The 2005-06 Dallas Mavericks suffered through the NBA Finals losing to the Miami Heat, headlined by Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. The 2007 Mavericks lost to the upstart Golden State Warriors, guided by the coaching ingenuity of Don Nelson, oft-injured Baron Davis and Indiana Pacers castoff Stephen Jackson, despite Dirk Nowitzki’s MVP season. Where do the Mavericks go from here?
Normally, teams in the National Basketball Association would respond to a beating in the Finals championship series with a team implosion and re-assembling the roster, let alone taking a championship-caliber squad to the test after a first-round upset. Owner Mark Cuban has decided against the trend, and it may be to his own team’s benefit.
With style matchups slowly becoming the X-factor in whether teams win or lose, despite the overall talent level, the Mavericks persist that the roster is just as great as it is. With Nowitzki back in the lineup, anything is still possible in the Western Conference, even with stiff competition with franchises like the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and the Utah Jazz.
Of course, the best thing about the Mavericks is Nowitzki and their five-star “General” in Avery Johnson, but the growth of the team is contingent upon its supporting players. Moe Ager, the team’s 2006 first-round selection, is a sharp-shooting slasher that has shown steady improvement throughout the previous season; he will be needed to bring enthusiasm off the bench. Devin Harris, the Mavericks’ on-again, off-again starting point guard will need to show more confidence and floor leadership to better balance the differences between his and fellow starting guard Jason Terry’s game. Just as well, center Erick Dampier must continue to be consistent in his approach to rebounding and shooting in the interior; with competition in DeSagana Diop, Dampier must follow through on being more aggressive and less content with being a mediocre post option.
Great wings in All-Star swingman Josh Howard and former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse will stabilize the Mavericks and fill in the gaps that Nowitzki may not have the ability to close himself. Though Austin Croshere departed for the Warriors via free agency, Dallas does have a couple of secret weapons to utilize against teams throughout the league.
NBADL guard Jose Juan Barea has shown the ability to efficiently lead a team. Though limited somewhat by his sub-6-foot stature, his stocky, muscular build and quickness on the perimeter, as well as his stellar shooting stroke, can provide the Mavericks with a switch-up style when new blood is needed. Just as well, rookie Nick Fazekas from Nevada will have the opportunity to act as the official Dirk Nowitzki clone, using his 6’10” frame to launch three-pointers and short jumpers over paint-oriented power forwards and centers.
With all said, Dallas could easily run the table on the NBA or take a dive, but it’s up to the vets to be responsible enough to continue to guide the team beyond the hurt and shock of the 2007 playoff-series loss to Golden State. In the end, Nowitzki and Co. must be who they were meant to be: true mavericks.