NBA

NBA AM: Mavericks Lurk As West’s Sleeper

No one is projecting the Mavericks pulling a playoff upset, but if final seeding works in their favor they have a shot

Lang Greene profile picture
Updated 1 year ago on

5 min read

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The Western Conference playoff race is primed for a wild finish and final seeding structure will likely go down to the wire. In short, only the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks know their respective spots in the seeding hierarchy at the moment. The Warriors will enter the playoffs as the conference’s top dog with well over 60 wins. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are slotted as a seventh seed and have been receiving little to no fanfare about potentially pulling off an upset once the postseason begins – which may be a huge mistake.

The playoffs are all about matchups and if the final seeding works in the Mavericks’ favor, the team has more than puncher’s chance at securing an upset special in the first round.

As it stands currently, the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets are tied at the top of the Southwest Division. The Grizzlies hold the tiebreaker and are currently the second seed, which would give them a matchup versus Dallas in round one. This is a matchup the Mavericks would have little chance of emerging as a winner in a seven game series. Memphis is a matchup nightmare for Dallas.

But if the Rockets were to outlast the Grizzlies for the second seed, the Mavericks would emerge as a strong sleeper to pull off an upset.

Let’s dig deeper.

On the surface, Houston is the better team. But the Rockets are severely limping into the playoffs and there are at least three huge reasons why the Mavericks would benefit from a matchup with Houston.

  1. Houston Rockets starting point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a wrist injury. Beverley isn’t a box score bandit but his heart and tenaciousness on the defensive is tailor made for the playoffs. The Rockets will undoubtedly miss his grit in the rotation.
  2. Former All-Star center Dwight Howard has only played six games since suffering a knee injury in January. Since returning to the lineup, the former Defensive Player of the Year, hasn’t played more than 23 minutes in a contest. The question of whether Howard’s cranky knee can hold up under an extended minute expectation remains to be seen.
  3. The Rockets received even more bad news when it was recently announced forward Donatas Motiejunas will miss the remainder of the season with a back injury. Motiejunas started 62 games for Houston this season and posted averages of 12 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 50 percent shooting from the floor.

The Rockets could be ripe for the taking and the Mavericks have the veteran pieces to make a series with Houston very interesting.

Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo and J.J. Barea are Mavericks players who have won a championship since entering the league. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy while roaming the sidelines.

The Mavericks are a battle tested bunch who won’t fold like a tent come playoff time, but most importantly Dallas will be entering the postseason healthy at the core.

While playoff seeding is still being determined keep an eye out for Dallas as a sleeper to pull off an upset, especially if they get the right bounce.

Management issues, not Kobe Bryant is the reason Los Angeles Lakers have whiffed on stars

The last two seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers have followed a script from a Hollywood horror flick. From the inability of future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant to stay healthy, coaching changes and the failed Steve Nash project, the Lakers haven’t been able to sustain any positive momentum.

Of course, the above didn’t include losing former All-Star center Dwight Howard in free agency to the Houston Rockets in 2013 or the team’s inability to lure any of the mega free agent names on the market last summer.

The Lakers, once a prime destination for players seeking superstardom, have failed to secure any of those guys’ name on the dotted line as of late.

Most of the blame is pointed to Bryant, who most observers feel his sometimes abrasive personality has been a primary driver in turning prospective free agents away.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes, who played with Bryant on the Lakers during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, says his former teammate is being unfairly used as a scapegoat.

“The reason people don’t want to go to the Lakers is because of management,” Barnes said according to Chris Ballard of SI.com. “Kobe can be the scapegoat all they want but if you play hard, Kobe likes you. And if you bulls— around, he doesn’t. It’s plain and simple. He’s not a vocal leader. He just expects you to play as hard as you can every minute on the court, like he does.”

This summer will be a pivotal offseason for the Lakers (20-58) as they try to remove themselves from the league basement. The team has just $35 million in guaranteed salary commitments on the books, which will give them an opportunity to be a free agent player. The team also stands a strong chance of receiving a top five lottery pick in June’s draft.

 

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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