Dallas Mavericks: What Can Qualify This as a Winning Season?
The Dallas Mavericks have made a lot of moves over the past few weeks that have been viewed as both good and bad by different people. How can we make these moves result in a successful season?
Dallas Mavericks fans (or MFFLs) are ready to get this season going so we can finally get a chance to see our new roster on the court. For the first time in what seems like forever, the roster is full of young, moldable talent that the fans are going to get to watch first hand and everyone is very excited for it.
On the other hand, the coaching staff is probably not looking forward to the first game of the season quite so much. That’s not to say that they aren’t excited about the roster as well as we are, but they know that the clock starts ticking now and these young players need to be ready to face the best players in the world in a few short months.
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Success in most sports is based primarily off of numbers. A successful player will score a lot of points per game or shoot a high percentage. A successful coach will have a great winning percentage. A good GM will spend his money wisely without crippling the team financially for the following years.
However, in a lot of cases, you just can’t base success off of sheer numbers. On paper, the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks should never have won the NBA championship. Although a 57-25 record is very good, they were still 3rd in the Western conference and 5th best record overall.
Dirk Nowitzki was our only representative for the entire All-Star Weekend during the season. The team was 11th in average points per game, 10th in opponent points per game, and 1st in average player age at 30.9.
Obviously this is not to say that this year’s team is anything like our title team, but it is important to remember that statistics done define a team. With that being said, here are three things to keep in mind in determining whether this season is truly a success or not.
1. The new young players develop
This is the biggest one for me personally to make this season a success. No matter what the record ends up or where the Mavs are in the standings, the team has a lot of youth that needs to age quickly.
Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri and a bundle of rookies all have chances to make a splash for the team this year. Barnes has already been thrown in with the wolves right off the bat so his experience level is good but his role with the Mavs will be far different than with the Warriors.
Curry started to find his stride at the end of the season last year but we will need him to be instant offense off the bench this year in the way that Jason Terry and Raymond Felton have been used in the past. Powell and Mejri will need to grow as well.
Again, it is vitally important for Dallas to develop talent quickly if this season and the seasons to come after are going to be successful in any way. If the players all make strides in the right direction, the Mavericks could be blessed with a short rebuilding period in the future.
2. Limit Dirk’s minutes but keep his production
Every minute that Dirk Nowitzki spends on the court for the next two years should be considered a blessing. At 38 years old, Dirk is defying most of the preconceived laws of a 7-foot basketball player.
Last season, Dirk set the gold standard for production of an aging veteran. At 37, he was still averaging over 18 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and shooting nearly 45% from the field. Dirk still led the team in scoring and got the team back into the playoffs.
This production for Nowitzki has never seemed to tail off as he has continued to dominate players all over the court. But, that level of play is widely considered unsustainable as 40 creeps closer every day. We don’t know how much more to expect from Dirk, but if we can limit his minutes, we may be able to squeeze even more life out of him on the court.
3. Defense and rebounding improve
Two of the Mavericks weakest areas over the last few years have been defensively and rebounding. Defense is bound to improve this year as Dallas adds a defensive minded wing and center to the starting lineup.
On the rebounding front, Dallas should expect to improve also. With a big time problem the last few years grabbing rebounds, (19th overall last season, 23rd the year before, and 26th in 2014), the Mavs can almost only go up with Andrew Bogut manning the middle in place of Zaza Pachulia.
If the Mavericks can really improve both defensively and in the defensive rebounding areas this season, it will not only be a successful measurement for the team, but will also show in the win-loss column that generally measures team success. It could be a great year.
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Although these three improvements may not come with a ring and a banner, they will definitely make the team more exciting for the crowd. Even more important than that, it can both make Dirk’s final years with the team more exciting and memorable, as well as a noticeable building block for the years following the retirement we are dreading.