I know I know. You're all laughing at me right now and many of you really want to bring up the meltdown against Dwayne Wade and the Heat in 2006 and then the ugly first round upset by Golden State the next year. Some of you would point out that the Lakers have won the last two titles and there is really nothing stopping them from making it a three-peat, other than the Celtics, Heat, Magic, Bulls, Thunder or Spurs that is. Then those of you who really know what you are talking about will look at what has happened to the Mavs this year, losing Caron Butler, their second best player, for the whole season, and say that there is no way they can make up for that loss. Well screw you all is what I would say to that! Although all the teams mentioned above had a legitimate shot at winning it all this year, I am going to argue that it will end up being the Mavs who will be hoisting the awkwardly shaped NBA trophy this June.
It all starts with Dirk. He's having an incredible year and is a strong candidate for MVP. Just look at what happened when he was injured, and the team sputtered to a terrible record. Then take a look at his stats this year. Although his rebounds are down from his '06-'07 MVP season, his points are close (22.8 vs. 24.6), and both his field goal and three point shooting percentages are actually better than his MVP year (they're actually career highs of 52.5% and 42.4% respectively), meaning he has become more efficient at what he is doing. He's still one of the best clutch shooters, making teams double team him, which frees up many of the other shooters on the team.
Jason Kidd is showing his age (his career low points per game is at 8.4, the same as his assist per game number, which is quite respectable), but in the playoffs, when teams slow it down much more, he is still great at making the right pass and setting up his teammates. His back ups, Jose Barea and Rodrique Beaubois, are both strong players and can either take over for Kidd or play alongside them. Then bring in Jason Terry, who is still one of the best sixth men in the league, and the guard position is well looked after.
Anchoring the newly defensive minded team is center Tyson Chandler, who seems to get a lot of the credit for bringing the Mavs back into title contention. Apparently he can do a lot more than just catch lobs, like he did with Chris Paul in New Orleans. Then you have back up center Brendan Haywood, who can still be a strong presence in the post, despite some regression this year. I also think the Mav's bench is one of the deepest in the league, with former All-Stars Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic and soon to be picked up Corey Brewer, the former number 7 pick in the 2007 draft. Marion and Brewer bring intensity and great defense, while Peja, along with Terry, Beaubois and DeShawn Stevenson, can space the floor and knock down the long ball.
All this adds up to a team that I think is one of the most dangerous teams in the league, and one that most other teams will not want to face come playoff time. They have size, speed, deep threats, defense and an MVP candidate, all of which can add up to a championship. I am a little hesitant to give them the title right now, as they have had some problems in the past, but this team feels different. The '06 team still felt a bit shakey, and the Golden State upset, when looked at closely, could be seen quite easily. I just feel that this team has the experience and toughness needed to make the full run. I do think it will be a tough road to the championship (San Antonio is always a tough opponent, the Lakers will wake up come playoff time, and I think Boston, who made some great trades at the deadline, is the best in the East and a really deep team as well), but I have confidence in my team. I look forward to boasting this June and all summer long on the Pads about my team and their first ever NBA championship! I hope you're all as excited as I am!