The Mavs are back in the playoffs for the second year in a row and the 14th time in the last 15 seasons. That's the kind of run that only a handful of teams have put together in the modern NBA.
But to a hear a lot of Dallas fans talk about this season, you'd think the team was headed for the lottery, instead of posting the ninth best record in the league. Frustration is understandable--the Mavs haven't won a playoff series since the 2011 title and few are counting on them to do get out of the first round this year. After following up a seven game grudge match with the eventual champions last spring by adding Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler, a lot of fans might have expected the team's fortunes to change.
But being back in the playoffs is still pretty exciting. Some fan bases go through years without seeing a postseason appearance, even as their teams stockpile lottery picks. Since Mavericks fans might need some reminders, here's a few reasons why they can feel good about the start of the playoffs:
Dallas will avoid another first round matchup with the Spurs
Sure, the Mavs usually play San Antonio tough. And maybe this year they would have pulled off the upset. But most fans would probably prefer to skip their own Edge of Tomorrow experience with the Spurs cast as world-conquering aliens. Instead, the Mavs will face a Houston squad that's down two key contributors before the playoffs have even started.
The Mavs will get to see what they have in Parsons
The Mavs' $46 million man posted averages of 19.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in the first round last season with the Rockets, mostly playing off James Harden and Dwight Howard. This time, he'll have the chance to show what he can do as more of a focal point of an offense. Parsons' usage rate has ticked up steadily this season and he's played like one of the league's top pick-and-roll ballhandlers.
The complete list of players who score more PPP as P&R ball-handlers than Parsons (0.962) (min 100 poss): L Williams, C Paul, S Curry— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) April 2, 2015
Before the season started, Parsons talked about taking the next step in his development of the player. Assuming he's ready to play after dealing with lingering knee soreness, there's no better time for him to take that step than the postseason.
After struggling for much of the season, Dirk Nowitzki is in playoff form
Nowitzki never seemed to really get it going for more than a few games this year, after an incredible 2013-2014 campaign. In April, however, he's been vintage Dirk, averaging 19.5 points over seven games as his true shooting percentage peaked above 60 percent for the first time all season.
His struggles with father time were well-chronicled this year and Nowitzki revealed that he was doing more in-season to maintain strength. That work may be paying off at the right time. If the Mavs are going to have a chance at upsetting Houston, they can't have Dirk struggle like he did last year.
The team is getting production from role players at the right time
With Parsons out for the past six games, backup small forward Richard Jefferson had outings of 13, 24 and 17 points and showed a relentlessness in attacking the basket. Even more important for the Mavs' playoff rotation, Jefferson shot about 43 percent from the three point line in April.
Buried behind the likes of Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea, Ray Felton was an afterthought for most of the season. But he's played at least 18 minutes in each of the last four games and made solid contributions when he saw the floor. For a fringe rotation player, there's probably not a better confidence booster heading into the playoffs than his game winning shot in 2OT against Denver.
Al-Farouq Aminu has been firmly entrenched in the rotation over the last three months but the Mavs' first round draw could be particularly good news for him. He matches up well with Houston and had maybe his best single game of the season against the team--a 17 point, 12 rebound performance in a Feb. 21 win.
Every spring throughout his career in Boston, Rondo found a way to improve his numbers in the postseason and put his fingerprints on a team that featured several Hall of Famers. This Mavs team has just as many options as those Celtics squads. But Dallas will leaning on Rondo's defense even more heavily and the mercurial point guard is entering his first postseason since coming back from a torn ACL. If he's still capable of picking up his game in the playoffs, he could give the Mavs a much better shot at knocking off the Rockets.