Revisiting Preseason Predictions for the Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have shown signs that they could be a force out West, but there was simply too much inconsistency, bad defense and poor play late in close games for them to make it to the postseason.
Dallas ranks an atrocious 27th in points allowed per-game, giving up over 102 points per-contest. Although they have had a solid offense, their ability to stop their opponents has made winning consistently very difficult.
In close games, the Mavs just could not get it done this year, especially early in the season. Dallas was just 1-8 in their first nine overtime games this season. In addition, they have been a mediocre 8-8 in games decided in regulation by five points or fewer.
The Mavericks still have a chance to salvage some of their season by finishing above .500. But even if they win their remaining three games to finish at 42-40, they will not get the eight spot in the West, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz have proven too much for them to overcome.
But how did this season turn out in comparison to where NBA analysts projected Dallas to finish before the year started?
Experts were certainly split on how the Mavericks would fare in 2012-13. Going into the season, there was a lot to like about how the team was constructed; new additions like O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman were expected to make a huge impact.
However, there was also the loss of Jason Terry and Jason Kidd and pretty much all remaining members of the 2011 NBA championship team. The lack of chemistry that resulted from such roster turnover proved too much for the Mavericks to overcome.
Finally, there was the sting of the Mavericks not being able to land Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, despite numerous efforts to bring in a superstar in the offseason.
While no one saw Dallas as a real championship threat, many observers were divided on whether or not this group would be able to continue the team's playoff streak.
Hoopsworld.com writers Yannis Koutroupis, Bill Ingram, Alex Kennedy and Joel Brigham all had the Mavericks finishing third in the Southwest Division and making the playoffs, while Lang Greene had them finishing second.
The biggest thing that went wrong for the Mavericks, though, was having to play a third of their season without Dirk Nowitzki, who went down with a knee injury in the preseason.
Losing Dirk not only put the team at a disadvantage during the time he was sidelined, but the team was also forced to try to adapt to Nowitzki when he returned, and, not surprisingly, that's when they were at their worst, going 1-9 in Dirk's first ten games of the season.
Dallas also had to contend with an extremely strong division. Other than the New Orleans Hornets, every other team in the Southwest will be in the playoffs. San Antonio had one of the best records in the NBA; Memphis was not far on its heels, and the Houston Rockets became a surprisingly dangerous team behind the emergence of James Harden.
The Mavericks may have had better luck in another division and picked up the additional wins needed to make the playoffs. Dallas is just 5-8 in divisional play this year with two games against New Orleans and one against Memphis still remaining.
Here you could see that Sam Mitchell and Steve Smith of NBATV both had the Mavericks finishing seventh in the West and losing to Oklahoma City in the opening round.
Having Dallas as a low seeded playoff team was a popular pick. D.J. Foster of NBCSports.com had the Mavericks finishing eighth at 43-39, while Bleacher Reports's Matthew Schmidt had the Mavericks as a six-to-eight seed in his preseason team preview.
Who knows if the Mavericks would have gotten there if they had stayed healthy all season, but their recent record seems to indicate that they would have at least bumped up into playoff territory.
Since Feb. 1, the Mavericks are 19-13 and have looked like a playoff team.
The team finally has a healthy Dirk, and they seem to be adjusting to their roles. Rick Carlisle found a consistent rotation, and players like Shawn Marion and Brandan Wright are playing their best basketball of the season.
Unfortunately, their awful play in December and January was just too much for the team to make up.
Dallas went a combined 11-18 in those months, and they have not been able to get back over the hump, despite their solid play in the season's second half.
You can point to several factors to show why the Mavericks have failed to meet their expectations in 2012-13. As I previously mentioned, injuries, bad defense, lack of late-game execution and poor team chemistry are the primary reasons why Dallas finds themselves in their current situation.
All they can do as an organization is to bring in better talent next season, shore up the holes on their roster and try to start a new playoff streak in 2013-14 behind a healthy and motivated Dirk Nowitzki.
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