The Dallas Mavericks are coming off what most describe as a disappointing offseason, despite making some solid improvements to the roster. After so publicly pursuing Dwight Howard, who ended up going to the Houston Rockets, anything short of netting a superstar was sure to disappoint all but the most optimistic of fans.
But with key additions like Monta Ellis, Devin Harris and Samuel Dalembert, it is much too early to write the Mavericks off before the preseason has even started. However, being written off by the national media may end up being the best thing Dallas could hope for.
In 2006, the Mavericks weren’t expected to make much noise in the playoffs, despite being the rare 60-win fourth seed. To that point, they hadn’t had much postseason success, especially since the departure of star point guard Steve Nash. They went on to defeat the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and Nash’s new club, the second-seeded Phoenix Suns as they made their way to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Even though they ended up losing to the Miami Heat, it was still a successful season for Dallas.
The very next year, the Mavericks were favorites to win the West, and they delivered in that regard. They won 67 games, good for third-best in the history of the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki won MVP that year, and the Mavericks were heavily favored to down the lowly Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. They famously lost, becoming the first top-seeded team in the NBA to lose to a bottom seed.
Even more recently, during their championship run, the Mavericks were picked by many experts and analysts to lose in the first round to the Portland Trailblazers. After handling the Trailblazers, Dallas wasn’t favored in any of the following series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder nor in the championship, the juggernaut Heat, all of whom they beat.
The point is, history suggests that the Mavericks perform better when they are being overlooked in the media. Many of the players on the team have something individual to prove, such as Nowitzki proving that he hasn’t succumbed to age, or Ellis proving that he can still be the efficient player he was when he helped lead that Warriors team to beat the Mavericks back in ’07.
It will remain unknown until the season starts and then some, but the Mavericks have an improved roster over last year and a chance to make some noise in the West this year. Whether or not they capitalize on that chance is up in the air, but being the underdog is the best thing that could happen for this team.