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MMB Exit Roundtable, 2013-14: What was the biggest surprise?

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The second of our eight-part Mavs Moneyball Exit Roundtable, looking back at the year that was. This post's question involves the biggest surprise of the year.

Ronald Martinez

The rest of our roundtable: Was this season a success?

2. What was the biggest surprise of the season?

Andrew Tobolowsky (@andytobo): I say how good Dirk still is. I mean, the media screwed this one up in a big way, sort of unanimously agreeing that the reins had been handed to Monta Ellis just because it'd be interesting. But that's absurd. Dirk averaged nearly 3 points per game more while shooting 50% to Monta's 45%. And Monta was great. But Dirk, at 35, was a top 12 scorer, with the 6th highest shooting percentage among those in the top 15. He had the 12th-best PER and the 11th-best Estimated Wins Added, all despite the fact that he played fewer minutes, took fewer shots, and had a lower usage (31st in the NBA) than most of his competitors. He isn't still just hanging on; he's still elite.

Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace): For me, the biggest surprise was that Dallas outpaced their defensive limitations with such strong offensive play. I honestly thought Dallas would win 42 to 44 games and have a strong chance at making the playoffs. I didn't forsee the West being AS ridiculously tough as it ended up either, so that the Mavericks had a bottom 10 defense and finished with a top 10 record is nothing short of amazing.

Doyle Rader (@TheKobeBeef): Sometimes Monta Ellis really does have it all. Sure, there were times when his play lagged and his shots weren’t falling but the same is true for the entire team. More often, though, Ellis was instrumental in the success that Dallas enjoyed throughout the season. The Mavericks have long needed a player with the ability to attack the rim and work a two-man game with Dirk Nowitzki. They found their man in Monta.

Bailey Roger (@BRogers789): That the Mavs took the Spurs to seven games. Spurs won nine straight games against Dallas before this first round series, and many were not even close. I don't think even the most optimistic Mavs fan had us winning more than two games. I thought we would be swept, and it would be terribly painful to watch. Instead we got probably the most exciting playoff series we've been involved in since the last time we took San Antonio to seven games.

Josh Bowe (@Boweman55): Considering I had faith in the production of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon and Dirk Nowitzki going into the season, I'd say it has to be how much trouble Dallas gave San Antonio in the first round. I fully expected a sweep with two blowouts and maybe two close games. Instead we got a fully competitive seven-game series, with the exception being Game 7 when it seemed the Spurs finally showed their regular-season dominance. Dallas outplayed the Spurs for a good portion of this series and more importantly, showed to free agents that the Mavs aren't just a team that has money -- it's a team that's competitive. That's really all we wanted after last season, right?

Tim Cato (@tim_cato): It's still absolutely, positively mind-blowing to me that the Mavericks finished with the eighth seed in the Western Conference and finished with the TENTH-best record in the entire NBA. The lack of parity between the two conferences and the pure brilliance of the Western Conference this season is pretty incredible. In a "normal season" (and perhaps not blowing a few of those close games), the Mavericks had a legitimate shot at home court advantage and could have even finished with 55 wins. How much differently would we look at this team if that had been the case?

Alan Smithee (@SmitheeMMB): Taking the Spurs to seven games, probably. Very few basketball "experts" picked the series to even go six games. Let's not forget also that Dallas had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 1, which they eventually lost. That series certainly surprised me.