A response to Tuesday's post about reasons for optimism in Dallas.
Is it crazy to talk about the Mavericks winning a championship? Only if--and I mean this--you're one of those people, and they exist, who thought the Mavericks' first championship was such an impossibility as to be a huge fluke.
Despite the fact that they had one of the best players in the NBA playing his absolute best, the DPOY of 2012 shoring up the defense in exactly the way necessary to make a scrambling zone with limited athletes work, a brilliant floor general, and a guy who can guard every player on the court. Despite the fact that if it weren't for Dirk's mid-season injury, they'd have had the best record in the NBA. Despite the fact that they beat everybody they beat in the playoffs during the regular season, too.
What do I mean? I mean the Mavericks aren't a superteam, but they're only a nonfactor this next year if you think you need a superteam. Clearly, you don't. The Pistons took down the Lakers, the Mavericks took down the Heat, a Spurs team with nobody scoring over twenty points won 10 straight playoff games as recently as last year. You can still win with an excellent team. Could the Mavericks have that? Well, I don't know. But I do know they're not automatically disqualified by not being the Lakers or the Heat.
The thing is, exactly as you say, the Mavericks have something entirely new at center. Though Elton Brand is a PF, he played more games last year at center, and he was great at it. Though Chris Kaman wasn't a good fit for the Hornets, he's a better rebounder than anybody the Mavs had last year (by far), and the best jumpshooter the Mavs have had at center ever (shut up, Raef LaFrentz).
The thing is, after a season where I'm pretty sure they never won a loose ball even once, they have some serious young talent. Darren Collison and OJ Mayo have sick skills and sick upside that they haven't yet achieved. They COULD achieve it for Dallas. And so could Roddy Beaubois, having his first full training camp since his rookie year. And they traded their 17th pick for three draft picks, one or two of whom could be a real gem.
I love Brandan Wright, but the Mavericks offseason moves make me feel they don't. The guy is instant offense, but where does he fit with Brand, Kaman, Dirk, James? If it were me, I'd find him playing time no matter what. But that hasn't always been the Mavericks' m.o.
The Mavericks enter the NBA Finals not too obviously worse than they were when they won it all. I miss T-Chan like nothing, but I think Brand and Kaman can approximate what he gave. They'll miss Kidd and Terry's veteran leadership, as you say, but having young talent is pretty exciting.
They're going to have, again, an abbreviated training camp because they're going to Europe for a bit, and that's a problem, but they won't have a death march of a season like they did last year. Long story short, they're a long shot, of course--but I wouldn't bet against them.
How bout you, though? Where do you figure they fit in the West?
Check back tomorrow for a look at the balance of power in the Western Conference in 2012-2013.