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The Dallas Mavericks are one of the best examples of the theory that regular season success does not translate to the post-season. Since 2000, the Mavericks have never finished with less than 50 wins and they have reached or exceeded 60 wins three times. But during that stretch, Dallas only reached the Finals once, where they lost to the Miami Heat, going home after the first round four times and after the semi-finals another four times.
Dirk Nowitzki is the one that effects most. Dirk is one of the nicest guys in the entire league and it would be very depressing as an NBA fan to see Dirk retire without a title under his belt. After rewatching the entire 2006 NBA Finals over the summer and seeing the copious amounts of bad calls that went in favor of Dwyane Wade, you really have to feel for Dirk.
Wade shot 18, nine, 25 and 21 free throws in the four Heat wins and Nowitzki was sent home without something to show for his play. No doubt Dirk struggled when Miami made their comeback but those games were close to the very end and Wade was getting every single whistle if he so much as stubbed a toe on the floor. I’m not trying to denounce Wade’s title but Nowitzki’s place in history would be drastically different if there was some balance in the officiating that year. Despite the result, Nowitzki should have a ring right now and he should be mentioned among the greatest to ever play.
If there is any player I root for to win a title before they call it quits, its Dirk (with Nash right there, of course). I fear that he will be forgotten or belittled because he hasn’t won a title but the fact remains that Dirk is the most versatile seven footer to ever play NBA basketball and he is one of the greatest foreign players ever. I think people have already forgotten that Dirk averaged 25 points a game in 2006-2007 while shooting 50% from the field, 42% from three and 90% from the free throw line and that he is consistently one of the most efficient scorers in basketball.
As expected, Dirk Nowitzki will remain with the Dallas Mavericks, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Stein reports that Dirk’s deal is guaranteed for four years and $80 million, which is less money than the max. Nowitzki agreed to take less in order to give the Mavericks more financial breathing room as he continues to chase his first championship.
And as long as Dirk is in Dallas, or for at least a couple more years while Nowitzki continues to play a high level, the Mavericks will continue to win 50+ games a year. But the question that the Mavs have been unable to answer over the past decade is what piece is required to put them over the top. Last season, they picked up veteran small forward Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood at the all-star break in hopes that they would push the Mavs over the top, but Butler’s efficiency hurt the offense and Dallas couldn’t overcome the Spurs in the first round of the post-season.
This summer, they had the chance to turn an unguaranteed Erick Dampier contract into a real asset, but instead only managed to acquire Tyson Chandler. He’s a fine center and one that can fill it for Dampier, but this was after the Mavs gave Haywood a huge extension worth $55 million over six years, a deal that will take him into his late 30′s. Dallas also signed Ian Mahinmi, a fine young center with a lot of potential and ability, but he will not but them over the top, certainly not with Chandler and Haywood in front of them.
Marc Cuban is usually frugal with his checkbook, but during the NBA’s most star packed free agency period, Cuban came away with a disappointing haul, if you can even call re-signing Dirk and getting Mahinmi a haul. He tried to lure LeBron James into the comfy, no-state tax state of Texas where he could play in the same city as his favorite football team, the Cowboys, and could easily become the face of the country’s second most populated state. Cuban also tried to pull off a sign and trade deal with the Atlanta Hawks for shooting guard Joe Johnson but that fell through when Cuban refused to trade Rodrigue Beaubois.
And thus, with no major additions, one of the league’s older teams will have to rely on internal development to boost them into the next level that they have been on the precipice of reaching over the past 10 years.
There’s a reason that Beaubois wasn’t available in any talks this summer. He’s got a ton of potential to be one of the league’s best scoring guards off the bench or in a starting role. Beaubois didn’t play a lot last season but when he did get into the action, he was brilliant. Like most young players, especially those that posses the speed that he does, he was often out of control and had trouble keeping possession of the ball, but boy oh boy did he show that he can put the ball in the basket.
Roddy-B rarely got consistent minutes. He’d play 10 minutes in three games in-a-row and then wouldn’t see the floor for another week. One of the times Dallas let him loose, though, against Golden State, Beaubois showed all of his offensive abilities, scoring 40 points on 15-of-22 shooting with nine three’s, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks, all in just 30 minutes of play. The Mavericks probably aren’t expecting Beaubois to be quite that good, but as a combo guard that should improve his handle this season, Roddy can shoot the three at a 41% clip and is an explosive athlete at the rim.
