Take that 42-40 record from last season and flip it right around. That’s where ESPN sees the Dallas Mavericks next year — a ninth-place finish that will leave them one seed out of the Western Conference playoffs.
Let take this moment to remind everyone that we’re just the messengers. Stop yelling at us!
It’s better than last year, where you might remember that the national media “hated” the Mavericks. To be fair, it was certainly a remarkable accomplishment that they did end up making the playoffs. But they did, and the national media was very wrong, and it seems they didn’t learn their lesson about pessimism.
Here’s what ESPN’s blurb says about Dallas:
The Mavericks added Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and a player named Curry (Steph's brother, Seth) this offseason, but don't expect this team to become the Dallas Warriors. Our panel projects the Mavericks to see a decrease in wins this season. Age is a big issue here: Dirk Nowitzki is 38, Deron Williams is 32, Wesley Matthews will be 30 in October and Bogut will be 32 in November.
And here’s who they have in order making the playoffs above the Mavericks:
- Golden State, 67-15
- San Antonio, 57-25
- Los Angeles, 52-30
- Portland, 46-36
- Utah, 45-37
- Oklahoma City, 44-38
- Memphis, 43-39
- Houston, 41-41
The results come from a panel of ESPN writers and columnists, so this is popular opinion, not computerized predictions.
Saying the Mavericks will finish a game out of the eighth seed isn’t ridiculous. It’s safe to say Dallas should be better for 82 games this season than they were during the last one, assuming relative health, namely because they weren’t quite as healthy last year. A healthy Harrison Barnes is an upgrade over last year’s Chandler Parsons. Andrew Bogut is clearly better than Zaza Pachulia when healthy. There’s reason to believe that Wesley Matthews should improve, too, although that’s no guarantee. But playing better doesn’t necessarily equate to more wins if the Western Conference is better, too.
I have the Mavericks at 43 or 44 wins, despite the conference looking stronger. It’s better up top, with the Warriors, although Golden State probably loses a few more games this time around. It’s better in the middle, with Utah and Portland both maturing. It’s better with the fringe playoff teams, as Minnesota, New Orleans and Denver are all projected to miss the playoffs but all three easily could push for the final spot. The Pelicans, especially, seem low to me, although there is something to say for them actually proving themselves.
I’m not certain I’d take Houston over Dallas, but some people are and it’s not an irrational choice. The Rockets will smoke teams offensively, there’s no question about that, although their defense has hung huge expectations upon Clint Capela that he may not be able to match in Year One as a starter.
So 40-42 with a No. 9 seed finish. It’s reasonable, if pessimistic. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Mavericks fan, and you should think the team can finish several spots higher. That’s natural. The question is whether you can imagine a scenario where ESPN’s prediction could come true.