The NBA’s quarter mark is fast approaching.
Basketballghana.com’s Yaw Adjei-Mintah looks at the Dallas Mavericks’ surprise run in the NBA after a drama-filled offseason.
First things first, congratulations to the Golden State Warriors for equaling the best start by any team in the league after recording their 15th straight win in the team’s victory over the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors latest achievement puts them in elite company where only 1994 champions Houston Rockets and 1949 Washington Capitols reside. The team’s wonderful run has made them better the record of the best start by a defending champion in the league. Speaking of records, the Philadelphia 76ers equalled the record for the worst losing streak in NBA history after chlking their 26th consecutive loss; the team’s last victory in a regular season game came against the Denver Nuggets in March. However, the three time champions Sixers, need not quibble too much about their 15 losses and no wins start to the season. The team from the “city of brotherly love” is light years from recording the worst ever start to a season that the Dallas Mavericks hold. In 1993-1994, the Texas outfit compiled an abysmal total of 39 losses in 41 games to begin the season.
The Dallas Mavericks once a trodden franchise in an American Football crazed state, has since the turn of the century been an epitome of sound management and well run organization. The team has had its fortunes turned around remarkably after tech billionaire Mark Cuban bought the team in 1999. Recognized as one of the well liked owners around the league, Cuban’s money isn’t the main reason for the team’s consistent run in the NBA; retaining future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki is the main reason.
Following a controversial decision to draft the big German ninth overall in the 1998 Draft that was met with boos, Cuban’s decision not to trade Nowitzki though the latter struggled mightily in his rookie season, was a master stroke. Fast forward 16 years and the Mavericks have a 13 time NBA All-Star, Most Valuable Player for 2007 and the franchise’s only championship in 2011 on the back of stellar performances from the sweet shooting seven footer. The franchise has missed out on the playoffs just once in 15 years and events this offseason threatened to make it two seasons.
The Mavericks made a big splash in the free agency market by getting Texan DeAndre Jordan to commit to a four year contract worth $88 million dollars. The move for Jordan was imperative to Dallas if they were wanted to be considered serious contenders for the title. Dallas’ offense was ranked third in offense for 2014-2015 having averaged 105.2 points per game according to NBA.com. On the flip side, the team cratered to 25th in defensive rating by allowing 102.3 points according to BaketballReference.com. The team’s porous defense has stymied its progression to the latter stages of the playoffs in the more competitive conference of the NBA. Jordan was the league’s leader in rebounds after averaging 15 of those per game and ranked third overall by blocking 183 shots.
Conversely, the envisaged scenario of seeing Jordan play alongside Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons was not to be as the Los Angeles Clippers doubled down on the desire to retain Jordan by assuring him of more touches on the offensive end. DeAndre failed to follow through on his commitment and signed a new contract with the Clippers.
Starting Center Tyson Chandler, moved out west to sign a four year contract worth $52 million dollars with the Phoenix Suns basically due to Dallas hesitation to give him a new contract. Guards Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis also made moves to Sacramento and Indiana respectively. In came washed up veteran guards Deron Williams from Brooklyn Nets and Raymond Felton from the New York Knicks to man the backcourt with lower tier talents JaVale McGee, Tunisian Sallah Mejri and Zaza Pachulia to man the Center position. Pricy acquisition Wesley Matthews and Small Forward Chandler Parsons were rehabilitating after off season surgeries. The turmoil in the offseason meant the Mavericks were ranked outside the playoffs as most pundits picked the Utah Jazz to replace them in last year’s playoff roster.
15 games into the season, the Dallas Mavericks sit pretty at fifth in the Western Conference with nine wins. So what has made the Mavericks so good despite having a roster littered with guys who can be easily grouped alongside Josh Smith in terms of consistent production.
The rag-tag collection of players assembled to fill in roster spots have excelled in their respective roles. Starting Center Zaza Pachulia has overly impressed his new employers. Wielding career averages of 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, the 13 year veteran has topped his numbers by recording seven double-doubles in the season. In his team’s victory 102-93 victory over the Utah Jazz, Pachulia scored 15points and grabbed 12 rebounds. He further stuffed the stats sheet by dishing out four assists and is currently one of only eight players averaging a double-double in the league.
Deron Williams’ has been in supreme form since his departure from the Brooklyn Nets. Once a perennial All-Star who was consistently ranked next to Chris Paul as the best Point Guard in the league, injuries to his ankle have robbed him off his ability to navigate tight spaces and produce his trademark crossovers. Since the season began, Williams has been a consistent performer despite missing virtually the entire preseason due to calves’ strains. However, his performances have made him hit 23 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals against the Jazz. He also hit crucial buckets late to spur a victory over the Houston Rockets. Both players have impressed the Mavericks organization including Nowitzki. ‘Those two guys have been great for us’. “D-Will is almost like a clutch player now. We run the game through him at the end. His decision making is great. He can post, he can put it on the floor”. “Zaza is just a fighter. He leaves it all out there”.
The Mavericks most impressive win of the season was that against fellow Texans, the Houston Rockets. Playing without Matthews, Chandler Parsons and Nowitzki due to injuries, forgotten man Felton was the star performer on the night as his 23 points compounded the problems of Coach Kevin McHale who was eventually sacked a few days later. He also played excellent defense on Shooting Guard James Harden by limiting him to 5-of 21 shooting.
With more chemistry to develop as the season goes on, the Dallas Mavericks look primed for playoffs qualification thanks in large parts to their contingency plans or more appropriately players.
The NBA’s quarter mark is fast approaching.