The Dallas Mavericks produced one of the most memorable championship runs in recent history last year, as longtime NBA veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and others captured their first NBA championship.
In the offseason, Dallas lost Tyson Chandler, J.J.Barea and Caron Butler in free agency. Dallas also traded away recently acquired Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to the Denver Nuggets for merely a 2016 second-round pick.
The Mavericks attempted to reload by signing Vince Carter, Delonte West and Brandan Wright. Dallas also traded for Lamar Odom, but Odom and Dallas just came to an agreement that places him on the inactive list for the rest of the season.
They are currently the seventh seed in the West with nine games remaining. Spots four through 10 in the West are only separated by four games, so Dallas' seed could certainly change by the end of the season.
The Mavericks just aren't the same team as they were last year, and here are five reasons why they won't make it out of the first round in the playoffs.
There is no doubt that Dallas lost more in free agency than they gained, and it was evident this season. Tyson Chandler was the biggest loss by far. Chandler was arguably Dallas' best defensive player and did a fantastic job of protecting the rim last season. J.J Barea was an excellent change of pace to Jason Kidd at the point guard position, and his loss really hurt. Rodrigue Beaubois has shown signs of brilliance but wasn't as consistent as Barea was last season.
Deshawn Stevenson was a terrific wing defender and displayed an ability to knock down big three pointers. Peja Stojakovic was a terrific outsider shooter who made more of an impact against the Lakers than the Thunder and Heat.
The acquisitions of Brandan Wright, Vince Carter, Delonte West and Lamar Odom were simply not enough to fill the massive void left in free agency. Dallas' new supporting cast isn't enough to get them back to the finals, let alone win a first round matchup.
It's looking like Dallas will end up with either the seven or eight seed. That means their most likely opponents will either be the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs. Oklahoma City and San Antonio are currently tied for the first seed. While Dallas defeated Oklahoma City last year in the conference finals and San Antonio was ousted in the first round of the playoffs last year, Dallas doesn't want to see either of them in the first round.
The Spurs have been on an absolute tear and have earned the majority of their victories without the services of Manu Ginobili. San Antonio is on an 11-game winning streak and Tony Parker is playing out of his mind. The last time there was a shortened season due to a lockout, the Spurs won the championship. Gregg Popovich knows what he is doing.
The home team has won every game between the Mavs and Spurs this season. That gives Dallas a little bit of hope, but considering Dallas is the lower seed, they will have to play one more game in San Antonio.
The other team Dallas could see is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City is a young and incredibly talented team that were the favorites to make it out of the West at the beginning of the season. The Thunder hasn't disappointed. Kevin Durant is having an MVP-caliber season and Russell Westbrook is looking like one of the best point guards in the league.
As mentioned earlier, the Mavs defeated OKC in the conference finals last year, but the Mavs are very different and the Thunder are more experienced. Oklahoma City won the regular season series at 3-1.
Let's face it. The Dallas Mavericks are an old team. Everyone knew a more compact schedule would not favor a team like Dallas. While the Mavericks recovered from an abysmal start to the season, it was obvious that players like Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion were affected by the lack of days off this season.
However, the San Antonio Spurs have done incredibly well despite having an old roster as well. But that is a testament to Gregg Popovich's brilliance and experience when it comes to knowing his players and managing their time.
Dallas is playing like a tired basketball team, and it's going to be tough for them to have the endurance to win a playoff series, especially if it is against a young team like Oklahoma City.
One of the reasons why Dallas' run last year was so special was because it was done by a combination of veterans who had previously been close to winning a a title but couldn't get the job done.
Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were on the Mavericks team that blew a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Jason Kidd had been to the finals twice with the New Jersey Nets and came up short both times. The list went on and on.
Ever since all of those veterans finally won the title, the Mavs simply aren't as hungry as they were last year. I'm not going to go as far to say they are complacent with not being a major title contender, but there just isn't that fire anymore.
It was that hunger that allowed them to pull off the ridiculous comebacks they were able to pull off and that ultimately led them to the title. It's hard to blame guys like Nowitzki and Kidd for not having that fire, but that lack of hunger and burning passion to win will be why they go out in the first round.
The Dallas Mavericks were tied for the best road record in the NBA last year at 28-13. Their road record gave them the confidence they needed knowing they could go out and beat any team anywhere.
That is not the case this year. Among the eight teams that are currently slotted to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, only Houston has a worse road record this year. Dallas is a combined 0-5 on the road against the top three teams in the West. This doesn't bode well for the Mavs in the first round.