The next installment in the Thunder Threat series, see us take a closer look at the Dallas Mavericks. Owner Mark Cuban isn’t one to sit on his hands. He is as passionate as they come and he always wants the best for himself, his team, his players and the fans. Each year, Cuban tries something to make the team better and to get them back to tasting NBA Championship glory as they did in 2011 when they took care of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals before defeating the LeBron-led Miami Heat. That feeling of holding the Larry O’Brien trophy drives Cuban – and his franchise star Dirk Nowitzki.
After giving the San Antonio Spurs quite the battle in the first round of last years playoffs, the Mavs finally fell short of the mark and were relegated to the off-season a little earlier than they would have liked. Since then though, Dallas have wasted no time in re-tooling the roster so they can right the wrongs and head further into the post season this time around. And, any time you play in the Western Conference playoffs, you are a threat to the Thunder winning an NBA title.
So, let’s take a look at Dallas and why they may give the Thunder some trouble.
Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the best power forwards in the league today. He is getting towards the tail end of his career, but he is still as deadly and effective as ever. He can space a floor with his superb shooting and he has worked hard to develop his all around game. While he won’t have the athletic ability of Serge Ibaka in a direct matchup, he will be able to take Serge away from the basket which is key to penetrating the Thunder defense. Without Ibaka to protect the rim, players like Monta Ellis can get into the middle and cause havoc.
Nowitzki also knows how to win and is crafty. He makes the right play at the right time and is happy to move the ball. This is music to the ears of the newest member of the Mavericks – small forward Chandler Parsons. Parsons had a breakout year with the Houston Rockets and found the Dallas offer too hard to refuse. He adds another element to the Dallas offense that is likely to cause the Thunder some headaches. OKC weren’t very good at defending the three point last season, and if they haven’t solved that issue, these new-look Mavericks will make you pay.
In the backcourt, the Mavericks have Monta Ellis. Ellis might not be the best shooting guard in the league like he thinks he is, but he is a very talented one. He puts pressure on opposition defenders with his quickness and ball handling ability. Many wondered how he would go alongside Dirk, but they proved last season that it could and would work. Now, the Mavs have even more weapons at their disposal and it only makes them more dangerous. The Thunder have a very athletic backcourt of their own, but Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson will still have their hands full.
The Mavericks also added some depth to the point guard position. While they moved Jose Calderon, they took back Raymond Felton and signed Jameer Nelson. Again, these are key point guards who can run an offense and hit an outside jumper. It seems like the Dallas Mavericks want to model themselves on the Spurs and have a floor full of players who can shoot from deep and move the ball. Those two strategies are exactly what caused the Thunder headaches in the Western Conference Finals last year.
Arguably the most important move though, was bringing back Tyson Chandler. If Chandler can recapture the form he had when last in Dallas – look out. Chandler is a rim protector and terrific rebounder, two areas the Mavs needed to sure up.
Now, let’s take a look at the Oklahoma City Thunder in comparison.
The Thunder secured Anthony Morrow to help with their outside shooting so this is going to allow the Thunder room to operate in the middle. Also, the Thunder are a terrific transition team and they should hold a clear advantage in the open court. With an aging star and a center who has had knee issues, transition defense won’t be a strong suit and the Thunder will be able to make the most of it. Even with the addition of Parsons and Al Farouq-Aminu, the Mavs still don’t seem to have anyone who will be able to limit Kevin Durant. The reigning MVP will be better again this year and it’s going to take a great deal to stop him. With Shawn Marion looking to team up with LeBron in Cleveland, the options are limited. Jae Crowder will be their go to guy – and that favors OKC.
Another advantage is the physical nature of the Thunder. With a big frontline including Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams rotating through the center spot, and Nick Collion and Mitch McGary potentially playing the 5 spot in small ball lineups, Oklahoma City should be able to bully the smaller Mavs side. Even the Thunder guards are stronger than those of Dallas – and that will be important.
On paper, the Dallas Mavericks look to have improved, and when they were oh so close to derailing the Spurs campaign, they have to be taken seriously. There are still fare more questions with the Mavs roster than with the Thunder though. When it comes to a playoff series, the team with the best player generally wins – and the Thunder have the Durant. Coupled with a healthy Westbrook and a firing Ibaka – even the addition of Parsons won’t see the Mavericks quieten the Thunder this year.
Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder