The Dallas Mavericks have stalled in the NBA’s version of no man’s land. And that is the worst place to be.

After dropping an extremely winnable game to the Detroit Pistons, 131-125, the writing is on the wall. It can’t be denied any longer. There is no excuse, and no Jalen Brunson coming to save anyone. Dallas (10-11) is, at best, and as presently constructed, an average ball club.

It shouldn’t have taken over time. It shouldn’t have taken 41 minutes from Luka Doncic or 35 points from the Mavericks’ heliocentric superstar, but it did. And still, it wasn’t good enough to beat Killian Hayes, who scored 22 points, Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 30, and the rest of Detroit’s team that may as well be thinking more about Victor Wembanyama than the playoffs.

“Disappointment,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “I don’t think it’s anything more or less. Disappointed with the effort we gave on the defensive end.”

Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored 26 points in 40 minutes and broke out of a shooting slump recently, corroborated Kidd’s claims.

“We didn’t do the job we were supposed to do defensively,” he said.

Yet, strange enough, Dallas’ loss to Detroit could have been expected. Mediocre is who the Mavericks have been all season.

There was the disorienting 16-point collapse against the Oklahoma City Thunder. There was also the hapless loss to the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets. But those losses underscore even worse decisions: Orlando, Houston, the blown lead to start the season in Phoenix, and the meltdown against New Orleans. Evident in each of these losses is the fact Dallas can’t get out of its own way. Inconsistency always precedes incompetence. If Dallas continues heading down its current road, it would be nearing the latter in a season that — though long — runs its course, quickly.

Dallas dropping winnable games 

Good teams don’t drop games to teams they are supposed to beat. It’s the marker of a group that has an identity, mission, and vision for where they want to go and who they want to be. The Mavericks don’t have any of the above. From night to night, the product on the floor varies. The effort level varies. Signing Kemba Walker isn’t going to fix that issue. Nor is giving Christian Wood more minutes, or hoping the jump shooters on the roster make shots. Dallas’ cupboard of assets is barren. Help isn’t coming soon. And as the saying goes, it has to get worse before it gets better.

Dallas has lost to Detroit, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Orlando, who possess a combined record of 25-64.

As built, the Mavericks aren’t a good basketball team. They have a great player in Doncic that has covered a multitude of roster-constructing sins. But even he is human. And even he needs help. And even he has a breaking point. If things don’t change, it’s only a matter of time until he gets there.

Related Dallas Mavericks reading

“Kemba Walker signs with the Mavericks, here is what to expect.” 

“How the Mavericks’ recent losses revealed the truth about the roster as constructed.” 

“The disappointing reality regarding the Christian Wood situation.” 

Feature image via Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.