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Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the last team to wrap up a playoff spot in the Western Conference: the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks can really play on offense. Offensively, the team has a 7 footer who can score from anywhere on the court and who's capable of creating his own shot in Dirk Nowitzki. They have one of the greatest facilitators in the game's history in Jason Kidd and players like Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea make up an offense that can run and can really light it up on the scoreboard. Coach Rick Carlisle, a coach historically known for his emphasis on defense, said in the preseason that the team would push the tempo with a full season with Kidd at the helm and he's followed through on that promise. The team can just really score the basketball, and they're one of the better shooting teams in the league. Nowitzki is one of the more unheralded players in the game, as he simply is unguardable when he's feeling it. He can shoot the three, finally added a little bit of a post game and he's the main catalyst for this squad in crucial situations. Also, if necessary, Nowitzki almost always makes the right pass in tight situations, and he's a huge asset for this Mavericks team to have. Josh Howard has also elevated his game this year as a scorer, even though he's fought injuries to play this season. He's really improved his three point shot and is more of a scorer than at any point in his career.
The Mavs also bring a very solid bench with them to the postseason. Even though Jason Terry is the third best player on the team the Mavericks bring him off of the bench in a strategic move and it fits his role best, because all Terry has been in his career is a shooter anyways. In this role, he can step into either guard position and simply light it up from all areas on the floor. Also, the team brings the aforementioned J.J. Barea and also brings a great big man off of the bench in Brandon Bass. Because of this, the Mavericks are deeper than most teams that play the full court style and they don't necessarily tire at the end of games.
Everything with the Mavericks is psychological. So many years, the Mavs have had one of the better teams in the league and talent has never been an issue, but they've never recovered from that collapse in the 2006 finals, and to be honest with you they've been making the playoffs consistently since the year 2000 and that 2006 Western Conference championship is the only achievement they really have to show for it. And that's through different regimes, different coaches, different styles of play, the Mavericks just never seemed to find out how to win. Nowitzki's numbers have historically gone up in the postseason and he plays very well in the playoffs, but he's not commanding enough or, possibly, confident enough to demand the ball in tough situations in the playoffs, and when he does nobody has faith that he's going to come through and help the Mavericks win. In tough situations, the Mavericks will look to Jason Terry to close games out. Terry's not half the shooter that Nowitzki is (Terry is more of a scorer than a shooter) but never has any lack of confidence. But because of Terry's small stature, bigger defenders can give him problems in postseason matchups.
Speaking of Terry, how awful is this team's lack of a shooting guard or center? The reason they run as often as they do is because it allows them to mask that the team doesn't have a true wingman or a true center. Erick Dampier has been a horrible signing through and through and he doesn't have the presence, nor the minutes, to really make a difference out there. He shows up in stretches, but for the most part the Mavericks only play him around 15-20 minutes and then play either Nowitzki, Bass, or Ryan Hollins at center, and none of those players are effective at the center position. Those matchups can work well on offense, but they're going to hurt you on defense. Also, because the team brings Terry off the bench, they start Antoine Wright. Wright usually draws the task of defending the other team's best wing man, and he's adequate in that role but because the team has to play Terry off of the bench they give up a lot on the defensive end. Also, Wright's not effecient enough offensively to really rack up big minutes because the Mavericks need everyone to be involved. Aside from Terry, the Mavericks lack of depth is shown in their wingman and center spots, where players like Hollins, Gerald Green and Devean George are listed on the bench.
Why They Will Win It
The Mavericks have two fantastic scorers in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, an amazing offensive threat in Josh Howard, and a true point guard in Jason Kidd who usually makes the right play at the right time. Because of this, they have a fluent offense that really can have other squads on their heels. The Mavericks, when they're on, can get other teams caught up in their game trying to match the lineups that they bring on the court, and if a team tries to match the Mavericks, the Mavericks will win. Nobody plays their game better than they do, and if you go small the Mavericks are more than capable of defeating you.
Why They Won't Win It
The Mavericks, for all of the offensive mismatches they can create, still lack the defensive prowress that allows you to take the legitimately as championship contenders. Even coaches like Carlisle and Avery Johnson, defensive minded coaches, couldn't preach that side of the ball to the team and unfortunately they still suffer on that side. Also, because the only 7 footer on the team, aside from Ryan Hollins, prefers to shoot on the perimeter than play in the paint, the Mavericks are mainly a jump shooting team. Regardless of how hot you are shooting the basketball, games will slow down and you have to find a way to score around the basket if you're to be taken seriously.
The Mavericks did a great job this season making the postseason without a true shooting guard or center. Dirk, Terry and Kidd have carried the team this season and they've really peaked as of late. They can score and there's no doubt about that, but for some reason the Mavericks never have succeeded in the postseason. There has to be something psychologically wrong in Dallas, and it won't be fixed this season as well. With a likely matchup with the Lakers in the first round, the Mavericks would get dispatched rather quickly. There is a chance, if they draw Denver or San Antonio, that Dallas could sneak in a first round playoff victory, but you can't avoid big, physical teams throughout the entire postseason and eventually you have to lace them up and play a physical style of ball, and the Mavericks, simply put, are incapable of doing that. So it looks like another playoff dissapointment is in the cards for Dallas fans.
The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.