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You Never Know: The 2013-2014 Mavs

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Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE

I'm not remotely a Boston Red Sox fan. At times, quite the opposite. Living in Rhode Island, though, a lot filters in.

And this year's Red Sox crop has the most wins in baseball, six less wins than they got all of last year. And nobody, in a vacuum, would EVER have thought that Ellsbury, Victorino, Drew, Nava, would be close to as good as Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, etc.

No one would have thought, health problems or no, that Kobe, Nash, Dwight, Pau, Metta would be pretty bad. No one could have thought the difference between a Mavs team that got bounced in the first round and one that won the championship was a center who started the season backing up Brendan Haywood and who had recently been traded for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.

Advanced stats do a lot of good outlining real value. Guys like Allen Iverson suffer a bit, guys like Omer Asik start to look pretty good. But one thing even the best stats can only approximate is context. Context like, Monta Ellis has NEVER gotten looks as easy as he'll get next year, playing next to Dirk.

This was also true of Chris Kaman, of course, and Chris used it to become a supervillain. But Jason Terry used it to become a hero. So who knows?

That's the point. One can establish the general shape of player performance. One can assign a general value which, as we get smarter, becomes sharper and sometimes counterintuitive. But you never know how it's going to look until you see it on the floor.

We don't know what kind of leap Brandan Wright, who was a double-digit scorer the last two months of the season, might take with a PG who can actually throw him passes. We don't know whether Dirk has really declined significantly, or whether, as a guy who depends more on his legs than maybe any player in the game, two straight seasons of no training camp, a surgery, and a Darren Collison has just made it look that way.

We don't know whether these parts will fit together to be greater than the sum, or whether their flaws will overwhelm them.

Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.