After much anticipation, the Dallas Mavericks have now passed the Golden State Warriors for the third seed in the Western Conference, for the time being. While they were in a good position as the fourth seed, finishing inside the top three is crucial for the Mavericks' hopes of a title run.
This jump in the standings looks great at face value. Of course, you would like your team to have a higher seed in their conference and have a shot at more home games during the playoffs. However, this move is more important than some might think for Dallas.
If the Mavericks are third in the Western Conference when the season ends, it changes their path to the NBA Finals dramatically. Not only would they have a matchup with a lower seed in the first round, but they would also be able to avoid playing the top seed in the second round.
Dallas Mavericks staying 3rd in West is key to 2022 playoff run
If the season ended today, the Mavericks would match up with the Jazz in the first round. Four out of a possible seven games would be played in Dallas, which is a huge advantage against a team like Utah.
In the Western Conference, no matchup is easy. However, the Jazz have been sliding in the standings as they've lost six out of their last ten games. The Mavericks should feel more comfortable playing Utah in the first round than they would the Warriors or the Nuggets.
The real advantage of having the third seed going into the playoffs would be avoiding the Suns in the second round. If Dallas would have stayed put in fourth, they would have had to run into the hottest team in the NBA early on, with little time to recover from what would have been an all-out war against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in the first round.
As the third seed, the Mavericks would play either the Grizzlies or the winner of a play-in game in the second round, which will more than likely be the Timberwolves or the Clippers. I might be going out on a limb here, but I would rather face those teams than a Suns team that has won 32 out of their last 40 games. The Mavericks would be stumbling into a buzz saw if they drew Phoenix in the conference semifinals.
I might think highly of the Suns, as most do, but in a potential Western Conference Finals matchup with the defending conference champions, the Dallas Mavericks can hold their own. Yes, the Suns have been playing some really good basketball, but so have the Mavericks. They've won 15 out of their last 20 games, and Luka Doncic has been one of the hottest players in the NBA.
Since January 30th, Doncic has played 25 games. During that stretch, the 23-year-old phenom has eight games of 35 points or more, which leads the NBA. He has quietly been making his MVP case as the season winds down.
If Doncic continues his hot streak, Dallas can beat any opponent in their way. With a higher position in a grueling Western Conference, the hot-hand of Luka Doncic and the shot-making role players surrounding him, there is no ceiling for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.