In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.
The Mavericks are a head-scratching bunch. 50 plus wins in each of the past ten seasons, and a first round exit in three of the past four, despite being perennial favorites to advance deep into the playoffs after their NBA Finals appearance against the Miami Heat in 2006. Mad Hatter Mark Cuban spares no expense to assemble the most talented roster he can buy, but the Mavs have suffered some chemistry problems, it seems, despite having done so. This is Dirk Nowitzki’s team, and he carries the burden of their success, whomever else the team surrounds him with. With offseason acquisitions, nearly half of the team is new. Dallas has only a couple of seasons left with the current core to make a march on the Lakers and return to the Finals. Can they do it? They have the talent. Will they? If the Jazz don’t do it, I’m rooting for these guys.
Expect to see the following starting lineup this season for Dallas: Jason Kidd – PG, Rodrigue Beaubois – SG, Caron Butler – SF, Dirk Nowitzki-PF, Brendan Haywood – C. The following key reserves will be coming off the bench: Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson.
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Paul Millsap
Nowitzki may be one of Millsap’s toughest challenges this season. The way he spreads the floor by shooting from anywhere on the court spells trouble for Millsap, who’s much more comfortable in the post. Expect Nowitzki to have the edge in these matchups.
Jason Kidd vs. Deron Williams
Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards to ever play the game. He is top five all-time in assists. At age 37, having developed an outside shooting threat over his career, he shows no signs of slowing down. Old Guard vs. New Guard, these two seem to have parallel skills and dominance on the court.
Caron Butler and Andrei Kirilenko are evenly matched, as are Brendan Haywood and Al Jefferson. Nevermind the backup center, Tyson Chandler, may be the best #2 center in the NBA.
The Mavericks are healthy thus far, which seems to be a good sign. Nearly half the team is new, which normally would be cause for concern. But such is the case with the Jazz, so, if the Mavericks can make it work, more power to them. The primary question that goes unanswered is this: Why does Dallas keep losing in the playoffs with all the talent Cuban has brought to the team?
The Mavericks and Jazz have only met twice in the post season, with Dallas sending Utah packing in the first round in 1986 and 2001.
Head Coach Rick Carlisle had a scare this preseason with a training camp fainting spell. But this 2002 NBA Coach of the Year (with the Pistons) is back in the saddle and ready to go. He’s got an ability to relate to players (himself a former Celtic from the 1986 championship team) and he dials in his player strengths well.
Utah plays Dallas twice in eight days in early December, followed by a late February road game and a late March home game.
Expect the Mavericks to always be in the mix as long as veterans Nowitzki and Kidd are leading the charge. Few will be surprised at a Lakers – Mavericks Western Conference Finals showdown come springtime. Then again, few will be surprised if the Mavs follow their recent pattern of bowing out to lesser talent in the first round. Which Dallas team will the NBA get this season? I’m expecting the former.