2011 NBA Playoffs: Were the Dallas Mavericks Better in 2003 or 2006?

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2011 NBA Playoffs: Were the Dallas Mavericks Better in 2003 or 2006?
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It's been nearly a week since the Dallas Mavericks have swept the twice-defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and they are still awaiting the winner of the Memphis Grizzlies-Oklahoma City Thunder series.

The Mavericks four game sweep wasn't the biggest upset of the NBA Playoffs so far, but certainly the most surprising. Eight seeded Memphis upset San Antonio in the first round, but that series at least went to six games.

Games 1 and 3 were close calls, but the Lakers never showed up to even make Game 4 a competitive affair.

Kobe Bryant was left to playing one on five at times, Pau Gasol was playing worse than his brother Marc, and that deep front court was getting outmatched by a smaller Mavericks team.

Dallas entered the regular season as one of the better teams in the Western Conference, but an aging one that had seen better days.

Going into the the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the Mavericks were coming off three first round exits in the last four years and had not been past the second round since 2006.

Not to mention, their third leading scorer, Caron Butler, has been out of action since January.

This has been far from the case in their series with the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, when they were underdogs in both series.

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Dirk Nowitzki is continuing to show why he is not only the best European player of all-time, but still among the NBA's elite. 

Age doesn't seem to have slowed down Jason Terry or Jason Kidd too much. Terry hit 9 three pointers in Game 4 against the Lakers and Kidd did a great job defending Kobe Bryant during the series.

Peja Stojakovic and Shawn Marion are no longer All-Star caliber players, but their successful adjustments as role players may finally get them the championship rings that eluded them Sacramento and Phoenix, respectively.

Five years ago, J.J. Barea went undrafted out of Northeastern University. Now he is a key reserve and possibly the best back up point guard in the entire league.

And the strong defensive play of Tyson Chandler has made most Mavericks fans forget that they could have acquired Al Jefferson instead last summer.

Looking at the Mavericks current roster and the success they have had this year, its only fair to compare them to more recent teams in franchise history. The two that come to mind are the 2003 and 2006 versions.

Just like the 2011 edition, both made it to the Western Conference Finals.

However, all three of them have done it in contrasting styles. Don Nelson's Mavericks teams never played defense, while Avery Johnson led them to the NBA Finals with of the league's lowest scoring teams.

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Rick Carlisle has leaned more towards the style of Avery Johnson, with a strong defensive mentality similar to his Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers teams.

The one constant for the Dallas Mavericks over the last decade or so has been the presence of Dirk Nowitzki. No matter what style of play the team has adjusted to, he has continued to be the focal point for the offense.

He formed one of the best trios in the NBA with Michael Finley and Steve Nash during the early 2000's. Finley was one of the best shooting guards at a time when it was the league's most star studded position. In 2003, Nash was one of the NBA's best point guards, but was still a few years away from his MVP metamorphosis.

Nick Van Exel gave them one of the top reserve guards in the league at the time. He and Steve Nash formed one of the NBA's best point guard duos during their short tenure together.

However after Van Exel, this team lacked depth.

Teams are going to be intimidated by your bench with the likes Eduardo Najera and Adrian Griffin leading the way.

The current center duo of Brandon Haywood and Tyson Chandler is not making Mavericks fans reminiscent about Raef Lafrentz and Shawn Bradley.

Nor is making them yearn for Erick Dampier and Desagana Diop.

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While the 2006 Dallas Mavericks may not have had a top tier center, they had a more balanced lineup and a deeper bench than the 2003 edition.

Dirk Nowitzki was finally reaching his peak and Josh Howard was playing at an All-Star level. They had arguably the deepest backcourt in the NBA with Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse in the starting lineup; along with Devin Harris and Marquis Daniels coming off the bench.

This goes without mentioning Keith Van Horn, who was playing in what would be his final NBA season.

The 2006 edition didn't have the same star power as it did in years past, with Michael Finley and Steve Nash or the Anotine Walker/Antwan Jamison experiment, however they were now in a better position to win a championship.

Avery Johnson quickly transformed them from an offensive minded small-ball team that was similar to the Phoenix Suns in to lockdown defensive team that now rivaled the San Antonio Spurs.

Mavericks came within minutes of taking a 3-0 series lead in the 2006 NBA Finals, before a Miami Heat comeback and a referee controversy.

They posted 67-15 the following season with the same core group of players, before getting upset by the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

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After that series it seemed as if the Mavericks window of opportunity was starting to close. That seemed to be the case in the following years no matter who Mark Cuban brought in as the final piece of the puzzle.

Out went Devin Harris, in came Jason Kidd. Shawn Marion was signed and Brandon Bass was let go. Josh Howard was traded for Caron Butler. Shortly after, Erick Dampier was sent to Charlotte as part of a deal for Tyson Chandler.

The 2011 Dallas Mavericks are not an up and comer, like the 2003 team or a juggernaut like the 2007 team.

They are a veteran team that has already overcome a lot of adversity whether its losing one of their best players, blowing 22 point lead in the third quarter, or demolishing the defending NBA champions.

This year's Dallas Mavericks may not have the star power of the 2003 version or be better team than the 2006 Mavericks, but the 2011 team will go down as the greatest in franchise history if they go on to win eight more games over the next month or so.

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