Dallas Mavericks Dominant Straight-Up and ATS
by Trevor Whenham - 03/05/2007
The success of the Dallas Mavericks is well documented and difficult to overstate. They are unquestionably the best team in the NBA. They are currently at about 5/2 to win the NBA Finals, and though that is ridiculously low for a league with 30 teams, you could easily make the argument that the team presents value at that price. It's certainly a heck of a lot better than you will be able to get in another month if the team stays healthy and focused down the stretch.
The record of the team is staggering, and without a slow start this season could be truly historical. Perhaps it was the hangover from the bitter feeling of their collapse in last year's NBA Finals that caused the Mavs to lose their first four games of this season. Whatever it was, the team that lost those games is not the same team that has played the 55 games since. They failed to cover in those first four games, and they lost two of the games by margins that seem impossible by their current standards - 18 points to the Clippers and 31 to their in-state rivals from Houston. Since then, though, they have gone 50-5, and they have rewarded bettors that have blindly supported them, posting a very pleasantly profitable mark of 31-20-4 ATS. Even more impressively, three of their five losses came in an ugly stretch of five games early in December, so they are 48-2 outside of that. They have won at least 12 games three different times this season, and they are in the midst of a franchise record streak of wins right now. I just used a lot of words to say one thing - this team is really, really good.
It's one thing to say that they have been good up to this point, but the past can't make us any money. What bettors need to know is if this team is going to continue to be good down the road. Here's a look (to save you time, the answer is almost certainly yes):
Dirk - As long as Nowitzki stays healthy this team is going to be just fine. The favorite to earn the MVP this year is as good an all-round player as there is in the league. A guy who is seven feet tall should not be in the top 20 for three point percentage, and he should not have a streak of 42 consecutive free throws underway. Nowitzki is so incredibly dangerous because he can do almost anything. If you keep him outside then he will kill you with the long bomb. If you let him inside he'll make you pay with his size and creativity. His 25.4 points per game is impressive in its own right, but it is amazing when you consider the system he plays in. The Mavs walk the ball up the court so slowly that it makes you want to have a nap. If the German giant were in a high paced, ball moving offense then it is scary to think about the kind of numbers he could post. It's hard to tell what is the scariest aspect of his game for opponents - the fact that he can shoot his way out of any double team, or the fact that he is almost as dangerous without the ball as he is with it.
Josh Howard - Perhaps Nowitzki's biggest contribution is that he has freed Josh Howard up to become the player that he is. Howard is obviously the second fiddle on the Mavs, but he is a very talented player, and he would be the star of many other NBA teams. Howard has scored 15 or more points in 11 of his last 12 games. It's not a coincidence that Howard has played poorly in four of the team's five most recent losses. Like Dirk, Howard has the ability to keep this team on the winning track as long as he stays healthy.
Schedule - Here's one potential strike against the team, though it's a small one. The team is better at home than they are on the road. They are 29-3 in Dallas, and just 21-6 on the road (I say just, but that's still the best road winning percentage in the league). The problem, if you can call it that, is that the team plays a lot of games on the road down the stretch. They are away for 14 of their final 23, including a six-game eastern swing that will be their longest trip of the year. Before you panic and start betting their opponents when they are away from home, though, consider that they are 15-10-2 ATS on the road, which is both profitable and significantly better than they are at home. The schedule shouldn't hurt the team or their backers down the stretch.
Hunger - Few factors are as important in handicapping as a team's will to win. After the humiliation of the loss to Miami last year, no team will want to win as badly as Dallas. The largest part of their roster is intact from last season, and they have the experience and the depth to know where they went wrong last year and what it will take to fix it. Add that to the talent, the exceptional coaching and the general lack of flaws, and you have a team that will be hard to beat, and is hard to bet against. They have shown all season how determined and serious they are, and that will only intensify as their chance for playoff vindication draws nearer.