The year is 2006, Dirk Nowitzki's fourth seeded Mavericks are ahead two games to none against the second seeded Miami Heat. All they have to do is win two of the next five games and they will be crowned NBA Champions.
We all know the end to that story...
Miami goes on to win the remaining four playoff games to come back from a 0-2 deficit and win the title. The heroics of a young gentleman by the name of Dwyane Wade left Dallas fans biting their nails as the series approached its ending.
The Dallas Mavericks have not returned to the NBA Finals since then. In fact, they have had a run of unsuccessful playoff experiences (i.e. eighth seeded Golden State takes down top-seeded Dallas in first round upset) in their years since becoming the closest team ever to winning an NBA title.
But the question remains, will Dirk Nowitzki ever get a ring?
We cannot be certain, but one of the greatest foreign players in NBA history (and one of the most dynamic and unique skill-sets the game has seen) will certainly continue his quest for one.
Alongside many NBA fans itching to get the 2010-2011 season under way, the people in Dallas share the same optimism.
This offseason Dallas made a deal with the Charlotte Bobcats that sent Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and cash considerations to North Carolina in exchange for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca.
Let's take a look at what that does for their depth chart:
PG: Jason Kidd -- Rodrigue Beaubois -- J.J. Barea
SG: Caron Butler -- Jason Terry
SF: Shawn Marion -- DeShawn Stevenson
PF: Dirk Nowitzki -- Shawn Marion
C: Tyson Chandler -- Brendan Haywood
Dallas is one of the only teams that can say that they start four former All-Stars, to begin wi th. As you can see, they have a strong, athletic tandem at center able to matchup with any big man in the league.
Their depth in the guard slots is also impressive. One of the top sixth men in the league, Jason Terry, is accompanied by young talents Beaubois and Barea.
On paper, this team is as good as any other team in the NBA. But how do they compete for a title? Getting by the defending champions (LAL) and the preseason favorites (Miami) will be necessary, but they cannot overlook the other tasks along the way.
Let's assume they take care of business in the regular season as usual with another 50-plus win season. Let's ignore seeding in the playoffs because in the Western Conference, the eighth seed (and beyond) may be just as good as the team seeded second.
In the first round, say Dallas draws an opponent of the Phoenix/San Antonio/Oklahoma City tier. All first-round games are going to be tough outings.
But not only is this Dallas roster talented, it has experience. In fact, they hold the player with the most playoff games played without an NBA title: Jason Kidd. So not only is Nowitzki on a quest, but so are his teammates.
Not to take assumptions too seriously, but for the sake of plausibility, assume Dallas gets by their round one opponent exploiting the team's weaknesses and taking advantage of their own assets. Blah blah blah.
Round two, say they get an opponent of the Utah/Denver/Houston tier. This series is likely to require all seven games which they are allotted. It would not be a surprise for Dallas to lose in the second round in the tough Western Conference, it would just feel...well...redundant.
So they come out with a chance to compete for a bid to the Finals. Up to this point, every task to Dallas has been reasonable and attainable. But a seven-game series with the Los Angeles Lakers presents a more daunting obstacle. So how do they stack up?
Jason Kidd -- Derek Fisher
Caron Butler -- Kobe Bryant
Shawn Marion -- Ron Artest (depending on which Shawn Marion and which Ron Artest shows up)
Dirk Nowitzki -- Pau Gasol (debatable matchup, as good a debate as Kobe/DWade)
Tyson Chandler -- Andrew Bynum
*bold faced type denotes player favored in matchup
On paper (boy, does that sound redundant), Dallas has the ability to play with the Lakers. And in a seven-game series, you never know what could happen but it's likely to come down to the wire.
Let's take a look at their potential obstacle in the finals: Miami Heat
Rematch of '06 Finals, Nowitzki and his new Mavericks have the motivation to play this series with confidence. Again, I like Jason Kidd in the point guard matchup with whoever the Heat decide to start. I like Wade/LeBron in the shooting guard and small forward slots, respectfully. Nowitzki takes the cake over Bosh nine times out of 10, and Chandler stacks up well against Ilgauskas/Anthony.
The year is 2011, five years have passed and now Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade meet in the NBA Finals again, both with resurgent teams seeking eminence. The end to this story we do not yet know...
In reality, the Dallas Mavericks are well-equipped for a title run in 2011, there are just a couple steep mountains to climb to be able to get there.
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