Monday, December 13, 2010

The Mavericks are Amazing...And in Second Place

Oh, poor Mavericks. You've changed a lot. You've turned around your defense to make it one of the best in the league. Tyson Chandler is a candidate for both defensive player of the year and most improved player. Too bad non-locked in NBA fans and fair-weather Maverick fans aren't buying in.

What are the reasons? They're numerous. For starters, how can a team drastically change this much with the changes of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson when Brendan Haywood has regressed? But a big reason? The Spurs. Yep. Still good. Really good.

So any non-believer can just say "blah blah blah, the Spurs are better." It's hard to sway fans and doubters that only look at the standings and see "1. San Antonio: 20-3, 2. Dallas: 19-4" even though the Mavericks handled the Spurs in San Antonio earlier in the 12-game win streak. But the Spurs are playing some pretty efficient basketball.

They're second in the NBA in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating. And, try this on for size: The Spurs are 11 places above the Mavericks in pace. Yes, the Spurs play a faster pace than the Mavericks. The Tim Duncan, half-court, defensive oriented Spurs play faster than the run-and-gun, trigger-happy, Nellyball Mavericks. I understand philosophies have changed for both teams, it's just awkward to see.

I think what concerns me most about the Spurs is they're playing exactly how I thought they'd play...last year. The addition of Richard Jefferson, I thought, would lead the Spurs to an NBA title last year. It really was their missing piece, as the Spurs desperately needed a fourth scorer since Manu, Parker and Duncan all get banged up with injuries during the regular season. What I thought would make them unstoppable is all four playing well and healthy. And this year is proving the case.

After being abysmal last year, Jefferson is shooting 46% from three and averaging 14.3 points per game. He's feasting off the corner three, getting good looks from Manu and Parker's penetration and Duncan's double teams. Manu is averaging a little over 20 a game and is probably having his best and most efficient season ever. What's nuts is Duncan isn't averaging a double-double for the first time since 1954. Every year we say this is the year he's declining, but it's proven that he takes it easy during the regular season save for the big games, then kicks it up a notch in the playoffs.

All that said, the Mavericks kicked their ass in San Antonio. Just jump the Spurs in the standings, and the lukewarm fans will come flooding in.

(Sorry, had to homer up the end of that post realizing I just wrote an entire post about the San Antonio


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