The Dallas Mavericks face the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs this week, so now is the optimal time to assess the Mavs’ status relative to their in-state rivals.
The title of Texas’ superior NBA team has fluctuated from decade to decade. An objective view of each team’s current prospects reveals a superiority for the Mavs that they have arguably never enjoyed over their fellow Texas inhabitants.
Here is a look back at which team has dominated each decade before assess the current landscape of the three teams from Texas.
Dallas Mavericks have not always been the top team in Texas
During the 1980s, the first time all three franchises were a part of the NBA, the Rockets reigned as the predominant NBA franchise in the lone star state, making nine playoff and two NBA Finals appearances, while also drafting the franchise’s greatest player, Hakeem Olajuwon, first overall in 1984.
The 1990s are a little more debatable, although Houston most likely wins out due to back-to-back NBA Finals victories in 1994 and 1995. The Spurs, led by David Robinson, made the playoffs in every year of the decade, except the 1997 season, and won their first title in the lockout-shortened campaign in 1999.
The Spurs easily take the 2000s after winning three titles on the back of franchise icon Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks deserve honorable mention for making a Finals appearance in 2006 and a playoff appearance in all but one season during the decade.
The Mavs were able to get their first and only title in the 2011 season, but the Spurs went to two straight Finals and won their fifth championship in 2014. San Antonio continued their model of consistency and made the playoffs in each subsequent year of the 2010s, making it difficult to argue their preeminence over Texas for a second straight decade.
Now is the time for the Dallas Mavericks to dominate Texas
With the 2020s now underway, it seems as if the Mavs have the infrastructure to finally claim NBA supremacy over its Texas counterparts.
That is, of course, led by superstar guard Luka Doncic, who was drafted third overall in 2018 and has led the Mavs to two straight playoff appearances while being the youngest player in NBA history to be named first-team All-NBA multiple times.
Even more encouraging for the Mavs’ long-term future is Doncic’s recent five-year contract extension, which will kick in at the start of the 2022-2023 season and will tie him to the Mavs until 2027 if he picks up the player option on the last year of his deal.
Superstars make up the central component of a team, and Houston and San Antonio are currently lacking in a bonafide face of the franchise player.
The Spurs have gone consecutive seasons without making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, and with the departure of veterans DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills in the offseason, they are clearly headed into a retooling period.
San Antonio is still led by future Hall-of-Famer Greg Popovich, but it’s unclear whether their young core can turn into anything close to a superstar. Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson and Derrick White have shown promise in recent seasons but lacked the consistency of a franchise player.
The Spurs' two most recent first-round picks, Devin Vassell and rookie Joshua Primo, are still too raw and inexperienced to evaluate their long-term trajectory.
The Rockets, meanwhile, started their rebuilding process when they traded franchise icon James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets last season for significant draft compensation. Houston missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons in 2021.
Houston drafted four players in the first round of this year’s draft, most notably G League Ignite alum Jalen Green second overall. They also signed promising big man Christian Wood last offseason and acquired 2019 first-round pick Kevin Porter Jr. from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of last season.
They have the sixth-youngest roster in the league and it’s reasonable to assume that it’ll take the Rockets a few years to get back into contention in the loaded Western Conference.
It’s impossible to forecast what the next decade will bring for the Dallas Mavericks, but the combination of Doncic and the seemingly lengthy rebuilds ahead for San Antonio and Houston puts Dallas in a prime position to be the preeminent NBA franchise in the Lone Star State for the 2020s.