How Do Dallas Mavericks Matchup With Best Of West?
Teams In the West With Better Records Than the Mavericks
Last season, the Dallas Mavericks finished the year with a record of 41-41, which placed them at 10th in the Western Conference. This marked the first time in 12 seasons that the Mavericks were not in the playoffs and did not have a winning season.
Clearly, this is absolutely unacceptable to both the Mavericks' organization and its fans. This is a franchise that has become known for its winning culture since the turn of the millennium, and they’ll look to return to that form as quickly as possible.
They’ve certainly made some strides toward that goal. For the first time since dismantling the team after the championship, most of the players are not on the last (or only) year of their contract. This should help create chemistry by allowing all of the players to buy into the team concept instead of viewing this year as an audition for the upcoming free agency.
Perhaps more importantly, they are accumulating assets now. The Mavericks have long been one of the key players in the NBA when it comes to trades, and with players on more valuable contracts, perhaps they will be able to reclaim that distinction sooner rather than later.
Now that we are deep into the preseason, it seems like as good a time as any to take a Mavericks-centric view of the teams that finished ahead of them in the West last year (with a look at the East potentially coming next week), and see what it will take to overcome them this year.
Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22)
Last year’s season series with the Oklahoma City Thunder played out very similarly to the first-round playoff series between the two teams the year prior, when the Thunder swept the Mavericks, even though every game could have gone either way.
Only one of the regular season contests between the two teams was a blowout, despite the Thunder having a much better record. In fact, the first two games of the series went to overtime, but the Mavericks had a knack for losing in overtime last year, and lost both.
This year, it will be tougher for Oklahoma City to sweep the Mavericks, as they should be much better at closing out close games, and a healthy Dirk Nowitzki always causes huge problems for the Thunder.
The Thunder have largely the same roster this year, but that’s okay for them because they have young superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Last year, the two combined for over 50 points per game, but Westbrook is coming off serious knee surgery. The odds are that he’ll be able to return to his old self just fine. How long it will take him to get there is anyone’s guess.
San Antonio Spurs (58-24)
The San Antonio Spurs may have helped the Mavericks out a little bit this year by giving up on forward DeJuan Blair, who is now playing for Dallas, and will likely play a sizeable role this season.
Other than Blair, the Spurs will remain largely the same team, as is usually the case with top-tier teams. They did add the sharp shooting Marco Belinelli, who could have helped in the Finals last year when Manu Ginobili was struggling.
The main question around San Antonio has been the same for a few years now: how much longer can this team last? Tim Duncan has simply defied reason by refusing to age, and Tony Parker had one of the best years of his career last year, scoring over 20 points per game. Duncan’s numbers were also fantastic, as he scored 17.8 points, grabbed 9.9 rebounds and blocked 2.7 shots per game.
For the Mavericks to hold their own against this Spurs this year, new center Samuel Dalembert will have to slow down Duncan, and the platoon of guards will have to do their best to handle Parker. Parker went on record years ago as saying Devin Harris was one of the best defenders against him, so having him back in a Mavericks uniform could really help the team.
Denver Nuggets (57-25)
The Denver Nuggets have been an interesting team ever since Carmelo Anthony left. They don’t have a true star on their team, but they are consistently in the mix among the best teams in the West.
This year, they lost Andre Iguodala to free agency, but they added some key pieces which should fit the team nicely. They got Darrell Arthur, who isn’t statistically very impressive but always seemed to make an impact in his time with the Memphis Grizzlies.
They also added 25 year old J.J. Hickson, who averaged 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game last year, and Nate Robinson, who averaged 13.1 points per game. These guys should bolster the already impressive depth for the Nuggets.
They’ll look to continue their winning formula of being the highest scoring team (106.1 per game), and the second highest rebounding team (45 per game) in the league.
The Mavericks weren’t embarrassed by the Nuggets last year, but there’s definitely room for improvement. In one game, they were blown out; the next, they lost by just one; and the last, they won in overtime.
Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
In a somewhat unusual scenario, the Los Angeles Clippers have multiple new faces on the team despite setting the franchise record for wins last year.
This year, they’re going to try to change their identity some under new head coach Doc Rivers, who was traded over from the Boston Celtics last year in the rare coach trade.
This year, the team will be aided by J.J. Redick, who scored 14.1 points per game, including two three-pointers per game. He should be able to add some of the long-range shooting that will be missed without Chauncey Billups.
They also picked up Antawn Jamison, Jared Dudley, Byron Mullens and Darren Collison, all of whom should be able add some much-needed depth.
A major concern for the Clippers this year will be trying to have the defensive intensity Doc Rivers will demand, as none of these players are known for their defense. However, they may be able to make up for it with sheer scoring ability.
