I don't go in for #NBArank because NBA writers' favorite thing is forgetting about Dirk, but there was an interesting (if condescending) article the other day about how the Mavs' championship year caused a lot of players to be well overrated.
Makes a lot of sense, of course, but what they never suggested is that playing with the big dude actually makes you better, and that if you try to separate performing a role on a team well from performing well, you might as well start tossing out your kidneys because they're not much good without the rest of the tubing.
The good news--the "More Than Good but Still Speculative" news--is that because synergy is what actually went down, rather than overperformance--Barea, the article's poster child, for example, scored 9 points on 42% shooting in that playoffs,11 points on 40% shooting last year--the Mavericks are not as far away from winning again as you might think.
But, hear me out. The Mavericks championship win was not a fluke, and don't believe anyone who tells you it was. They had the best offense, an excellent defense, they beat everybody in the regular season who they were going to beat in the playoffs, and if they got some lucky bounces it's no more than happens in any championship run ever. Because, team basketball isn't dead.
Look at it this way. Last year's Western Conference Finals featured the Spurs and the Thunder. For two games the Spurs looked like a buzz saw, for the next four they couldn't out score the Thunder Trio. Does that mean the Thunder are better than the Spurs? No. It means they're as good as the Spurs and they had a better series.
But look at those two teams. Why are the Thunder good? Well, they have the greatest offensive player in the game. That's something the Mavericks have, too, actually. If you're wondering whether Dirk or Durant had the better offensive series in each of the last two playoff head-to-heads, it's Dirk both times. Okay, but then the Thunder have one of the game's most explosive #2 guys and one of its most explosive #3 guys, and the Mavericks don't actually have either. They have aspirations, with OJ Mayo, but he's not there as of this writing.
The Spurs, though, who were just as good as the Thunder? Who had dusted off their two previous playoff opponents in 8 games total? They got 20 points from Parker, 17 points from Duncan, 14 from Manu and 8 or so from guys like Danny Green, Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard.
Can the Mavericks do THAT?
Uh, yeah, I think they can. And they can do better. Mayo may not yet be the scorer Parker is, but he doesn't have to be because Dirk is a better scorer than anyone the Spurs have. Collison isn't Manu Ginobili, but he can fill it up--and where they have young, but inexperienced guys like Neal, Green and Leonard, and crazy-ass veterans like Jackson, the Mavericks Elton Brand, Shawn Marion and Chris Kaman (who, in terms of pure crazy-assedness, probably takes a back seat to no one).
The point? The point is that there's more than one way to win basketball games. You CAN do it with two perennial All-Stars, a third borderliner and a weak supporting cast--or you can do it with one perennial all-star, a few borderliners, and a strong supporting cast. That is to say, the Mavericks don't have to be the Heat or the Lakers, if they can be the Spurs.Or, better yet, the Mavericks.
No, they won't have that famous cohesion, but they have a better top-line scorer, a deeper bench, and bid fair to have a better defense.