After a busy and fruitful offseason, the Mavericks are high on both ESPN’s and NBA.com’s preseason power rankings, slotting in at the number 6 and 4 spots respectively. While it’s great for the team to finally get some recognition, are these rankings anywhere near accurate?
To try to determine exactly where the Mavs stand as contenders, in this new preseason mini-series, I will be taking a look at the teams that have genuine championship aspirations (the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Bulls and Cavaliers) and comparing their rosters to the Mavericks’, to see whether this new team deserves its lofty place among the elites. First up, the Clippers:
How I think they match up to the Mavericks:
Clearly, the Mavs have no like-for-like answer for Chris Paul or Blake Griffin. Not to disparage them, but our point guards are all borderline-starter material at best, and there’s no one on our team who can perform the athletic stunts Griffin can aside from Wright, who’s still a role player at this point.
But you know what? I think we can take them in a seven-game series. Although they have two superstars and a capable defensive center, the rest of the roster is just littered with just-not-good-enoughs.
Starting with the backcourt, CP3 is a legit superstar and although we may not have Marion to sic on him anymore, I trust Devin/Jameer, along with Carlisle’s magic, to be able to perform decent damage limitation. Farmar is a truly unremarkable role-player, someone who won’t muck things up when he comes in but also won’t do anything to make you thank the gods that he’s on your team. Redick and Crawford are, in my opinion, both best at being off-the-bench gunners, and as such are ill-suited to start. Monta will no doubt run both of them ragged too.
At small forward, it’s pretty much the same deal. Barnes and Dudley shouldn’t be starters for any team which considers themselves true contenders. When a team has two whole positions staffed entirely by non-starters, that’s a problem. I used to like Dudley from his Phoenix days, but ever since joining the Clippers his stats have dropped across the board, and he’s become increasingly invisible. Barnes is a tough guy, the enforcer of the team, but his lack of production and the fact that sometimes teammates don’t even back him up for his antics just makes him look silly.
As for the bigs, the Clippers have a pretty damn good starting pairing of Griffin and Jordan. I think I’ve written before about how I haven’t been impressed with Griffin, but he’s improved tremendously since then, even if his post ‘moves’ make him look like a drunk squirrel trying to catch its own tail sometimes.
As for Jordan, great shot-blocker and alley-oop finisher that he is, I think he’s been as big a beneficiary as anyone of the barren nature of the center position in the NBA nowadays. He can’t post up, his free-throw struggles are well-documented but he’s still getting paid. In other words, he’s really one-dimensional and not much of a factor on offense. Because of that, Dirk can be put on him on defense, allowing Tyson to handle Griffin.
You know what that means? That means that of the Clippers’ three best players, we have the capability to pretty much neutralize two of them. And on the other end of the court, neither Griffin nor Jordan have an answer for Dirk’s trademark fadeaway jumpers, so for all the hype Lob City receives, we might actually have a slight edge here. At worst, it’s a push.
Lastly, taking a look at the bench players, there’s really no comparison. The Mavs’ bench is comprised of several players who were starters last season (Jameer, Aminu, Felton, Jefferson) and there’s also the uber efficient Brandan Wright. The Clippers’ best players off the bench are Crawford, Hawes, Farmar and (sometimes) Davis. As a whole, they’re decent, and play their roles well, but beyond them we see a bunch of inexperienced (Bullock, Ingles, Wilcox) or inconsequential (Hedo, CDR) players. Overall, it’s a pretty terrible bench that’s propped up by Crawford, really.
In conclusion, I’d say that the only clear advantage the Clippers have over the Mavs is Chris Paul, one which may even be neutralized by Coach Carlisle’s smarts. They have a younger, more athletic squad and a killer transition game, so the key when playing them is to limit our live turnovers. They aren’t nearly as dangerous in the half-court.
On the other end of the court, they have no answer for Dirk, and while CP3 is a really good defender, I don’t think that will limit the effect of the Dirk-Monta two man game that much. I haven’t even mentioned Parsons at all in this whole article, but do I really need to? There’s no contest in the small forward battle.
This is a team we can beat. The losses we suffered to them last season were the most infuriating and frustrating losses I personally had to endure. Cooler heads would have allowed us to prevail. All the Mavs need to keep in mind against the Clippers is that they are the better team, and let their play do the talking. Nothing more, nothing less.