Where the Dallas Mavericks stand
Wow this NBA season has really flown by fast! With all the attention on the Golden State Warriors and their chase for history, there has been little focus on the crucial upcoming games and their playoff implications. With the playoffs quickly approaching only seven teams have clinched a playoff berth, leaving more than half of the playoff spots up for contention. Nine playoff spots are up for grabs and thirteen teams remain in contention. For these thirteen teams every remaining game is considered a must-win. In fact, just about every team has must-win games for the remainder of the season. Almost every team is fighting for either a playoff berth or for playoff seeding, or in the Warriors case, for history. Like most teams, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves fighting to keep their season alive. The Mavs are currently sitting in eighth place in the western conference, posting an uncharacteristic record of 37-38. Its been a long road for the Mavericks to get to this spot, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Starting from Square One: The Offseason
Starting at square one: the Mavs preseason. Most Mavs fans considered the 2015 offseason to be an utter failure due to Deandre Jordan remaining with the Clippers despite his verbal commitment to the Mavericks. For years the owner of the Mavs, Mark Cuban, has attempted to pair ever-so-loyal Dirk Nowitzki with another superstar and Deandre Jordan pulled that opportunity straight under him. However, in my opinion, signing Jordan to a long term deal would have been detrimental to the future of the Mavericks organization. The Mavericks made an agreement to pay Jordan the max contract over the next five years, making him one of the highest paid players in the league. In my opinion, if an NBA team is going to sacrifice such a large portion of their salary cap to a single player, they better be worth it. Do I think Deandre Jordan would have made the Mavs a better team? Yes. Do I think that Deandre Jordan is the centerpiece of a franchise and deserves a max contract? Absolutely not. Deandre Jordan is a one dimensional player. Without a dominant point guard, Deandre Jordan is a waste of space on offense. His offense relies on Chris Paul creating, tossing lobs near the rim for Jordan to easily put down. While there is little doubt Jordan is one of the top centers in the NBA, he is not capable of single handedly taking a game, let alone be a focal point of an organization. In fact, looking across the league, there seems to be no correlation between having a dominant center and being a successful team. If you compare all the top centers to their teams record, its rather unimpressive. The NBA ranked the top eight performing centers in the NBA this season. This list respectively consisted of Brook Lopez, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Vucevic, Andre Drummond, Jahlil Okafor, Rudy Gobert, and Hassan Whiteside. Completely ignoring the fact that Jordan failed to make this list of "elite" centers, only three of these player's teams currently sit in a playoff spot, being Gobert, Whiteside, and Drummond. Gobert and the Jazz are currently tied for eighth place in the western conference and are at great risk of missing the playoffs. Drummond and the Pistons currently sit in seventh place in the eastern conference and also in threat of missing the playoffs. This leaves one remaining player, Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is the only top center who's team is in good standing to make the playoffs. The Heat, however, technically have not clinched a playoff berth yet. Interestingly enough, yet not surprising, it is a known fact that the Heat are a statistically better team without Whiteside on the floor. So in review, of the top eight centers listed by the NBA website, zero, I repeat, zero, of these "elite" centers has been able to lead their team towards top of the NBA standings and into the playoffs. So once again, would Deandre Jordan have made the Mavs a better team? Yes. Should the Mavs have committed to a max deal with Deandre Jordan to be the future of the franchise? Absolutely not.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
After the Deandre Jordan saga, Cuban did what vintage Cuban always does, put together a competitive basketball team. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, who are known for their pristine medical staff, injuries have plagued the team all season long. Point guards Devin Harris and Deron Williams have had a rebirth of their careers in Dallas, but also can't stay on the floor due to injuries. It seems as though the only players who consistently remain in the starting lineup are Dirk and Wesley Mathews. The latter of which spent the first half of the season recovering from an achilles injury. The Mavericks have certainly had a difficult time keeping players in the lineup. With the playoffs just around the corner, the Mavs players should be able to fight through injuries in attempt to keep their season alive. This will be done with the exception of one player, Chandler Parsons. Before ending his season due to a knee injury, Chandler Parsons was the third leading scoring of the Mavs and was playing the best basketball of his career. The loss of Parsons is a major blow to the Mavericks as he is a focal point in their offense and is considered to be one of the best defenders on the team. However, this injury is somewhat reminiscent to an injury of former Maverick, Caron Butler in 2011. Butler was the third highest scorer on the team, just like Parsons, before ultimately ending his season due to a knee injury, just like Parsons. After losing Butler in 2011, the Mavs stepped up as a team and went on to win the championship. But no means am I suggesting that the Mavs are going to win the title, however, I would not count them out just yet. A few of the players from the 2011 Mavs team remain on the 2016 roster which includes Harris, Barea and of course, Dirk. Barea came out of no where during the 2011 playoffs and provided a big spark to the Mavs offensively. After a few years of mediocre play, Barea is finally beginning to, once again, take over games and its just at the right time.
Don't Count the Mavs Out
There are still many games to be played, however, if the season ended today the Mavs would be slotted to play the Warriors in the first round. While this is no an ideal matchup, it should be noted the Mavs are one of few teams to have beaten the Warriors during the regular season. Many believe it would be to the Mavs advantage to play the Warriors in an earlier round as opposed to a later round. Similarly, just two years ago in 2014 the Mavs snuck into the playoffs as an eight seed and faced the top seeded Spurs in the first round. Virtually no one gave the Mavs a chance, and while they did lose the series in seven games, the Mavs had chances to win the series against the future champions. If the Mavs end up playing the top seeded Warriors in the first round, virtually no one will give them a chance. However, lets not forget what happened in 2007. The Mavs had one of the greatest regular seasons of all time, posting a record of 67-15. Heading into the playoffs as the top seed and heavy favorite the Mavs proceeded to lose in the first round, to who else, the Golden State Warriors, and there is no chance Dirk or the Mavs have forgotten. Speaking of Dirk, let not forget the Mavs still have one of the greatest players of all time, Dirk Nowitzki. When Dirk is on, there is absolutely no stopping him. While Dirk is getting older his play has not been indicative. Offensively, Dirk is still unguardable and possess the leadership necessary to go on a deep playoff run. Dirk has cut back on his minutes this year, meaning he should be fresh for the playoffs. That is, if the Mavs can get there.
One Last Push
The Mavs only have seven regular season games remaining, but it is a long road ahead of them. In a tight race, the Mavs control their own destiny owning tiebreakers over both the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, The Mavs play both Houston and Utah once each before the conclusion of the regular season. The Mavs second to last game is at Utah, meaning there will most likely be playoff implications on the line. A critical win in Utah would most likely keep the Mavs season alive while providing them with all the momentum and confidence they need leading into the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, anything goes.
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