The Mavericks are just 1.5 games from being out of the playoffs and Utah is charging hard. On the other hand, Memphis is sinking rapidly with half their roster out with injuries. Given Dallas' schedule the rest of the season, the Mavs Moneyball staff discusses: where will they finish in the standings?
The blindly optimistic fan in me says that Dirk and Carlisle won't let this team fall out of the playoffs after outperforming nearly every pre-season prediction to this point. That being said, every loss makes a collapse exponentially more likely. Dallas has late-season games against the Grizz and Jazz, plus a back-to-back set against the Blazers. They made need to win all four of those critical matchups, and beat the lesser teams they're supposed to, as well, just to have a chance.
Tim mentioned it in his piece prior to the Charlotte win, and I've jumped on board: David Lee needs to be starting. The Mavs' best five in my view is Lee-Dirk-Parsons-Matthews-Williams, and the sooner we see that lineup used liberally, the better. I have the utmost respect for Rick Carlisle but the constant lineup tinkering is a tactic for the middle portion of the season, not the stretch run when any loss could buy you a lot of time off in May. Dallas has shown glimpses of the kind of offensive firepower we think they're capable of. Time to put up or shut up.
Before the season, I said the Mavericks wouldn't make the playoffs as a .500 team and I'm sticking by that. I can probably go one better and say Dallas won't even finish at .500 because the last stretch of this season is absurd. Starting Friday, in a one-week span, the Mavs have to play Portland and Golden State twice, then two road games against Denver and Sacramento (both matchup nightmares for the Mavs) and they still have to play Detroit, San Antonio, Utah and the Clippers in April. The Mavericks could very well go 1-9 in that stretch, and not a single soul on this planet would be shocked.
This small ball thing Rick Carlisle is trying out is still in its infancy stages, so Dallas can certainly still salvage this thing. That loss to Cleveland on Wednesday, though, really hurt. Falling behind by 20 twice to a LeBron-less team, only to storm back and lose by a point showed just how ill-prepared this team is to even be in playoff competition right now. And that's a giant shame, because Dirk Nowitzki has literally dragged this team by its ass for the last three weeks, only to fall flat. Utah sees how bad Dallas is playing right now, and a young, hungry team like that wants it more than Dallas does right now.
The Mavericks have been in full apocalyptic mode for 2 weeks now. Their intricate motion offense is no longer effective because teams avoid Zaza like the plague. A Carlisle offense cannot function without an effective roll man. Zaza is a wonderful human being, but he's no longer the answer at center. Zaza's ineffectiveness has been compounded by Matthews' poor shooting. He has the second lowest field goal percentage in the league right now.
The sky is falling, but the playoffs are still in reach. Dirk has dipped into the fountain of youth. He's scoring at prime Dirk levels and playing adequate defense at the center position. This team will finish sixth almost despite themselves: Memphis is starting someone named Briante Weber at point guard right now; Gordon Hayward is dealing with a pesky foot injury; Houston only cares about basketball intermittently. The Mavericks are deeply flawed, but they're a deeply flawed playoff team.
For as bad as the Mavs have been, they're still in reach for the 5th seed, so the team should be thankful these other teams are also squandering opportunities. With that, I think the Mavs finish 6th. I'm being overly optimistic but I think they steal both games from Portland, which would do wonders in securing a playoff spot and handing them the tie breaker. They also have one game left against each of Memphis, Houston, and Utah, which is another great opportunity for the team to secure a spot.
Outside of Dirk and Parsons, oh and Lee, the team needs more from its players. I'm baffled by the poor play on offense by Wes, Zaza is almost unplayable, and the point guards haven't brought much consistency. As frustrated as I've been with Carlisle lately, I'm putting my trust in him to get this team back on track. We've already seen a lot more small ball and Justin Anderson, so hopefully that continues.
If Carlisle can find a way to get consistency from his rotations and the team can steal games against these other teams in the hunt, no reason this team won't be in the playoffs and hopefully avoiding an onslaught from the Warriors or Spurs in the first round.
It seemed like just yesterday that Marc Gasol was declared out for the season and the Mavericks were primed to set up a matchup with DeAndre Jordan in the first round of the playoffs by capturing the fifth seed. Oh those days... Now we live in a reality where the Mavs are one game out of falling out of the playoff picture completely, with their next four games being against the Warriors and Trail Blazers.
At this point, all the playoffs mean to the Mavs is a week less of vacation. I think the Mavs will finish as the eighth seed, and honestly, that is what Mavs fans should prefer over the sixth of seventh seed. If you're going to get swept in the first round, why not at least be a part of history while doing it? Not to mention Mavs fans will get to watch Steph Curry in person twice. That's the best you can ask for at this point.
Looking at this schedule and looking at how the Mavs have been playing, I can't help but feel this team will finish under .500 to close it out. They have a rough stretch to finish with Golden State and Portland before the schedule evens up a bit.
They SHOULD miss the playoffs, but thanks to the other teams implosions around them, they probably won't. My only worry is I feel like Memphis has enough of a cushion to withstand a total freefall despite playing half D-Leaguers in their rotation. Even with all the injuries, they're still 4-6 in their last 10 games -- which is a helluva lot better than the Mavs lately at full strength. Utah is peaking, Memphis is testing the limits on necromancy and the Mavs schedule still stinks. They'll make the playoffs as the eighth seed but I will not be surprised one bit if they drop out completely.
It feels as though everyone (except Josh) is quite a bit more optimistic than I am. Part of me feels like this team should be better than it is... but at this point, it's hard not to feel completely negative about this squad. Dirk and Parsons are balling out, and it feels completely wasted. So I say this more from a place of emotion than logic, but my gut feels like they don't make the playoffs.
Memphis has a cushion. Portland is energetic and young, despite a bit of a rough patch. Houston doesn't seem to care about basketball, but they're way more talented than Dallas. And Utah just seems to want it more. If Dallas ends up making the playoffs, I won't be surprised. But it almost kind of feels like they don't deserve it. Maybe that's mean. But man I am so down on this team right now.
Dallas will miss the playoffs. Probably. All of Rick Carlisle's scheming and dream hasn't paid off. While I like the smallball lineup he ran out against Charlotte and Cleveland, the Cavs exploited its weaknesses. Other teams will do the same. Simply put: the Mavs simply don't have the personnel to be a good competitive team. Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki have done all they can in recent games but it just hasn't been enough.
Utah will pass the Dallas in the coming week. The Mavs are playing the Warriors and Portland twice in the next four games. The Jazz's schedule isn't easy either but they are simply playing better. Maybe both teams win one game in the next four. Maybe the Mavs lose all four by a margin of three points or less while the Jazz win all four. All I know that this is the pivotal stretch for the Mavs. If they can't go .500 in these four games then I believe their playoff chances are sunk.
The Mavericks will make the playoffs as long as Memphis continues to start a backcourt of Tim Cato and Jamie Plunkett. The Grizzlies have lost four in a row, and have no real timeline for overcoming the staggering amount of injuries they've suffered this season. Meanwhile, they still have two games remaining against Warriors, Spurs, and Clippers, with other games against Toronto, Chicago, and Dallas still on the schedule. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Memphis goes ~3-10 to finish the season. Utah may end up passing Dallas, but it won't matter when Memphis falls out of the picture altogether.