Dallas Mavericks: December will be biggest challenge for team
By Kohl Rast
The Dallas Mavericks will face some tough months this coming NBA season, but none will be as tough as December when Dallas faces a number of playoff teams from last year. What can the Mavs expect and what should be a realistic goal for the month of December?
There are no easy schedules when you play in the Western Conference and that is more true this year than ever before. Aside from Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, most of the top players in the NBA reside in the Western Conference. The move of LeBron James to Los Angeles really made the west a crowded group going forward. And the Dallas Mavericks are ready to compete.
Let’s get a basic breakdown of the Western Conference before we jump into the upcoming schedule:
1. Houston Rockets – Last season’s record: 65-17, Key losses: Trevor Ariza/Gerald Green, Key additions: Carmelo Anthony
2. Golden State Warriors – Last season’s record: 58-24, Key losses: Nick Young/Zaza Pachulia, Key additions: DeMarcus Cousins
3. Portland Trail Blazers – Last season’s record: 49-33, Key losses: Noah Vonleh/Pat Connaughton, Key additions: Seth Curry
4. Oklahoma City Thunder – Last season’s record: 48-34, Key losses: Carmelo Anthony, Key additions: Dennis Schroder
5. Utah Jazz – Last season’s record: 48-34, Key losses: Jonas Jerebko, Key additions: Grayson Allen
6. New Orleans Pelicans – Last season’s record: 48-34, Key losses: DeMarcus Cousins/Rajon Rondo, Key additions: Julius Randle/Elfrid Payton
7. San Antonio Spurs – Last season’s record: 47-35, Key losses: Kawhi Leonard/Tony Parker/Danny Green, Key additions: DeMar DeRozan/Marco Belinelli
8. Minnesota Timberwolves – Last season’s record: 47-35, Key losses: Jamal Crawford, Key additions: Anthony Tolliver
9. Denver Nuggets – Last season’s record: 46-36, Key losses: Wilson Chandler, Key additions: Isaiah Thomas
10. Los Angeles Clippers – Last season’s record: 42-40, Key losses: DeAndre Jordan, Key additions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
11. Los Angeles Lakers – Last season’s record: 35-47, Key losses: Isaiah Thomas, Key additions: LeBron James/Rajon Rondo/Lance Stephenson
12. Sacramento Kings – Last season’s record: 27-55, Key losses: Vince Carter, Key additions: Marvin Bagley III/Yogi Ferrell
13. Dallas Mavericks – Last season’s record: 24-58, Key losses: Doug McDermott/Yogi Ferrell, Key additions: Luka Doncic/DeAndre Jordan
14. Memphis Grizzlies – Last season’s record: 22-60, Key losses: Mario Chalmers, Key additions: Jaren Jackson Jr./Kyle Anderson
15. Phoenix Suns – Last season’s record: 21-61, Key losses: Elfrid Payton, Key additions: Deandre Ayton/Trevor Ariza
As you can see, the Western Conference got better this year as opposed to getting worse. Of the teams in the west, only the Spurs, Pelicans and Clippers got notably worse, in my opinion. The Timberwolves, Nuggets and Jazz stayed about the same, while every other team got better in one way or another.
In the month of December, the Mavs schedule goes: LAC, POR, @NOP, HOU, ORL, ATL, @PHX, SAC, @DEN, @LAC, @GSW, @POR, NOP, @NOP, OKC, @OKC. Of these games, 12 out of 16 had records above .500 last year. 9 out of the 16 were against playoff teams from last year.
The toughest stretch of the month will undoubtedly be the last 8 games where the Mavs will play four straight road games and 6 out of 8 against playoff teams from last year. Two games against New Orleans and two games against Oklahoma City to finish the month will make things extra difficult as well.
I predict the Mavericks will manage a .500 finish in the month of December, grabbing two wins against the Clippers and one against Orlando, Atlanta, Sacramento, Portland, New Orleans and either OKC or Denver. This will help keep the Mavs season alive in the middle of the season as teams start to settle into their new systems.
December will be a tough month for Dallas, but I believe they will be able to stay in the hunt well enough during the month in order to continue fighting for a playoff spot this year.