The Dallas Mavericks are supposed to be a good team. Mark Cuban has endless money and even more bravado. The players are treated like royalty, and the team is supposed to shine as a result. Yet here they are in virtually a three-way tie for the last two playoff spots. As I sit here they are tied at 37-38 with the Utah Jazz. The Houston Rockets have played one more game and have one more loss. They could just as easily miss the playoffs as make them.
Even if they do make them they will all but certainly get crushed in the first round by the Warriors or Spurs. It's a bit of a mess - and the sad fact is that it's not like they are particularly underachieving. Within a range, this is pretty much exactly what could have been expected from them given what they are and what they have to offer. So, what's going on with these Mavericks? How did they get here? And what does it mean for bettors?
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Recent form: On Jan. 31 the team was at 28-22. That's a .560 win percentage - at the high end of expectations for the team and good enough for fifth in the conference at this point. Since then, though, they have been in a freefall. They are 9-16 and 4-10 in their last 14. They have some excuses as we will see lower down in this article, but the evidence seems clear - they know how underwhelming they are, and they just don't care enough anymore. If they don't care then it's kind of hard to care about them.
Remaining schedule: It's not an ideal schedule for a team looking to maintain a playoff spot while not playing very well. Their only really manageable game is against Minnesota, and even that one is on the road and could go wrong. They play at Detroit - a better team in a playoff battle of their own. They play Memphis - a team looking to hold off Portland and hold onto fifth place. They play the far superior Spurs and a Clippers team trying to get on track in time for the playoffs. They do play both the Jazz and Rockets that they are battling, but that can be a disaster if they don't win. It's not the worst possible schedule, but it certainly isn't ideal given their current form.
Dirk Nowitzki: What a truly incredible career he has had - one of the all-time best that we have seen. The reality is, though, that the guy is 18 years in, and he's just not what he was. No one would be at this stage in his career. He was aware of that when he was signing his last extension, so he took a really steep hometown discount so that the team would have the cash to get him some help. San Antonio doesn't rely solely on Tim Duncan anymore, and Dallas needed to find complementary pieces that could morph into primary pieces, too. They have failed miserably. It just isn't acceptable that Dirk is still the leading scorer of this team at his age. More strikingly, he is outscoring the rest of the team by at least 4.5 points, and he is doing that despite just scoring 18.5 per game. It's ridiculous - and the blame lies entirely with management and not on Dirk. At this point I almost want to see him go somewhere else for one last shot at glory - the Mavs don't deserve to have him for his whole career if they are going to treat him like this.
Injuries: I promised excuses, and here they are. Chandler Parsons was hurt on March 18 and is lost for the rest of the season. Point guard Deron Williams has been banged up. He has missed the last four games, is doubtful for his next game, and can't be trusted to be at his best down the stretch. There are teams in worse injury shape, but the Mavs have their share of injuries - especially when they lack compelling depth.
Roster just isn't good: We touched on this earlier, but the fact is this - how good was this team really going to be in the best-case scenario? Deron Williams was never the best in the league, and he is far from his best. Chandler Parsons has stalled since leaving Houston. Wesley Matthews has been a disappointment after being signed as a free agent in the offseason. Their big men are embarrassing. The rest is some has-beens and a bunch of never-beens. This was never more than a middling team if they were at their best. Again, a total failure of management for a team just five years removed from a title.
Betting performance: There is a bright light amongst all the dark clouds here - the team has been decent to bet on. At 40-34-1 ATS they are the fifth-best betting team in the league. Even on this front, though, they have faded - they are just 11-14 ATS since that Jan. 31 turning point we touched on earlier.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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