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5 Dallas Mavericks Who Aren't Ready for NBA Playoffs

Ethan GrantAnalyst IMarch 28, 2012

5 Dallas Mavericks Who Aren't Ready for NBA Playoffs

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    If the playoffs started today, the Dallas Mavericks would be the No. 5 seed out West. But if you've watched them play this season, this team is a far cry from the one that rallied together to win the NBA championship with team basketball and great defense.

    That's not to say they can't. After last night's 90-81 win over the Houston Rockets, the Mavs put a little distance between themselves and the lower seeds, at least for a game or two.

    This is a team of streaks. It's a team that lost four straight in April last year including losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers, the eventual first-round matchup. And we all know it turned out OK on that front.

    However, this Dallas team has some young talent and new faces being counted on to make a trip back to the NBA Finals to defend the title. If the postseason started today, here are five Mavs not ready to bow up and fight.

Kelenna Azubuike

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    The ex-Warrior was a late-season pickup for Dallas, filling the spot of released center Sean Williams. Azubuike is the fifteenth man on the roster, and he'll likely split time with the big boys in Dallas and down on the farm with the Frisco-based Texas Legends.

    He finds himself on this list purely for lack of experience in a Mavericks uniform. GM Donnie Nelson obviously sees something in him; his contract includes a team option for next season.

    Azubuike is just a season and a half removed from being one of the more exciting players on the Golden State roster. He averaged 14.4 points in a full season in 2008-2009 before injuring his knee during the first half of the 2009-2010 campaign.

    Not having played since, he won't make much of an impact this year. But in an offseason centered around free agency for Dallas, he could be a cheap, solid component of the make-up of this team next season.

Dominique Jones

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    Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jeremy Lin were all on the Dallas Mavericks' summer league team in 2010. The last two have gone on to successful moments during their young NBA careers, but Jones seems to be stuck in neutral.

    He's gotten opportunities this year. But the indecision on his natural position as a pro, either point guard or shooting guard, leaves Jones playing timid at times and out of control during others.

    I like DoJo. If he can get to the free-throw line just half as much as he did in college at South Florida, where he was going 10, sometimes 15 times, he's got the potential to be the kind of hybrid guard that could earn a role with Rick Carlisle.

    Barring injury, the playoff guard rotation is set, with Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Delonte West, Beaubois and Vince Carter all seeing time there. Luckily for Jones, he has at least another year to prove he deserves a role on this team, and hopefully this time next year we'll be talking about his Lin-like impact for Dallas.

Yi Jianlian

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    Yi hasn't quite lived up to his first-round pick status in Dallas, or anywhere else in the NBA, for that matter. The Mavericks took a flyer on him with a one-year contract, but he hasn't done much to prove he'll impact the playoffs positively.

    In his defense, he hasn't been on the court very much other than in garbage time. When you're playing behind Dirk Nowitzki and Lamar Odom, your opportunities are going to be limited. He's averaging career lows with 7.3 points and 35.7 percent shooting.

    Since the roster is unclear for next season beyond Nowitzki, it's not impossible that Yi could return. But he won't be doing much during the postseason besides cheering on his teammates and providing quality depth should coach Rick Carlisle need him.

Ian Mahinmi

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    A promising start to the season saw Mahinmi grasp the reserve center role and temporarily give fans reason to forget about Tyson Chandler leaving in free agency.

    Now, the emergence of Brandan Wright in the rotation as a shot-blocker and high-energy guy leaves doubt for Mahinmi's role once Brendan Haywood returns from the knee injury that has sidelined him for the past six games.

    When he's focused and energized, Mahinmi can be a bright spot to the second unit. He's going to get playing time, and it's pivotal to the success of the team that he continues to stay out of foul trouble so he can give Haywood time to rest.

    Aside from hitting the big jumper at the end of the third quarter in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat last season, he doesn't have a lot of playoff experience. He's going to need to bring his A-game this year, however, as the Mavs look to recreate the system that helped them win the title.

Lamar Odom

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    Donning the headband last night against Houston, Odom showed that he's valuable to this team. The season isn't over yet, and even if his performance at times has led to hearing it from the American Airlines Center faithful, Odom can still play at a high level.

    He's a guy you desperately want to like, but it just seems like he gives marginal effort from time to time. For example, next time you catch a Dallas broadcast, keep a close eye on the Maverick huddle. Unless he's in the ballgame, he lags towards the back of the group, keeping his head down and contributing nothing.

    That's not going to cut it in the playoffs.

    Dallas needs his veteran experience. He's a two-time title winner with the LA Lakers. But you have to wonder where his head is at during this topsy-turvy season, which has included some traumatic experiences outside of the game of basketball.

    But one thing is for certain: Odom makes this team better. It's no coincidence that they are 0-6 when he doesn't play this season. Right now, it's easier to say he isn't ready for the playoffs. But he's got another month to figure it out.

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