The Dallas Mavericks went into the All-Star break as the hottest team in the NBA. Winners of 13 of their last 14 games, Dallas has emerged as a legitimate championship contender.
Their success can be attributed to many factors including, but not limited to, Tyson Chandler, experience, the never-ending stellar play of Dirk Nowitzki and most importantly depth. The team’s depth might even reach an even higher level come playoff time with the return of Caron Butler.
Playing in the Western Conference, Dallas is one of many teams having a phenomenal season. Once again, at least six teams are almost certain to break the 50-win plateau again this season. That being said, where do the Mavericks place among the Western Conference elite teams with a fully healthy roster? Let’s take a close look at this.
At this point, only four teams have a shot at calling themselves the kings of the West. Those teams are the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks.
It is clear that the Thunder are the fourth team on this short list as far as talent and experience. The Los Angeles Lakers are the defending champions but they have more than just a handful of issues to solve to regain their form that took them to two straight NBA championships.
As far as depth goes, the Dallas Mavericks are the deepest team of the bunch. They showcase a Hall of Fame point guard who, although he is struggling to score this season, makes crunch time play after play. Backing him up are second-year pro Rodrigue Beaubois and J.J. Barea, two very solid guards that are definite pace changers.
At the wings, the Mavericks are as deep as they come, having the ability to provide instant offense with either a combination of smaller guards like Jason Terry, Beaubois or Barea, sharp-shooters like Peja Stojakovic, or a stronger defensive-minded combination featuring DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and Shawn Marion.
The frontline of the Mavericks is arguably one of the best in the league, capable of challenging any other frontline they face. Dirk Nowitzki is another future Hall of Famer, and even at the age of 32 he is still playing at an incredibly high level, evidenced by his career-high shooting numbers.
Also, the combination of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, as well as youngster Ian Mahinmi, gives the Mavericks invaluable size and rim protection.
Against the Spurs, the Lakers and especially the Thunder, the Mavericks have the edge at almost every position. Are these advantages enough for the Mavericks to claim the top team spot in the West? Close, but not close enough.
There is all but one team that the Mavericks are still behind, and that is in-state rival San Antonio. While the Mavericks look like a team that can beat the Spurs, San Antonio, with their formidable level of play this season, still holds the edge.
The San Antonio Spurs although not as deep as the Mavericks, still have a very productive bench. But the bench is not the key. The key is the experience and determination. Proof to this claim is their success this season. Truth be told, the current San Antonio roster has literally squeezed the best out of every player this season while keeping their centerpieces fresh and ready, which is not an easy task.
So there you have it: the Dallas Mavericks have only one team above them as the season nears its last straightaway. While the Mavericks might have the best team on basketball on paper and are currently the hottest team in the NBA, the Spurs are still No. 1. Perhaps in the next few weeks the Mavericks can close that gap even further and capture the top spot before playoff time.