A foot injury that Roddy suffered during his time with the French National Team this summer will make it harder for him to establish himself as a consistent rotation member but he will most definitely be an interval part of the Mavericks plan this season, or at least he better be if Dallas wants to go further than they did last year.
We’ve reached the part in this preview where I have to inform you that there are likely no other young players that will develop into major contributors this season. Rookie Dominique Jones is the only other youngster with a shot to do so but he hasn’t shown that he can consistently score the basketball outside of the paint during his time with Dallas in pre-season or in college, where he relied on getting to the rim to score.
So, given their lack of overall improvement, you have to wonder, can this Mavs team do much more than they did last season? If Jason Kidd takes a step back this season, are the Mavericks a top four team in the Western Conference? Can Dirk Nowitzki will this team further than they should go?
The answers to those questions don’t provide favorable results for Dallas. They will likely be a regular marvel once again, winning somewhere north of 52 games. But unfortunately for the Mavericks, what happens after they finish off the regular season likely won’t change either and Dallas will have gone through one of the last years of Dirk Nowitzki’s prime failing to produce results.
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Rodrigue Beaubois is an incredibly effective scorer that played spectacular basketball in small doses last season. He will miss a portion of the season because of a foot injury, but once he returns, Roddy Buckets should become a key rotation piece for the Mavericks. He can play some point, provided he can lower his turnover rate this season, and he is a deadly shooter from deep, allowing him to play off the ball next to one of the game’s best passers ever in Jason Kidd. Roddy also excels at getting to the rim and I think we can expect a few lobs on backdoor cuts this season involving these two. Depending on how many minutes he can get, Beaubois will have a chance to compete for the most improved player of the year award this season.
Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. You don’t hear Dirk compared in a historical sense often, but that’s more because we’ve never seen anything like before rather than a lacking resume. Nowitzki was the MVP of the league back in 2007, is the best shooting big man ever, and would be an NBA champion if it wasn’t for a few friendly whistles back in 2006.
Nowitzki’s shooting touch is unmatched at the power forward position and he even holds his own against the guards when it comes to converting a high percentage of shots away from the basket. Nowitzki shot a league most 8.3 shots per game from 16-23 feet last season and he converted those looks at an astonishing 46%, easily the best rate amongst power forwards, especially when you consider the sheer volume of the shots as well as how difficult most of them are. Whether its a straight face-up jumper, a pull-up (which he can do despite being seven feet tall), or a crazy turnaround with an equally ridiculous fadeaway to cap it off, Dirk is money from mid-range.
When this guy is on, he ranks up there with Kobe and Carmelo when it comes to getting points with ease. Pau Gasol might be the most skilled seven footer because he is a bigger presence on the defensive end, but he doesn’t even come close to Dirk when it comes to range or consistency with his jumper.
And now we are starting to see another side of Dirk, one that finishes games. Forget asking whether or not you want Kobe or LeBron taking the final shot, how about Kobe or Dirk? I’d still go with Kobe, but Dirk just might be the second best option in the league. Dirk has been showing off his ability to carry a team in the fourth quarter a lot over the past couple of seasons, specifically last year. He had a 29-point fourth quarter against the Jazz, a game-winner against the Bucks and then he closed out another one against the Spurs with 34 points in the second half including the game tying tip in regulation and a couple of three point plays in overtime. That’s getting the job done in crunch time.
Dirk is not considered often as one of the greatest of all-time but he should be in the discussion as one of the greatest power forwards ever. Nowitzki is the more complete offensive player and while he will never come close to Tim Duncan on the other end (defense and rebounding), his offensive abilities warrant a lot of respect. Add in the fact that Dirk is rock solid from the line (88-90%) while Duncan is mediocre or below average (67-70%) and that Duncan isn’t an option in close games when down three (Duncan has 129 career three point attempts while Dirk has 2889) and Nowitzki becomes a bit more effective in close games, a key quality.
Nowitzki should be in the MVP discussion this season, but because he already stole one from Kobe in 2007, voters may look for fresh blood. The thought that he may not win it, however, should not detract from the fantastic season he is on track for. 28 points, nine boards, and a couple of blocks with shooting percentages of 45/36/90? For a seven footer? Unreal.