It is clear that the "Texas Triangle" teams are among the best in the Western Conference.
Although not all three teams will necessarily make the playoffs, they will surely be in contention.
Dallas and Houston are more likely to advance and battle each other for a top playoff seed.
The Dallas Mavericks are and have always been an interesting team. Known to put together impressive regular season numbers, the Mavericks have established themselves as a winning franchise for the past decade.
Although the offseason did not go as planned with the failure to acquire a big-name free agent like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson, or Chris Bosh, they did the best they could with what was available. They addressed their need at shooting guard with first-round pick Dominique Jones, and their need at center by re-signing Haywood and trading for Chandler.
On paper, the Mavs look as good as any team in the Western Conference. But on the court, they showed last year how much the team needs to grow as an unit with an early playoff exit against the San Antonio Spurs.
That is exactly what they will get a chance to do during training camp.
The young players in the Mavericks roster have shown progress.
Dominique Jones belongs in the NBA and can get to the rim almost at will, something lacking from the backcourt. Rodrigue Beaubois has shown he needs more time to effectively run the point, but can be a potent scorer. Jose Barea continues to impress with his quickness, basket attack, and sweet jumper. Tyson Chandler has impressed coaching staff and analysts across the NBA with his play in the USA Basketball training camp, showing he is healthy and ready to return to his dominant past.
The Mavericks' veterans are still putting up numbers as if they were still in their prime.
Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood posted great numbers across the board while getting adapted to a new system. Dirk Nowitzki has been the same Dirk we have seen for ten years, and even showed better defense last season. Jason Kidd, although he has lost a step or two, has shown he can run the point with the best of them and knock down the three ball when called upon.
Dallas can match up against any team in the NBA given they are versatile enough to run with a small lineup or bang down low with a big frontcourt of two seven-footers.
Now how will they match up with the Houston Rockets?
The Houston Rockets will have a frontcourt of Luis Scola and Yao Ming. In the past, the Mavericks had no answer for Yao, but now they do.
Yao is not expected to play like he once did. He is healthy, but previous injuries will somewhat limit him. The Mavericks have Haywood and Chandler now, two centers among the league's best defensively, to throw against Yao.
The Rockets have newly signed Brad Miller to back up Yao so we should not be seeing Chuck Hayes struggle to play center anymore. Yao and Miller create a nice combination, but with the athleticism and strength of Haywood and Chandler, it is hard to identify an advantage for either team.
Luis Scola will forever be underrated for his efforts. He is not a flashy player, but he is very efficient at what he does. But he is no match for Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki will win that matchup night in and night out. Houston does have nice pieces like Jordan Hill, who was very impressive in the final games of last season, and Patrick Patterson, who seemed like a veteran in his rookie year. Regardless, the advantage here still goes to Dallas.
Although Marion is likely to be the starting small forward, Butler compares to Trevor Ariza more.
I am unsure if I would take Butler or Ariza as my small forward. Ariza provides more defense, but often struggles with his shot. Butler is a much more capable and efficient scorer, who is no slouch defensively himself.
Marion provides the defense at this position that might be lacking from Butler, which creates a perfect fit at the wings for Dallas, but Houston's Shane Battier should also be able to hold his ground and defend with the best of them.
While Ariza and Battier can shut Butler and Marion down, the same can be said the other way. There is no clear advantage.
The Houston backcourt consists of two very good young players, Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry at the point, and an All-Star caliber shooting guard in Kevin Martin and upcoming sophomore Chase Budinger.
While Brooks is a defensive liability, he has shown he can run the point effectively and score at will. Lowry provides a tougher backup who is also able to drive the lane and make good decisions.
Dallas will have Jason Kidd giving it another year at the point. Kidd is years off his prime and it showed clearly in the playoffs last year. Second-year Rodrigue Beaubois and undersized Jose Barea should provide scoring and quickness off the bench to complement Kidd’s decision-making.
Jason Terry and Butler, as well as rookie Dominique Jones will be using up most shooting guard minutes. Terry is a proven scorer, but is also undersized for the position and can be a defensive liability. He showed improvement defensively last year, but will never be an elite defender.
Especially if the man he has to guard is Kevin Martin, a proven veteran who can score with the best of them.
At the end of the day, the backcourt of the Rockets will give Dallas problems. As far as matchups, the advantage goes to Houston.
The Dallas Mavericks have a slight advantage over the Houston Rockets due to the superstar play of Dirk Nowitzki and a newly constructed frontcourt at the center position. Although the backcourt of the Rockets will present problems to the Mavericks, their paint defense should provide support.
Both teams will be neck and neck for a top playoff seed, along with several other teams. Expect the Mavericks to come out slightly on top of Houston at the end of the year, assuming all players manage to stay healthy and productive.
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