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NBA Preview: Mavericks and Spurs


Record:  67-15, 1st in Southwest Division, 1st in Western Conference and league

Statistical Comparisons:


4th in opponent scoring (92.8 ppg)
3rd in ppg differential (+7.2 ppg)
5th in field goal %  
4th in three-point %  
3rd in turnovers


9th in the league in scoring (100.0 ppg)
7th in opponent field goal %
24th in assists
24th in steals
12th in blocks
22nd (tie) in opponent turnovers
Good offensive rebounding team
Very Good defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Trenton Hassell, Eddie Jones, Nick Fazekas (R), Reyshawn Terry (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Greg Buckner, Austin Croshere

Avery Johnson

Key Players

PG:  Devin Harris, Jose Juan Barea
SG:   Jason Terry, Eddie Jones, Maurice Ager
SF:  Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse
PF:  Dirk Nowitzki
C:  Erick Dampier, DeSagana Diop

Comments:   Because of their loss to Golden State in the first round of the playoffs last year a lot of people are going to sleep on the Mavericks.  It's a general public/media trend and it's silly.  This was clearly one of the top three teams in the league last year and a fluke playoff matchup doesn't change that.  I'm not saying that Golden State beating them was a fluke.  They were doing that all year.  Dallas just ran up against the one team that was built to give them fits.  The fact that they drew the Warriors in the first round was the lightning strike.  Had the two teams been in different brackets odds are they never would have met and then we'd be singing a whole new song about this team.

Dallas hasn't made any major changes this year.  They brought in a couple of serviceable situation players in Trenton Hassell and Eddie Jones.  Their core remains the same.  It's fashionable nowadays to talk about the things that Dirk Nowitzki can't do (defend as well as he scores, dominate on the boards, perhaps respond to pressure) but that's nitpicking.  30 out of 30 teams would love to have this guy because he creates so many problems for the defense.  He scores, he passes, he's seven feet tall and shoots almost 42% from three-point distance.  Josh Howard grew into his own last year, becoming the kind of all-around player that GM's dream of.  His kind of game fits in with anyone.  Devin Harris wouldn't fit with every team as a point guard but he does exactly what Dallas needs:  hit his shots.  He doesn't have to be an assist machine because so many other people on this team can handle the ball and score.  Nowitzki really triggers the offense.  All Harris has to do is not give the ball away and keep shooting the lights out.  Besides Howard the Mavericks have their usual scoring combo of Terry and Stackhouse on the wings.  Again the mission is be a veteran, reliable scoring option feeding off of Dirk.  Though both failed at carrying teams to glory as primary options earlier in their careers they are now two of the better secondary scorers in the league.  All centers Dampier and Diop have to do is rebounding the ball and be able to dunk if their defenders leave to help.

With a dossier like that you'd think the Mavericks were all about the offense but they made a philosophical shift when Avery Johnson came on board a couple years ago.  They're a very good defensive and great rebounding now, which cements them at the top of the league.  Their identity isn't scoring, it's winning.  And they do a lot of it.

Anyone who overlooks Dallas as a potential championship contender is fooling themselves.  I don't know if they can manage 67 wins again but I can guarantee they'll go farther in the playoffs this year than last and are on the short list to go all the way.


Record:  58-24, 2nd in Southwest Division, 3rd in Western Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


1st  in ppg differential (+8.4 ppg)
1st in opponent scoring (90.1 ppg)
3rd in field goal %  
4th in opponent field goal %
3rd in three-point %  
5th in turnovers


14th in the league in scoring (98.5 ppg)
11th in assists
15th (tie) in steals
10th in blocks
22nd (tie) in opponent turnovers
Very Poor offensive rebounding team
Very Good defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Ime Udoka

Significant Subtractions:

Greg Popovich

Key Players

PG:  Tony Parker, Jacques Vaughn, Beno Udrih
SG:   Manu Ginobili, Michael Finley, Brent Barry
SF:  Bruce Bowen, Ime Udoka
PF:  Tim Duncan, Robert Horry
C:  Francisco Elson, Fabricio Oberto

Comments:  Every year I say the same thing about the Spurs:  "What can you say that hasn't already been said?"  Much like the Knicks you could just cut and paste the season preview every year.  They're steady.  They're defensive monsters.  They win in that kind of emotionless, professional way that sends shivers down your spine.  Their coming is not the hot rush of impending battle, it's the cold certainty that you've met your match.  I won't even go into the players because if you've been paying any attention to NBA basketball the last decade you already know them.  They didn't change anything this year except for adding Ime Udoka for a cool million, which won't hurt their defense any.

That said, the Spurs are not invincible.  They just look that way every second year.  They win a championship and it becomes apparent that nobody can touch them.  Then the next year something just misfires.  They're still great, but in the crucial moments games get away from them and a hotter, often more fired-up, opponent gets the best of them.  Then they get angry and focused and the next year they come back and win it all again.  Fortunately for the league this is the off-year for the Spurs.  They'll win a bunch but if the pattern holds we'll be crowning somebody else next June.


I don't normally add things to the end of these reviews but I just have to comment how marvelously both these teams are constructed.  Each is different.  For the most part the players from one would be out of place on the other.  But they've done such a fantastic job of building around their stars and playing the right way that you can't help but marvel at them.  Each is a juggernaut in its own right.

Both of these teams show what statistical categories are significant in the box score and which are decoration.  How do you play solid, winning basketball?  Shoot well, cause your opponent not to, rebound the ball consistently on the defensive end, and don't turn the ball over.  Those things will lead to a good point differential which is the key indicator of a powerful team.  It doesn't matter so much how many team assists, steals, blocks, forced turnovers, or offensive rebounds you have.  Those things can all help, but you can be very good at any or all of them and still not be a winning team.  The five or six stats that these teams excel at are the barometer of good basketball, and both play it.

--Dave (