Amazing offensively, poor defensively, on pace for 45 to 48 wins and one of the final playoff spots in the West. That’s what most Dallas Mavericks fans expected this team to be when the roster was assembled this summer.
And that’s exactly what they are.
After striking out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes over the summer, Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavs brain trust put together a team that looked like it could snag one of the last playoff spots in a deep Western Conference. That is exactly what these Mavericks are. Not a contender, but good enough to make the playoffs. The question is, should we be happy with that? I don’t see why not, especially after last season’s 41-41 mess.
This team is better and smarter than last year’s bunch, and that is what it was supposed to be. Anyone who thought this team could contend with the top four teams in the West was kidding themselves. Halfway through this long NBA season, I think the Mavs are exactly where we thought they’d be.
Let’s start with their defense, which is flat awful. Yet we can’t be too disappointed because that was expected. The Mavs’ starting backcourt of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis looked like a defensive nightmare on paper before the season even started. Calderon has always been known has a poor defender, and while Ellis isn’t a horrible defender, his size hurts him. The Mavs should get a defensive lift at the guard spot with the return of Devin Harris, who played excellent defense on Kyrie Irving in the Mavs 102-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.
While the Mavs’ defense has been bad to say the least, their rebounding has been even worse. Dallas is 29th in the league in rebounding with 39.9 rebounds per game. Samuel Dalembert has been, well, less than stellar this season. No one was expecting Dalembert to be the second coming of Tyson Chandler, but no one was thinking he’d oversleep for shoot around twice and get benched for his stupidity. There’s no question that the Mavericks play better on the defensive end when Dalembert is focused and has his head on right. DeJuan Blair and Brandan Wright are nice guys to have off the bench, but out of everyone the Mavs need Dalembert to step up the most during the second half of the season.
The Mavs defensive and rebounding woes was anticipated, but so was their electric offense.
Dallas is among one of the best offensive teams in the league and are an absolute joy to watch. Last year, Dallas would make me either want to throw a brick at my television or rip my hair out when they were on offense. The offensive ineptitude that was seen last year bordered on disgusting.
This year, thank the basketball Gods that the Mavs actually have guards that can run an offense. Calderon is a great floor general and can spread the floor with his shooting ability, as well. Ellis’ speed has been a breath of fresh air, and, for the most part, he has played within the offense. Throw in Harris, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter and this is an offense that is much smarter than last year’s mess. Plus, Dirk Nowitzki at age 35 is flirting with a 40/50/90 season and looks fully healthy for the first time in two years.
For the most part, everything about this team so far was expected. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be able to nab the seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, which is where everyone thought they’d be. There might be more expectations for the Mavs next season depending on how the offseason goes, but they are meeting expectations for this season.