On Wednesday, the 2014-15 NBA schedule was released. Although it was rumored that the defending champion San Antonio Spurs would open against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team will instead host the Dallas Mavericks in a possible Western Conference Finals preview.
With several changes to the roster, Dallas has quietly set themselves up for a strong run in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Last season, Dallas ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency and 24th in rebound rate. The Mavericks addressed these two weaknesses by adding Tyson Chandler, who will surely improve the team on the defensive end. During the Mavericks’ playoff run in 2011 which culminated in a championship, Chandler was instrumental.
Point guard Jose Calderon was traded to the New York Knicks, but the Mavericks are hoping that newly acquired Raymond Felton can demonstrate that he still has the skills to be an effective NBA player.
Furthermore, the Mavericks added Chandler Parsons to replace Vince Carter, who was snagged by the Memphis Grizzlies in free agency. Parsons is another solid offensive option and will also help the Mavericks defensively on the perimeter.
For the Spurs, the Mavericks could be a tough playoff opponent once again, considering Dallas took San Antonio to seven games in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. The Mavericks are one of the few teams with enough veteran leadership and IQ to beat San Antonio. Dallas’ offense, which ranked No. 2 overall in offensive efficiency, clearly has the ability to score with San Antonio. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is also one of the few coaches who can hold his ground against Gregg Popovich, demonstrating a rare ability to come up with a gameplan capable beating the Spurs.
Of course, the Spurs are bringing back almost exactly the same roster from last year, and the team will find themselves atop the Western Conference once again next season. San Antonio may have to beat Dallas in the playoffs for a second year in a row, although this year, the series may come much later in the postseason.