Kevin Brolan: I m still sticking to my preseason prediction, which involves the Mavs getting to the Western Conference Finals before running into some kind of tough matchup that ends with their first playoff series loss since 2010. Confidence seems low right now, but I feel that s mostly because of the ebb and flow of an NBA regular season. There will always be ups and downs during the long season, but this Dirk Nowitzki-anchored team has earned the right to be given the necessary time to get right for the playoffs.
The impending return of Delonte West will give the team a boost, and the Mavs still haven t found their groove offensively, which I expect will happen eventually. A return to the Finals feels unlikely to me because of the absence of last year s key guys. I ve probably watched Games 5 and 6 of the 2011 Finals 100 times and I don t feel that some of the defensive plays made by Tyson Chandler can be replicated by anybody this current roster. There is still plenty of time for the Mavs to prove me wrong, though -- and I certainly hope they do.
The X Factor: As always, with Nowitzki on this team, the Mavs are always capable of beating anybody at any time.
Or Moyal: I'm not sure. That seems like an obvious and substantial cop-out, so I should clarify: I don't know who the Mavericks are right now. I don't feel bad about that, because Mark Cuban doesn't know who the Mavericks are right now. Based on the fact that Rick Carlisle started Jason Terry and Dominique Jones Saturday night, he's not sure either.
Cuban said during the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference that this regular season would feature mostly 'dirty' data because of the compressed schedule and the way teams' identities have been challenged.
I don't like what the Mavs have shown me so far in this campaign. But there's enough proven talent that I would expect them to give any team a tussle -- and that includes the West's lone stalwart, Oklahoma City. One way or another, the playoffs will be fun. If the Mavs end up with an 8 seed, they may not be long. But the games will be competitive and enjoyable. And then the offseason will start -- and that's where the real fun is, right?
Jake Kemp: From here on out, health and stamina will be absolutely vital for any team looking to sustain contender-status success. Initially, this would seem to put the oldest roster in the league in a disadvantageous position. But older players often possess a prudence that enables them to manage their energy more efficiently than the less experienced. Plus, when relatively healthy, the Mavs have a crazy number of dudes capable of giving them solid minutes with their dialed-back but on call vitality.
Lastly, they have a coach who is excited by the challenge of identifying the ways that each component can help the operation run smoother. I think this club needs to avoid being bounced in the first round in order to color their legacy (nationally, anyways) as something more than a fluke champion. And I believe they ll accomplish that.
Kevin Turner: I'm extremely confident in the Mavericks. I think it's foolish to make REPEAT my expectations, but I do expect them to put together a nice playoff run past the first couple rounds. I don't fear any of the teams in the western conference. Obviously there are teams I'd like to avoid, but I don't see anybody in the west as a shoo-in for the conference finals.
I think the Mavericks match up very well with Oklahoma City. I don't like the way the Mavericks matchup with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol of the Lakers, but I think the Lakers' current lack of depth makes up for that. The Mavericks are one of the deepest teams in the league, so they can take advantage of the Lakers in that regard. The Trail Blazers and Clippers are scary in their own right, but I still don't think they are better than Dallas.
I truly believe Dallas has one of the best squads in the league, and is a real possibility to make it back to the finals. I just think making that an expectation is a terrible idea.
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