain the form and rhythm that made him one of the most unique players in the NBA. He’s averaging 23.6 points and 14.3 rebounds with Doncic sidelined.

The pairing of two players under 25 years old is the foundation for Dallas’ future and a likely problem for the rest of the teams in the conference for seasons to come.

Entering Saturday, only the Bucks had a better net rating and no team had been more efficient on offense. Getting Porzingis going should only help those numbers.

Dallas was a nice story to start the season. Now that we’re in mid-December, scouts and executives are pretty sure the Mavericks are going to be a problem the rest of the way.

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Rumor has it

Things were quiet in Las Vegas during the G League showcase in terms of the big moves people are anticipating.

New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday was the name that came up most often among scouts and general managers, with Denver being listed most frequently as a landing spot. The Clippers’ Holiday hopes — if they even have them — seem unlikely. One league executive said he felt New Orleans would need to be blown away in an offer for Holiday, whom the Pelicans have under contract through next season. They could have him for another year if Holiday takes his $26-million player option.

The G League is more than a developmental league for players. Coaches, executives and trainers are moving into the NBA after starts there.

New Orleans isn’t shopping him, though the Pelicans are listening.

League executives think the New York Knicks could factor in trade talks. Marcus Morris’ name has been mentioned by multiple executives, with some speculating that the Clippers could be interested.

Andre Iguodala’s name continues to be talked about and both Los Angeles teams would want him, but he would need to be bought out of his Memphis contract to make that work.

The market is quiet because a lot of teams have under-performed while the top of the league — the Bucks, Lakers and Clippers in particular — appear to be that much better than everyone else. Philadelphia and Boston could be buyers, along with Denver, but otherwise the early market is pretty soft.

Tip-ins

There was some discussion about why the Lakers had Anthony Davis (ankle) and LeBron James (back) both play hurt against the Bucks with so much season still ahead of them. … Gary Payton II is close to a deal with Washington after a strong showing with the South Bay Lakers. … Former lottery pick Ben McLemore has been red hot for Houston, making almost four three-pointers per game on 45.6% shooting over his last 10 games.

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Andre Ingram has labored in the NBA’s development league for many seasons, but his first chance to play for the Lakers touched many lives.


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