by Sam Riches / @sam_riches

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks were almost universally projected to be knocked out of this year’s Playoffs in the first round. Few believed that their aged roster could survive against the influx of youth and athleticism found in their opponents. For the loyal fans that saw them moving past the opening round, no one predicted that they would eventually reach the Finals.  Eight weeks later, the Dallas Mavericks are the World Champions. And according to them, this is only the beginning:

“The Mavericks strongly believe they have what it takes to repeat as NBA champions.

That’s the job that will be asked of the Mavericks as they enter next season as the defending NBA champions. And it’s a job they’re more than willing to accept, although they know they will have a big-time target on their backs next season.

‘Our plan is to get the same crew back and let’s take another run at it,’ Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson said. ‘In an ideal world this team would come back and we’d make another run.’

The Mavericks have six unrestricted free agents – center Tyson Chandler, forwards Caron Butler, Peja Stojakovic and Brian Cardinal, and guards J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson – who they have to address.

[...]

‘A dangerous team, and I feel like we can,’ Chandler said. ‘I know we can.

‘Earlier in the year I felt like there wasn’t a team close to us when we had Caron on the floor. If we all can come back and we’re all together and we’re all healthy, the sky’s the limit.’”

Provided there is an NBA season next year, the Mavericks will face an even stronger wave of adversity. Their roster, already archaic by League standards, will be one year older and one year slower. Their competition meanwhile, will have become more cohesive and more experienced. And as we learned in this year’s Playoffs, despite how gifted individual athletes may be, it takes more than disjointed talent to win it all.