A Case To Be Made in Defense of This Year's Dallas Mavericks.
Though this season hasn't exactly played out as one full of successes, despite what many people think, this year's Dallas Mavericks team isn't actually that bad.
No, they aren't necessarily great, either; at times they are far from it. But, quietly, these Mavs are salvaging a season that was once considered lost. And they're proving that, no, they in fact do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the worst teams in the league.
Still, most fans — and certainly the Mavericks themselves — are understandably disappointed with how the season has played out up to this point. As of Wednesday, before their game against the Brooklyn Nets tonight, the Mavericks remain three games under .500 with a record of 32-35.
But they have been playing much better of late. Dallas is 7-3 in the month of March. So far, their only losses this month have come against Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The Spurs and the Thunder, of course, are two of the best teams in the NBA — and the Mavericks lost to these two top squads by a combined seven points.
Even with the improved play, though, Dallas just seems unlikely to reach their stated goal of breaking even with their record. But this season certainly isn't a loss. Nor is their current record all that bad when you put it into perspective.
Dallas, this season, already has accumulated more wins than 1991-92 and 1992-93 teams combined. Yes, combined. This isn't the only combination of successive seasons that this current Mavericks team has a better record than. The same can be said about the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, which saw the crappy Mavs winning a total of 24 games over the course of those back-to-back seasons.
There may be voices out there preaching about the end of days as far as the Mavs are concerned this year — I've been one of them — but most of us have clearly forgotten where this team was just 20 years ago.
A mediocre record is far better than the irrelevance of the early '90s.
One of the reasons that the Mavs are staving off comparisons to the worst teams in the league — not to mention the worst teams in their own franchise history — is because there are indeed a number of bright spots on this roster.
There has been much written about the point guard situation on the team. Many people feel that it is an area of major concern that needs to be addressed through either free agency or the draft. Perhaps the Mavericks feel that way, too. But despite losing his starting job to Mike James (a gut punch if ever there was one), Darren Collison has displayed the potential and resolve necessary to remain a solid contributor to this team for years to come.
Yes, at times throughout this season, Collison has been frustrating to watch. In late game situations he, as with many of the guards on this team, appear to have blinders on when they survey the court. Making the right plays more often will eventually become routine for this young player, but, for now, this behavior been a source of consternation for some. Consider this as a counter–argument: Collison is only in his fourth season in the NBA, and he's shown improvement in his decision-making as the season has progressed. Collison has also been one of the most consistent players, in terms of production, on the roster. His monthly averages hover between 11 and 13 points with a high shooting percentage, his assist numbers have been solid (though they have dipped recently with him coming off the bench), and he only averages about two turnovers. He's consistent, if nothing else. And consistency is a foundation on which to build.
Plus, in addition to his steady production, Collison has also shown the ability to be a main offensive threat for this team. Against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Collison led Dallas in scoring as the Mavs routed the Hawks 127-113. Collison finished the game with 24 points while shooting a remarkable 71.4 percent from the floor. He connected on all six of his shots in the second quarter.
While Collison may not be the ideal solution for the Mavericks' point guard issues at this time, he is a player that needs to be considered for a roster position on this team for years to come. As the league drifts further away from positional dogma, the ball will be taken out of the hands of point guards more frequently and placed into the hands of other ball-handlers on the court. That is essentially what Vince Carter is on Dallas right now. And, since Collison's decision-making has been called into question, taking the ball out of his hands in the halfcourt is not a fundamentally flawed idea. But his speed and shooting ability very much make him a valuable asset as Dallas works toward becoming one of the fastest teams in the league.
Pairing another guard with Collison this summer — because, again, Mike James is not the answer — is likely. And, hey, I welcome that idea.
Where the Mavs really need to improve now and for the future is in the rebounding department. Dallas surrenders the most rebounds of any team in the NBA and gives up the 21st most offensive boards to their opponents. What's worse than giving opposing teams so many second-chance opportunities is that the Mavericks just don't get the same chances. Dallas is ranked 26th in offensive rebounding. If the Mavs have hopes of stringing together a few more wins as the season draws to a close, this is an area that needs attention.
Dallas has work to do now and in the summer. That much is certain. Yet, getting back to the winning ways that so many have grown accustomed to will not be as insurmountable as was once thought.
This team really isn't that bad. They have valuable pieces in place going forward. And, this off-season, they have a lot of cap room to add some more.
This is an imperfect team but it is not the worst team. Far from it.
Plus, if recent successes continue, we all might get to enjoy a nice shave. And that will be a win for everyone, no matter Dallas' final record.
Cover photo via the NBA's official Mavericks page.