Dan Const, Contributing Writer (@danspeak_)
The regular season is coming quickly and only that can put an end to the speculation about how this season unfolds. For now, it's just a waiting game, and
To clarify from the beginning; I am an unashamed bias Mavs fan, and always seem to be pretty hopeful regardless of the doom and gloom that may surround the franchise at times. I have written the analysis below, looking purely at the schedule that has recently been released. I can only go by looking at how teams performed last season, then adjusted accordingly for teams that have made change.
Predicting the entire season is obviously impossible -- injuries, trades and fairytale stories happen every year -- but I'll give it a crack anyway. Here's a look at each month, from worst to best, using these criteria:
- Road and home play
- Rest days and where they fall
- The opponent rating
The opponent rating system is something I created purely for this exercise to be the slightest bit mathematical in the approach. As I see more and more team ranking articles released as we get closer to the season, I have discovered that I'm pretty on track with how I feel that teams will perform.
We'll go from most to least tough
This first part of the season is going to be an absolute grind. The health of Matthews and Parsons is key here, but let's assume they're not going to be 100 percent and playing meaningful minutes. The average opponent rating is only 11.5 (one of the lowest) however the rest days are few, and the starting position healthy bodies may be slim. There's a BRUTAL road trip in which the Thunder, Grizzlies and Spurs all get a special visit -- only a week and a half after Dallas has the privilege and honor of playing four games in five nights. Happy times!
Some silver lining here is that we can likely expect meaningful playing time for our guy Justin Anderson. I'm so high on this guy right now!
It's a lower percentage than November, but at least by April the Mavericks should have a complete team playing and hopefully. This last month will be crucial to five or six of the seven teams that the Mavericks play and like always, it should really affect the playoff seeding over in the West. Some teams will push to move up in the standings while others will rest players in preparation of the playoffs. We all saw how tight it was this past season and when you add in two more playoff contenders in Utah and Oklahoma City, it's not going to be an easy finish.
By December, I'm hoping that Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews both start to look like himself again. There's only three back-to-back games (@POR, @NY, @BKN), but Dallas does see a lot of the top tier teams (HOU, WAS x 2, ATL, PHX, MEM, TOR, CHI, GSW). What makes this month a little bearable is the fact that it is one of the parts of the schedule where the Mavs will spend a lot of time at home with eight games at the AAC.
This could be the most crucial month of the season for the Mavs. It has a lot of games and only one will be played with more than a day of rest (at Sacramento), but a lot of these are winnable. For the Mavs to be in the playoff hunt at the end of the season, they really need to win the games they're supposed to and are going to have to get over the hump on a few tougher matchups in this month -- going in as the underdog. I'd project that by the end of January we will know if the playoffs are a real possibility or not.
If we look at this month in terms of ease of schedule, I would suggest that this is the obvious choice as the best for the Mavs but this is just based on the fact that there are so few games. There's a lot going for us in this month; seven out of the 10 games are played at home, there's only two back to backs (@ATL & @MEM), and there's obviously the All Star break, which is unlikely to have Dallas representation. The biggest problem is competing against a lot of really good teams who are also rested. Teams in this stretch consist of @ATL, MIA, SAS, @MEM, UTA & OKC.
Despite playing Cleveland and Golden State on the road and having the longest road trip (four games), I think March is the easiest and most winnable. There's a nice spread of easy games without a ton of back-to-backs (@ORL, LAC & @DEN) and three games where we'll have more than 1 day of rest. This stretch consists of playing ORL, SAC, @DEN x 2, DET, @CHA, POR, @POR, @SAC & NYK. Games that are even a coin toss at the moment I think are winnable if we're playing well with IND & LAC. The Mavs should be 100% healthy and hopefully clicking after playing 60 games together.
My overall season prediction is 46 wins, 28 Losses and eight that I would just toss a coin with. I'm clearly being optimistic and there's always some games that the Mavericks make us crazy by losing, but this seems obtainable. If Parsons can stay healthy and players like Deron Williams and JaVale McGee can bounce back, why not?