Dallas Mavericks: Playoff Contenders or Conference Extras?
Three years back, an ageing Dallas Mavericks team shocked basketball aficionados around the world when they triumphed in the NBA finals against a much younger Miami Heat. They relied heavily on veterans Dirk Nowitzki on offense and Shawn Marion on defense to get them through. Of course, back then, they had Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler supporting them.
Since then, it has been a shocking downhill ride for the Mavs. Lockouts, Dirk Nowtizki’s knee injuries, Kidd’s transfer to New York Knicks, Terry’s move to the Boston Celtics were all contributing factors to their decline. They hit rock bottom last season when they finished outside the top 8 for the first time since the 1999-00 season even after finishing with a .500 season (41-41) .
The Western Conference has probably never been this stacked in the recent past. Approximately 12 teams are contending for the top 8 seeds. San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors will definitely perform better than Dallas. That means that at best, Dallas can hope to compete for the 7th and 8th seed in the conference.
This year, the Mavs have “rebuilt” their team, while retaining their core offensive and defensive players, Nowitzki and Marion. Dallas may have improved their team compared to last season, but so has most of the other teams in the West.
So, the questions remain: Have they improved enough? Can their restructured team return the team to their habituated place in the post season?
A few of the aspects which would contribute to them making the playoffs are listed below:
Dallas’ offense has increased by leaps and bounds compared to last season. While Jose Calderon is definitely no match for the legendary Kidd, Calderon is a capable point guard and he’s ably assisted by Devin Harris. These two could probably fill in for Kidd and make sure that the offense is well facilitated.
The Shooting guard position has seen a definite improvement compared to last season. Their starting SG last season was O.J. Mayo. While Mayo is a decent shooting guard, he’s been replaced by Monta Ellis, an explosive scorer. Veteran Vince Carter will serve as a fine back up for Ellis and will also play the role of a mentor.
Dirk’s return from injury is also a huge cause of relief for the Mavericks. He’ll take care of the power forward position and most of the scoring workload. Samuel Dalembert will probably be their starting center for now. They will be able to control the rebounding department along with veteran Shawn Marion.
In short, their offense will depend heavily on Nowitzki and Monta Ellis with support from Carter, Calderon and Harris. This should be good enough if they’re hoping to make it to the playoffs.