According to Vegas.com, the Dallas Mavericks odds of their first NBA title happening in 2011 are 18/1. That puts the Mavs behind seven other teams with better odds, three of which are in the West. The Lakers at 9/5, Spurs at 3/1 and the Thunder at 14/1.
So who's willing to take that bet?
The Mavs are currently the No. 2 seed in the West, but Vegas doesn't care; they've seen the Mavs in the playoffs lately. Dallas is 10-17 since the Finals run in 2006.
The reason other teams tend to step up in the playoffs (and the Mavs back down) is toughness and defense. In the 82 game season there are only moments when teams have locked down on defense and proven their toughness.
In the playoffs it's the opposite; every possession is a grind defensively and the Mavs haven't been able to buck the trend, and opposing teams know it.
The elite teams save their bullets for the playoffs, while the Mavs burn their's up winning 50 plus games every year. While 50 plus wins in 11 straight seasons (assuming they can notch another three wins) is impressive, it hasn't translated into playoff success. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson juggle the pieces a little every year but with no difference in the outcome.
But this year is different.
The Mavs have Tyson Chandler and Corey Brewer. Chandler and Brewer shore up the Mavs in their two playoff weaknesses—defense and toughness. I just don't think it's enough—it never is.
Will the Mavs reach the Finals again in 2011?
Remember, Brenden Haywood was bandied about as one of the top interior defenders last season. How did that change everything? And how was last season unlike the previous seasons?
Answer: It didn't change anything, as they were ousted in the first round.
I'm not saying Chandler will become Haywood. I will say that Haywood became Erick Dampier though, and that's not good for Chandler's future or fortune with the Mavs. Even so, he will undoubtedly follow Damp's and Haywood's career path and Mark Cuban will sign him to a large, multi-year deal this offseason.
As for Brewer, he's averaging 9.5 minutes a game so far, and he might get RoddyB'd out of the playoff rotation if he doesn't gain Rick Carlisle's trust quickly. Brewer, however, is exactly what the Mavs have needed, providing athleticism and defense on the wing. The Mavs clearly think something is there or they wouldn't have saddled him up with a three-year deal.
Overall, I'm just a once bitten, twice shy Mavs fan. Its hard to buy that the Mavs are different and tougher even if Jason Terry tells me they are. The Mavs have seen how teams have repeatedly knocked them quickly out of the playoffs, and they're attempting to emulate it and incorporate it into how they play.
Will it work? I want to believe it will, but it just sounds all too familiar to me. Its the sound of ref complaints, excuses and finger pointing. I hope I'm wrong, but I still wouldn't wager on 18-1.