At the midway point, the Dallas Mavericks (24-17) sit in the 7th seed in the Western Conference and have the 9th best record in the NBA.
With the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies surging and the Minnesota Timberwolves still a threat, the Mavs’ playoff lock may not seem safe.
Well, what if I told you that the Mavs we see today are not the same team to expect as the season continues to progress? That the team we’ve seen struggle to hold onto leads, close out games, rebound, and defend will actually get better?
As frustrating and bad as the Mavs have looked, wether it be a whole game, half, quarter, or stretch; let’s not forget that they currently on pace for 48 wins.
As ugly as the offense has looked at the end of games, the Mavs have been able to sport a 13-11 record in games decided by 5 points or less with 5 minutes remaining. Do we really expect Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to continue to struggle in the clutch? Excluding the lockout shortened season, Dirk is shooting his lowest field goal percentage (36.8%) in these close games with under 3 minutes remaining, since the 2007-2008 season (35.5%). We really can’t believe that Dirk will continue to shoot poorly with games on the line, right?
Are we forgetting that Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon having one of the best seasons of their careers and are still learning to play together? Bigger question, are we neglecting that the roster consists of nine new players; three of which are starters.
Oh, did I mention that one of the nine has yet to suit up? Though Devin Harris is no longer the player he was during his first tenure with the Mavs; he will make this team better on both sides of the ball. He’ll also improve a bench that is finally turning it around.
Of course none of us can forget the blown losses and leads. Again, do we expect the Mavs to continue to blow leads and not close out these games out?
Two factors that will determine how far the Mavs can go: rebounding and defense. If the Mavericks can figure out any way to just be DECENT for a whole 48 minutes in these two areas, then they’ll become a far better team. But this is the biggest “if” and concern for the Mavs. Dalembert holding the center spot is the first step to improving these areas.
Let’s not overlook that coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best minds on the sidelines. We know he’ll do whatever it takes to get this team to improve.
Most importantly we can’t forget, Dirk is still Dirk. Excluding his rebound numbers, Dirk is around his career numbers in all areas. Knowing Dirk, we can expect him to get better as the season progresses.
An improved chemistry, better continuity, Carlisle at the helm, a stronger Dirk, and HOPEFULLY a somewhat improved defense and rebounding team will not just have the Mavs in the playoffs, but may make them a team an upper seed will not want to see.
As I said, as bad as these Mavericks have looked, there still is plenty of room for growth.