After a brief hiatus, it's time to return to the NBA's All-Time Starting Fives. It's on to the Western Conference, where we'll be starting in the Southwest Division with the Dallas Mavericks.
Not to panic any fans in Dallas, but if the franchise’s roller-coaster history is any guide, the coming decade could be a tough one for the Mavs.
The Dallas Mavericks have been inexistence for exactly 30 years. In that time, they've amassed a near-.500 record (.497 win percentage), made 16 trips to the playoffs, three to the conference finals and come within four and a half quarters of winning the 2006 title.
After a somewhat predictable 15-win debut season in 1980-81, the Mavericks improved their win total in six of the seven seasons. The only time they failed to improve was between consecutive 44-win seasons in 1984-85 and 1985-86.
In just their fourth season, the Mavs posted better-than-.500 record, reached the playoffs and knocked off a talented Seattle Supersonics team (featuring Jack Sikma, Gus Williams and Tom Chambers) in the opening round, before falling to the eventual Western Conference champion Lakers.
That 1983-84 season kicked off an outstanding run for the Mavs, one which saw them reach the playoffs in five of the next seasons (in 1988-89 they missed out by one game). Twice in that span they fell to the Showtime Lakers- in six games in the 1986 West Semifinals and pushing the eventual champs to the limit in the 1988 conference finals, before going down in seven.
And virtually all of those teams were built organically. The Mavericks drafted each of the top seven scorers on the 1987-88, and four of the top five in 1989-90, and the fifth guy, Adrian Dantley, was acquired the previous season, in exchange for Mark Aguirre.
In the first or second round of their first seven drafts, the Mavericks selected Kiki Vandeweghe (refused to play for the team and was dealt), Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Derek Harper, Dale Ellis and Sam Perkins (sure Charles Barkley went next, but still!), Detlef Schrempf, Roy Tarpley (man was he good!) and Mark Price (traded to Cleveland on draft day).
Not bad, huh? Especially considering they totally whiffed on the 1982 draft.
However, this is also a franchise that turned in a decade of awe-inspiring ineptitude in the 1990s- in which the team managed more than 28 wins once in nine years and managed a total of just 24 wins in the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons combined.
And then came Mark Cuban.
A brilliant investor and businessman who made (and actually kept!) billions during the internet bubble. More than any owner with the possible exception of the infamous Ted Stepien, Cuban’s left an indelible mark on the NBA. He's spared no expense in building a sustainable winner, all the while acting the way any fan given the opportunity to buy his favorite team would act.
Sure he gave up too early on Nash and he grossly overpaid for Erick Dampier, but the transformation undergone by the Dallas Mavericks under Mark Cuban has been nothing short of exceptional.
Seldom have the Mavericks been middle-of-the-road. In three decades, the franchise has gone from expansion team, to young, loaded contender, to comically inept, to young, loaded and extremely well-funded (thanks Cubes!) contender, to aging, well-funded sorta contender.
This is a franchise that didn’t take long to become competitive and has been good a lot more often than it’s been bad. But the bad times have been BAD.
Given the pattern of the 1980s (upswing), 1990s (gutter) and 2000s (outstanding), and with Dirk in the latter half of his Hall-of-Fame career, the coming decade in Big D could see things get worse before they get better.
On the bright side, Mavs fans, no need to get down. Any fan base with a highly intelligent, hopelessly dedicated multi-billionaire owner will never be that bad of shape.