There once was a time (however long ago it may seem) when the local DFW area, year-in and year-out, had championship aspirations for their beloved Dallas Mavericks. Nowadays, as Mavericks fans, with the long ago memory of superstar Dirk Nowitzki hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, we hope for a simple playoff berth.
Now, is that too much to ask for?
This year, the fans at the always-rowdy American Airlines Center have seen a revitalized yet-mostly-inconsistent team. As of late, however, the Mavs have hit their stride, and at a perfect time I might add. They’ve won five in a row, and with seven out their next nine opponents possessing a sub-500 record, they look to extend the already impressive winning streak and climb the treacherous mountain that is the NBA’s Western Conference. By the way, their 30-21 record would rank third in the putrid Eastern Conference.
The Check List
In my opinion, there are four things that make a championship team: a superstar, a great head coach, a solid bench, and a defensive mindset. The latter of the four, unfortunately, is something the Mavs do not have.
The Superstar: (Check)
The Tall Baller from the G. The German Wunderkind. Dirk Diggler. Dirk Nomisski. Need I say more? Dirk Nowitzki, widely regarded as the icon of Dallas sports, has been a model of consistency and greatness throughout his magnificent 16 NBA seasons. After a down year this past season, most of which is attributed to missing the first 27 games of the schedule recovering from arthroscopic right knee surgery, Dirk has come back this season with a vengeance while quieting all of his doubters.
One such doubter is TNT broadcaster and NBA legend Charles Barkley, who said in a 2012 interview on ESPN Dallas Radio:
“Dirk’s days of being the man are over.”
Nearly at the 40/50/90 mark this year, and averaging 22.0 points per game, Dirk is once again on pace to defy Father Time. But even Dirk has been frustrated by this year’s version of the Mavs. After a terrible loss to the Clippers last month, a frustrated Dirk said, “The way we let those games slip away, I don’t think we’re a playoff team.”
At that time, Dirk’s concerns were legitimate (and possibly still are). However, these Mavs are a resilient bunch with a new outlook on their future after going 11-7 after that heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Fortunately, for the Mavs this year, they have found their Robin, Monta Ellis, to Dirk’s Batman. Monta has been a great addition and has become a much more efficient player and leader alongside Dirk.
In terms of having a superstar, a guy that your team can count on in the clutch, regardless, if he’s missed every shot for the first 47 minutes of the game, the Mavs, currently and for the past 15 seasons, have had their guy. (And yes, if that wasn’t already evident, my Dirk man crush is pretty darn intense.)
A Great Coach: (Check)
Rick Carlisle, who has been the coach of the Dallas Mavericks for the past six seasons, is widely thought of as one of the top three coaches in the league, and is a dedicated man who is ALL about winning. Coach Carlisle is a proven championship-caliber coach with an offense that basically just goes with the flow. Fortunately, he has been lucky enough to have Jason Kidd and the likes of Jose Calderon directing this “flow” through his time at the helm of the Mavs. Rick Carlisle is a basketball wizard who can no doubt lead these Mavs back to the playoffs.
A Solid Bench: (Check)
Devin Harris has been an absolute blessing to this Mavs team. After returning from an injury that caused the 12-year NBA vet to miss a good chunk of the first half of the season, the former Maverick has been welcomed back with open arms all while playing an extremely solid backup point for the Mavs. Here are a couple of tidbits from Tim MacMahon’s February 7th article that detailed just how good the Mavs bench has been lately:
“With Devin Harris setting the tempo and Brandan Wright jamming, the bench has been rocking for the Mavs recently”
“Since Harris’ season debut, the Mavs’ reserves have averaged 43.8 points in nine games. Only the Brooklyn Nets have a higher scoring bench in that span.”
With the likes of Vince Carter, Brandon Wright, Devin Harris, Dejuan Blair, and even rookie Shane Larkin leading the charge for the Mavs off the bench, this team is in great shape when it comes down to being able to produce late in the season or possibly even in the playoffs when the starters need a rest.
A Defensive Mindset: (Eeeek , non-check)
Despite the Mavs recent defensive success of holding their past 2 opponents to an average of 88.5 points per game, please do not let this facade fool you. The Mavs offense, due to the teams’ great scoring threats and versatility, will take care of itself on most nights, but the defense? That’s another story entirely. Coupled with what is referred to even by Mavs fans itself as one of the worst defensive backcourts in the league (Jose and Monta), and the Mavs irritating inability to rebound, holding teams to under 100 points every night has been a real hassle for these Mavs.
This season, Mavs opponents have scored an average of 102.3 points per game, which ranks the Mavs 23 out of 30 teams regarding opposition points per game. Also, the Mavs, at 108.3, rank 23 in the league regarding Defensive Rating. If the Mavs want to make the playoffs and possibly try to make a dent in the Western Conference, this team has to become less offensively, and more defensively, oriented.
Yes, this team will make the playoffs in the daunting Western Conference. Based on the fact that the Mavs offensive capabilities are able to overshadow their defensive flaws on most nights, the Mavs will probably make the playoffs somewhere in the sixth-to-eighth-seed range. Although making the playoffs would be nice, we spoiled Mavs fans know that just making it to the race is not enough. In order to satisfy the organization’s hunger for excellence, the Mavs absolutely HAVE to step it up on the defensive end of the court. With their superstar, great coach, solid bench, and hopefully improved defense, these Dirk-and-Carlisle-led Mavs look to make a splash when playoff season begins.