Dallas Mavericks: Are they in the toughest division in the NBA?
By Badees Nouiouat
The Dallas Mavericks are fighting for the playoffs in the difficult Western Conference, but is their division the toughest in the NBA?
The Dallas Mavericks are in the Southwest division. Unlike other sports leagues in America, divisions in the NBA are almost pointless.
Three years ago, division leaders were automatically given a top-four seed, irrespective of their actual record.
In 2015, the Portland Trail Blazers were given the fourth seed for winning their division, even though they had a worse record than the fifth and sixth seeded Grizzlies and Spurs, respectively. (the Mavericks were seventh that year.)
Because of this seeding, the Spurs faced off against the Clippers in the first round in what some considered the most exciting match-up in the entire playoffs. This caused some irritation among NBA fans and showed that the system in place was flawed.
In the summer of 2015, the NBA’s Board of Governors unanimously approved to repeal that rule, and seed the playoffs based on only the best eight records in each conference.
Purpose of divisions
So, what is the point of divisions now?
Each team must play inter-divisional rivals four times a year. They only play three games against most other teams in their conference. Other than this, divisions have become rather insignificant.
The Mavericks share the Southwest division, along with San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, and Memphis. With the Western conference being so volatile, every team in this division has a fighting chance to make the playoffs.
From an objective point of view, the Northwest division seems to be the toughest. It includes Portland, Denver, Oklahoma City, Utah, and Minnesota. That’s three top-six seeds in one division, and the other two teams that were in the playoffs last season.
Another surprisingly tough division is the Pacific, which includes, Golden State, the Lakers, the Clippers, Sacramento, and Phoenix. This division only sent one team, Golden State, to the playoffs last season. This year, every team except Phoenix has been playing playoff-caliber basketball.
Ultimately, the Southwest division is the toughest division when it comes to inter-divisional competition. The fifth-place Pelicans are only four games behind the first place Houston Rockets. The next closest difference in a division is six games, and the biggest difference is in the Atlantic division at 16.5.
What does this mean for the Mavs?
As we’ve said before, divisions have become largely irrelevant. The only real impact is that the Mavericks will have to play each team in the Southwest division four times this season.
However, due to the competitiveness, each of these inter-divisional games will be a challenge and may have a bigger impact in the division standings.