Why the Mavericks won’t repeat as NBA champions.
by Nathaniel Kelliehan / @nkelliehan
Though we’re still going through this dreadful lockout, it’s best we continue to pretend as if there’s not one to begin with. And what better way to start than with the defending champion Dallas Mavericks?
Isn’t that line long overdue?
The Mavericks were always that one team you thought, “This is their year. They’re going to win it all.” But they always came up short in the biggest moments (I.e. the 2006 Finals debacle, then the following year when they won 67 games and lost to the 8th seed).
They finally climbed the hurdle last year with an impressive Playoff run, but that won’t be the case this year.
Their biggest problem will be not having the same type of surprise success as they did last year. They were the underdogs in the regular season and all throughout the Playoffs, even when they proved to be a serious threat.
If that wasn’t enough most of their wins were double-digit comebacks, mixed with their opponents’ inability to maintain comfortable leads. While the suspense was great to watch, do we really think that’ll happen again?
Another key problem is how they will handle their roster during free agency. Of course we’re still in a lockout so no moves can be made, but look at what they’ll be facing when it’s lifted.
Will they be able to keep Tyson Chandler, who, after a stellar postseason, will be a very coveted free agent? Will he get greedy and ask for more than he’s worth? Or will he give the Mavs a discount in hopes of repeating as champs?
Barea is the energetic backup point guard who has proven that when he’s hot, he’s deadly (just ask the Lakers). But is he only a backup point guard, and not a starter? If not, the Mavs need to let him go because Jason Kidd isn’t getting any younger, and they’ll need someone who can fill that role sooner, rather than later.
Stevenson is the trash talker of the team, but backed most of it up in the Finals against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. He hit clutch three after clutch three, in addition to slowing LeBron down throughout the series. But, with Caron Butler returning from injury, what’s the point of keeping Stevenson? Butler plays the same position and is the better scorer.
Finally, third-year man Rodrique Beaubois, who has the potential to be a star after his impactful rookie season. Beaubois is coming off an injury-riddled season, which raised many eyebrows. With improvement and opportunity, Beabuois can be the next Jason Terry. But the Mavs traded for Rudy Fernandez after the season ended, and still have the “JET,” so where does that leave Beaubois?
I’m not saying they’re the only team with important roster changes to be made, but out of the contending teams, their moves will have the greatest affect on their season outcome.
Another key challenge will be their competition.
While the Western Conference isn’t as competitive as it has been in years past, their two biggest rivals are waiting eagerly to dethrone them. After sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers, and defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5, are the Mavs up to the challenge once again? Despite the loses, each of these teams are better than the Mavericks on paper.
Yeah there are lingering questions concerning both of those teams, but on their best day these two teams are better than the Mavs.
The Lakers have to prove that last year wasn’t the start of a transition period, and that their winning ways are far from over. Getting swept was embarrassing, but let’s not forget how many fourth-quarter leads the Lakers blew in that series. With Kobe Bryant and the cast finally rested, and defensive minded coach Mike Brown now at the helm, the Lakers should be a much tougher out this time around. With the possibility of L.A. adding Mr. Dwight Howard himself, you can forget about it!
The Thunder, with their experience and youth are poised to make runs at multiple titles, but will only do so if Russell Westbrook understands his role on the team. Everyone keeps saying it’s a matter of time before they implode, but it’s been the same story for the past two years now. Westbrook’s turnovers and poor shot selection are what’s hurting them in the Playoffs. But they’ve increased their win total in each of the last three seasons and fell just short of making it to the NBA Finals.
The Mavericks deserve all the credit they get for coming back in those games and overcoming all adversities to win the NBA title. But that was one of those Cinderella type postseasons that you rarely see a team do again.
Dallas had a fluke year, plain and simple. Entertaining as it was, the Mavs got hot at the right time. Hitting double-digit three pointers in almost every game, along with their opponents lack of pick and roll defense, was crucial to Dallas’ success.
Dirk Nowitzki also showed why he’s one of, if not the best big man in the League. Every time the Mavs needed him, he came through, hitting difficult clutch shots time and time again. Despite constant struggles in previous years, he didn’t crumble when the pressure increased.
While I don’t doubt that the Mavericks will have another great season, I find it hard to believe their road to another title will come as easy.