If you add up last year’s scoring averages for all of the players on their team this year, it adds up to 140 points per game. While that doesn’t account for realistic minutes, it does indicate that they should have no problem improving on the 94.7 points per game they scored last year.
Like most of the teams on this list, the Mavericks didn’t fare so well against them, only managing to beat them once last year, so they’ll have to do better this year.
Memphis Grizzlies (56-26)
The Memphis Grizzlies are a known commodity, with the loss of Darrell Arthur and addition of Mike Miller being the only significant changes to their roster, but that doesn’t make them any easier to beat.
In order to defeat the Grizzlies, you have to find a way to deal with the twin towers of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which is no small feat. Last season, the two combined for 29.5 points and 19 rebounds per game, so slowing them down will be a key for the Mavericks and any other team looking to make it past them.
Golden State Warriors (47-35)
It’s hard to predict the upside for the Golden State Warriors.
They have a talented young core, led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and added Andre Iguodala, who should add some needed defense. If Andrew Bogut can come back healthy, they could easily be one of the very best teams in the West.
However, Bogut hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year, and has missed less than 13 games only once since then. They added Jermaine O’Neal, but he’s not enough to make up for virtually no center on the team if Bogut is out. For his career, Bogut averages 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, along with lock-down defense, but last year he only managed 5.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in only 32 games.
One thing that should remain unchanged from last year is the team’s phenomenal three-point shooting. As a team, they shot over 40 percent, which was the top in the NBA. Curry led the way with 22.9 points per game on 45.3 percent three-point shooting, and Thompson chipped in with 16.6 points and 40.1 percent three-point shooting.
The Mavericks lost a blowout and two close games to the Warriors last year. That seems to be the pattern for last year’s team: one blowout and two close games, which could have gone either way.
Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)
Even though they had a better record, the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the only teams that had a more disappointing season than the Mavericks did. The Lakers did manage to make the playoffs, which the Mavericks did not, but the expectations were so much higher for the Lakers.
After failing to meet those expectations last year, the Lakers are now going into the upcoming season surrounded by questions and negativity. They failed to keep Dwight Howard, who left via free agency, and Kobe Bryant will miss some time due to a torn Achilles tendon.
Knowing Kobe and his drive, he’ll probably return as good as ever, but the odds are not in his favor. Most players are not the same after an Achilles injury.
Even with a healthy Kobe, it probably won’t be enough to keep the Lakers above the seventh seed, where they finished last year. Instead of Howard, they’ll have Chris Kaman at center, which is a loss of around 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game based on last year’s averages.
A healthy Steve Nash will help, but with volume-shooter Nick Young being the only other major addition, this could be another disappointing year for the Lakers.
Despite only winning four more games than the Mavericks, the Lakers still managed to sweep all four games against Dallas. For the first time in years, the Mavericks will have the advantage at most positions this year, so this should be an easy one to correct.
Houston Rockets (45-37)
Despite adding Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets didn’t lose much this season. They still have almost all the players who brought them to the playoffs last year, including emerging star James Harden.
It may take awhile for Howard to gel with his new teammates, something he was never able to do last year with the Lakers. There’s also a question as to whether Howard alone makes them one of the top teams, especially given that they already had a solid defensive-minded center in Omer Asik. Essentially they made a strength into even more of a strength, which is certainly good for them, but it won’t solve any of their weaknesses. Whether or not it will be enough, we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Mavericks actually won three of the four games against Houston last year, but got hammered in the one loss. The Rockets are one of the only teams on this list that have clearly improved, and they’ll surely cause some problems for much of the league next year. Dallas will have to make sure that they don’t lose too much ground here in order to stay in the playoff conversation.
Utah Jazz (43-39)
I’m not sure what the Utah Jazz are doing. It really seems like they may actually be tanking in an effort to get a higher draft pick, because there isn’t much else that could explain their actions.
In the offseason, they took three expiring contracts from Golden State, which isn’t always a bad policy, but they got awful players in return. Andris Biedrins averaged less than 1.0 in all statistics except minutes (9.3), rebounds (2.9) and fouls (1.9). Richard Jefferson averaged just 3.1 points per game, and Brandon Rush only managed to play in two games all season.
The list of players they lost could field a decent roster by itself: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Raja Bell, among a few other, less notable names.
They did draft Trey Burke from Michigan in this year’s draft, and some are already predicting he will be Rookie of the Year this year. Nobody is predicting the Jazz to be any good this year, though.
The Mavericks lost two out of three to the Jazz last year, but they should easily be able to improve against them this year. The Jazz will most likely be a bottom-feeder this year, and shouldn’t pose much threat to any team with playoff aspirations.
In the end, it’s hard to know just how much the Mavericks have improved their roster, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to say that they should be able to overtake the Jazz and the Lakers without much help, which would have them in the playoffs. They could be even better, but they should have no problem just qualifying this year.