The Dallas Mavericks are the defending champions, but judging by their record they are on pace to be knocked out by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have won the regular season battles vs the Mavericks 3-1.
The Mavericks are the 7th seed in the Western Conference with a record of 36-29, 12.5 games behind the Western Conference leaders San Antonio Spurs. This Mavericks squad is missing its defensive lynchpin which helped them to anchor the paint last year. Tyson Chandler ‘s departure to the New York Knicks has left a gaping hole in the interior defense of the defending champions.
Defending champions makes it sound like the champs are on top of a hill and challengers are working and battling to climb up and dethrone them as kings of the hill. But the case is different here as all the teams are climbing to reach the top of the hill, including the defending champions. Yeah the trophy rotates and remains with the defending champions but the next year everything is up for grabs.
Last year Dirk Nowitzki firmly established himself as the most reliable offensive threat in the league. His patented off balance fade away jumper is unguardable and he has now developed more instinct to put his head down and get to the rim.
One thing that bodes well for the Dallas fans, is their odds at Vegas are steadily dropping. Reminiscent of last year when their odds had few takers. They started the season with 8-1 odds, which have now dropped to 25-1. Its rare to find the defending champions as the underdogs. Last year the Mavs were the underdogs against everyone they played in the postseason, mainly because of their decade long history of fizzling out during the playoffs. This time they have the benefit of experience in winning, and they have experience regardless as most of their stars are old.
Jason Kidd is 39 years old and you can almost hear the bones creak as he ambles down the floor. He is an apt floor general but he’s going to have a tough time hanging with Russel Westbrook and other quicker and younger players. Last year the Dallas perimeter defense could gamble and afford slack as they had the luxury of having Tyson Chandler behind them to stuff any who got by the first line of defense. This time around they have Brendan Haywood and Yi Jianlin, even if both of them combined their defensive talents they would still be a far cry from Chandler.
The Dallas Mavericks tried to compensate for the loss of JJ Barea and Tyson Chandler by the addition of Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. Odom has since been released by the Mavericks following subpar performance and effort, and Vince Carter has not really been the same since his surgeries.
The Mavericks have something similar to JJ Barea in Rodrigue Beaubois, he is a Speedy Gonzales who can go off on hot streaks, but he isn’t much of a playmaker as Barea was.
In a Bizzaro game recently, the Mavs had a loss handed to them with back to back threes from Pau Gasol and a missed layup from Jason Terry. The Lakers were swept by the Mavericks last year, but this time history isn’t going to repeat.
When it comes down to it, the Mavericks will be in a position where the games are close and they cannot rely on their defense anymore to bring it home. Then Dirk Nowitzki will have to step up again and carry this team past the opposition on offense.