By Ron Leyba
The Dallas Mavericks are continuing their playoff run this season. Standing at the eighth seed of the Western Conference with a 34-23 record, the Mavericks want to make a strong push during the second half of the season. Up to now, they have found success with the new format their roster has this season. The acquisitions of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, together with all the other changes Rick Carlisle has gone through, have helped the team reach a playoff level. Let’s examine some Dallas Mavericks stats, news and rumors, as the media around the NBA have recorded them.
The Mavs were supposed to be active as the February 20 trade deadline was expiring. Nonetheless, Marc Cuban’s team stayed pat at. The Mavericks had been previously involved in a bunch of rumors and they were expected to make a move for some of the available players in the market. Marc Cuban is accustomed to getting involved in significant or big moves, but this time he chose to stay inactive. Not only were the Mavericks expected to push for an addition but they were also expected to shop some of their assets. Shawn Marion and Shane Larkin were the top two candidates to see the exit door. However, a trade never came.
Dirk Nowitzki is continuing to lead the team in scoring. The German superstar is recording 21.8 points per game this season, to go along with 6.1 rebounds while he is shooting 49.5 percent shooting from the floor. Monta Ellis has also been a big factor in Dallas’s successful course up to now. The energetic guard is averaging 18.9 points, 5.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. He is also shooting 45.8 percent but his three-pointer has not been falling. He is shooting just 30.5 percent from beyond the arc. His fellow guard, Jose Calderon, is also a solid and reliable contributor. Calderon is putting up 11.6 points per game to go along with 4.8 assists. The Spaniard guard is shooting at very good rates from the field, 44.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. Vince Carter and Shawn Marion also scoring in double figures and they are providing the much needed help to the trio of Calderon, Nowitzki and Ellis.
The Mavericks might not be chasing the Larry O’Brien trophy this season but they are certainly after a playoff spot. They have been able to retain a top eight spot for the biggest chunk of the season. However, it won’t be that easy for them to continue doing so during the second half of the season. That’s because the ninth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies are gradually emerging as a big threat. The Grizzlies are expected to enter the mix for a playoff ticket sooner than later. As the season progresses, it will be very difficult for Dallas to hold their eighth seed, especially keeping in mind that the Mavs have one of the toughest schedules in the league during the second half of the season.
One notable thing for Dallas is that Devin Harris is gradually seeing more and more playing time. Thanks to his solid performances up to now in the season, Harris is gradually gaining the trust of Head Coach Rick Carlisle and he is seeing more chances to prove his talents. Harris has played just 15 games up to now in the season and he is averaging 18.8 minutes per game. However, he is putting up solid numbers. He is averaging 8.7 points and four assists while shooting 44.6 percent from three-point range.
The two major issues this Dallas Mavericks team is facing this season are defense and rebounding. The Mavs are struggling to find consistency on their offensive end. They currently rank 24th in the league in points allowed, with 102.2 per game. Defense plays a big role during the playoffs and the Mavs know that well. After all, defense was one of the reasons that they were able to win it all back in 2011, when they beat the Miami Heat at the NBA Finals. Apparently, there are no magic solutions for the Mavericks this season. The team didn’t make any move at the trade deadline, so it could find some help in that sector. As a result, the Mavs will have try and improve their defense using the piece they have available. It’s unknown if they will be able to find a way to achieve that but even if they do, we can’t expect radical changes.
Their second weakness, rebounding, is yet another aspect of the game which might turn out to be costly for them. The Mavericks currently rank 28th in rebounds per game, securing 40.6 per game. It is notable that the Mavericks do have size inside but they are performing poorly on the glass regardless. With Samuel Dalembert, Dirk Nowitzki and DeJuan Blair, the Mavs do have a strong frontline which should have been able to lift the team to better levels. Of course, Nowitzki is neither known for his rebounding nor for his defensive skills. Nevertheless, he is a big body and he could provide some help in the team’s rebounding duties.
In general, though, it’s also notable that Dallas has managed to retain its standings spot. The Mavs have been able to stay over the eighth seed, the one that leads to the playoffs, for the biggest chunk of the season. Even when they experience ups and downs, they have still found a way to make things work and retain a top eight seed. Of course, it might become really hard for them to continue doing so now, after the All-Star break. But, they have shown promising signs up to this point of the season.
Even if the Mavs get the playoff ticket in one of the spots six to eight, though, they will face some really tough teams to beat, like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs or the Los Angeles Clippers. So we should expect an early, first-leg exit from them.