The Mavericks sure seem invincible. Of course, Maverick fans know not to get to cocky, but about thirty games in, this team looks very much like the number one team the ESPN Power Rankings says they are. Boston? Beat them. Miami? Yup, twice. San Antonio? Mmhmm. Utah? Denver? New Orleans? Yes, yes, and yes.
Championships are not awarded in December, but right now, the Mavericks greatest enemy appears to be themselves. Wait, don't tune be out just because of that overused, beaten down cliche. Because while it may just be a saying, its very true. Right now, the team is playing great basketball, but some of the key parts of this team are still relatively untrustworthy. Here's the top three probable reasons for the Mavericks' current play to drop off significantly. And yes, by probable, I mean that I'm not going to put Dirk getting a season ending injury on here, because he's one of the most durable players in the NBA.
3) Caron Butler's Three Point Percentage Falling Off
Now, when I say "fall off", I'm not saying if Butler's current mark of 44.8% goes to 40.2%, or 38.8%, or 41.2%. No, what I'm scared of is Caron falling all the way down to last season's mark of 34%. Its not just the three point shooting...we survived it last year, and that was without a Three-venson hitting 50% from deep. However, Caron has finally found his niche in the Maverick offense, and in December is shooting 49% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc, averaging 16 points per contest. His spot up three pointers in the corner seems to be replacing some of his wing isolations, which only slows down the offense and disrupts the flow. I'm afraid any significant dip in his long distance launches will ruin all the good chemistry he has built on the offensive end. Consistent offense from him as the third option, especially having an inconsistent second option that we do, is very important to help spell Dirk and put points up early in the game.
2) Jason Kidd's Age Catching Up To Him
Here's an fun fact: Jason Kidd's 32.8 minutes per game this year are the lowest they've ever been in his entire career. Yup, lowest ever, in all of his 17 seasons, he's never averaged fewer than 33 minutes per game until this year. That equals out to just under 45000 minutes played in his career.
So yeah, Jason Kidd finally giving in to all that wear and tear on his 37 year old body wouldn't be all that surprising. His shooting is down from last year, his rebounding has been declining slowly for years, but he's still that floor general who gives full effort, diving and sprinting after loose balls, directing and controlling the offense as a general would control his army. Its masterful, really, and the change is obvious when Barea comes in as the backup. At this point in the season, I can't say I've seen any sign that Kidd will significantly fall off from where he is, and the decrease in minutes should help. Kidd is still 37, though, so its always possible his body just can't take it. Hopefully that day is later rather than sooner, but obviously, we can't know that.
1) An Injury to Tyson Chandler
We all know how well he's played this year. Dirk has said that he's been the team MVP, and that he's brought a Kevin Garnett like change to the defense. We know he's been a defensive force and a highly efficient player on offense. We also know that he has a history of injuries, playing just a combined 96 games over the last two years. He's been healthy so far this year, but when it comes to health, there are no expectations with Chandler due to his past history. Haywood is not a defensive slouch, but he lacks the mobility and quickness that makes Chandler so vital. Because he is mobile, Chandler is able to help out more when the backcourt of the Mavericks allow guards to penetrate the lane, as they are prone to do. Without this ability on pick and rolls, in the zone, and just in general, the defense would be no where near where it is now.
All this talk about how the Mavericks could start sucking really isn't suppose to depress you. Every single NBA team could come up with a list of two or three vital pieces whose injury or poor play would really hurt their team. Its more to highlight who our most valuable pieces have been this year compared to last year. It really shows why this team, this year, has been different.