NBA Handicapping: Dallas Mavericks
by Trevor Whenham - 3/9/2012
I don`t feel like I am particularly going out on a limb by predicting that the Dallas Mavericks are not going to repeat as World Champions this year. At this point I don`t think it`s that likely that they would even win a playoff series at this point, though I do expect them to make the playoffs.
It was said many times last year that the window was closing for the Mavs, so they had to take advantage of it before it was too late. They did, and it was impressive.
It does seem, though, like the window is now closed — or at least it`s only open a tiny crack. The squad looks old, there is too much drama, and they lack depth in a serious way. They just aren`t as good as the best teams in the West.
Here`s a look at where they are at from five different angles:
Before the season when the Lakers essentially gave Odom to the Mavericks it seemed like the L.A. front office had lost their minds. Now it makes perfect sense — they were worried about their potential playoff seeding, and they wanted to do what they could to sabotage a legitimate contender.
Odom has been a total disaster in Dallas — and a major distraction. His play has been terrible, he’s missed time for inexplicable reasons, and he has brought as much drama as you would expect from someone who is married to a Kardashian. T
he ridiculousness of this season is just one more bit of proof of how good Phil Jackson was as a coach. Odom didn’t set the league on fire under Jackson, but at least he stayed in line.
There are two big problems for the Mavs with Odom.
First of all, he is a guy they can’t keep out of the lineup, but he’s just not providing what the team needs from him. He’s only seventh on the team in scoring, and, unbelievably, 14th on the squad in player efficiency rating. Brutal. His numbers have fallen off a cliff compared to last year.
More significantly, his antics are a big distraction for a team that already seems far too mentally fragile. It’s not often that we see a guy with an impact on his team this singularly negative.
It won’t make me friends among his fans, but Kidd has become a problem for this team. He absolutely has to play and start — and not just because they are short of true point guards. The problem is, though, that he is about to turn 39 and he’s in his 18th NBA year, and he is playing like it.
He’s not terrible by any means, but his numbers are at career lows, he doesn’t eat minutes, and he’s a liability when he gets worn down — something that is a certainty in this schedule.
With so much strong point guard play in the NBA right now the simple fact is that Dallas doesn’t have what it takes to measure up at that position anymore, and that’s going to be a major issue for them going forward. Letting J.J. Barea leave seemed like a bad idea in the offseason. Now it seems like a really terrible one.
The good news is that Nowitzki is playing his best basketball of the year right now. The problem has been, though, that he has played this year like he has the weight of the world upon his shoulders.
He’s been tentative at times when he would usually be assertive. His shooting — especially but not exclusively from outside — was abysmal early in the year. He has been visibly and openly bothered by the struggles of the team and the endless drama.
Some players don’t handle the transition from superstar to champion very well. In the short term, at least, that seems to be the case for Nowitzki. Add to that that he doesn’t have the best supporting cast around him, and that Odom’s lousy play puts more pressure on Nowitzki to produce, and it remains hard to be terribly optimistic.
This is the biggest problem for the squad, with everything we have talked about up to this point contributing to that. This squad just lacks a backbone, or the willingness to do what it takes.
For example, they sit 28th in the league in number of attempts within five feet of the rim, but fourth in three point attempts and sixth in shots outside of 10 feet. Time and again they’ll settle for a shot when a better opportunity is there for the taking. Teams that play like that are not teams that win championships.
Last year their selflessness and aggressiveness were a striking reason for their success. It’s like a totally different team is on the court this season — at least in terms of their collective attitude.
I’ve been negative about this team, and I don’t regret that. They are a playoff team, but not much beyond that. The fact remains, though, that they have taken care of business reasonably well from a betting perspective this year.
They are the sixth most profitable team in the league on the season, and are slightly profitable ATS both at home and on the road. That is testament as much as anything to the fact the public didn`t get as excited by the championship as they do in many cases — likely because the offseason was so lackluster.
The Mavericks have been a little underwhelming, but they are pretty much what the public thought they would be.
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