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Are The Mavericks The Villains In This Year's NBA Finals? SB Nation's NBA Editor Thinks So

Most narrative previews of the NBA Finals cast the Dallas Mavericks in stark contrast to the Miami Heat. Whereas Dirk Nowitzki has spent his entire storied career with the Mavericks, Miami built its Finals roster with free agents--with mercenaries--in the form of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Those dastardly Heat, led by NBA archfiend Pat Riley, forever blighted the landscape by ushering in an era of superteams, with multiple, high-salary stars and a collection of supporting players. NBA purists cringed. How dare they!

SB Nation NBA editor Tom Ziller has a different idea: he sees the Mark Cuban-led Mavericks as the real bad guys in these Finals because they exploit salary-cap loopholes to their advantage.

Specifically, Ziller points to the trade which brought Jason Kidd to Dallas, in which Cuban signed retired former Maverick Keith Van Horn to a contract and dealt him to the New Jersey Nets to make the trade calculus work; the fishy way in which the Mavs just so happened to send young prospect Alexis Ajinca to the Toronto Raptors on the cheap just days after the Raptors released Peja Stojakovic, whom Dallas signed; and a few other examples of what he sees as unfair behavior on the Mavs' part.

In contrast, Riley didn't break the spirit of any rules in putting his club together, which is why Ziller concludes people "root[ing] against the Heat because they're the bad guys" are "indicting the wrong suspect."

Hate the Heat because they aren't the Mavs, or because they're the heavy favorites, or because they threw what amounted to a championship celebration over the summer, or because they beat the Mavs in the 2006 Finals. But don't hate them for the way they were built.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.