Over the course of the last decade and a half, the Dallas Mavericks have been one of the most competitive, yet perennially underrated and under-covered teams in the NBA. In that time, the franchise ranks second in win percentage, and yet have seemingly been overshadowed by teams like the Lakers and Spurs.
After this offseason’s DeAndre Jordan debacle, few (if any) had the Mavericks ranked among the top 20 teams in the league, and yet here we are more than 30 games into the season and the Mavs find themselves squarely in the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting comfortably in the fifth seed.
Part of the team’s recent success can be attributed to their point guard. No, not Deron Williams, whom the team scrambled to sign after DeAndre Jordan’s sudden change of heart, but one JJ Barea.
After starting the season shooting a dismal 25% from three-point range through November, Barea has been on an absolute tear of late. During the month of December, the diminutive point guard shot 58% from deep, averaged 4.7 assists, and tallied four 20+ point games in the process (four more than he’d had in his last 40 games).
Oh, and all of this in fewer than 25 minutes per game.
With Deron Williams missing some action with a hamstring injury, Barea has made a legitimate case to take over as the team’s starting point guard, even once Williams is fully healed.
While Williams has largely replicated the production of his time spent with Brooklyn (which is to say fairly pedestrian production relative to his days in Utah), one offseason coup which has paid major dividends for the Mavs has been center Zaza Pachulia.
Largely regarded as a career role player, Pachulia has certainly found his niche stepping into the starting lineup for Dallas this season. Through the first 33 games, the Georgian big man is tied for the fifth most double doubles (18) in the league, averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He’s also put up the third most offensive rebounds in the league and boasts the NBA’s 7th best rebound percentage.
While he leaves plenty to be desired in the rim-protection department, Pachulia has been everything and more than Dallas could have expected after signing him to a one-year, $5.2 million contract this offseason.
For all of the production they’re getting from strange places, though, it’s difficult to point to one singular thing the Mavs do exceptionally well which has them firmly planted in the playoff race. The team ranks 13th in offensive rating, 15th in defensive rating, 19th in three-point percentage, and the list goes on.
And yet this is hardly said as an indictment or pejorative, because by that same token it’s difficult to pinpoint a whole lot of areas where the team ranks among the lower-third of the league.
After 17 years in the league, Dirk is still doing Dirk things, averaging 17.2 points on 46% shooting from the field and 39% from three, ranking seventh among all power forwards in player efficiency rating (ahead of guys like Kevin Love, Draymond Green, and LaMarcus Aldridge), and the Mavericks just seem to keep chugging along with him.
A constant symbol of steadiness, the Mavs once again find themselves in a familiar place this season: under the radar and overshadowed by the likes of Golden State and Cleveland (perhaps rightfully so this time around).
While it seems unlikely the team will compete for a championship, it would hardly be a surprise if Dallas made a run into the second round of the playoffs. However, after two disappointing back-to-back losses to Miami and New Orleans, Dallas looks to get right in their next four games against teams with a combined record of 50-85, and continue their franchise’s winning ways.
photo via llananba