Yes yes, it’s everyone’s favorite meme. The Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals. But then of course, they broke up everyone’s favorite odd couple in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in order to build the most stacked team in NBA history. The rich get richer. But hey there are other teams in the division, including two teams in Los Angeles* and two teams whose best aspect is that they have purple in their color schemes.**
*wait, sorry, a team in Los Angeles and a team in “LA”—heavy side eye at the Clippers
Let’s just take it for granted that by February or so, the Death Star will be fully operational, and focus on the other four teams in the division, and how the Mavs might match up with them.
Could the Clippers be a dark horse?
When healthy, the Clippers are a really good team led by two superstars and an all-NBA defensive center. And they are bringing back almost all the major players from their roster last year, which finished 4th in the West last year with 53 wins.
There’s a chance that if they stay healthy and don’t trade anyone, the Clippers could position themselves to have a shot in hell at knocking off the Warriors. The problem is... it’s not exactly unlikely that someone gets hurt or traded this season. There’s a growing sentiment amongst some that the Paul-Griffin-Jordan core has hit its ceiling, and that the only way to move forward is to trade one of the three. Blake Griffin keeps suffering injuries, sometimes self-inflicted. Etc. Etc.
So could the Clips be a dark horse for the division, or even the West Finals? They probably have as good a chance as anyone not named the Warriors. But they’ll have to keep this thing intact another year to find out. Either way, Mavs games against LA will be interesting, if for no other reason than that Mavs fans are still several years from letting that whole DeAndre thing go.
What about the rest of the division?
I don’t that many people are giving the Lakers, Kings, or Suns much of a chance at the playoffs this year. But each team is interesting for its own reasons. The Lakers are free from the anchor that was an aged and oft-injured Kobe Bryant and have a young new coach hoping to bring over some of his success from Oakland. Pair that with a talented young trio in DeAngelo Russell, Julius Randle, and 2016 number 2 pick Brandon Ingram, and you’ve maybe got something for the future. But almost certainly not this year.
Like the Lakers, the Kings also have a new coach. However, Dave Joeger is a lot more experienced and successful head coach than Luke Walton, with a proven track record and a defensive mindset that should hopefully finally bring some stability to the Kings. Oh also Boogie Cousins is an insanely talented superstar just waiting to be given time to grow with a coach he likes. But hey, the Kings have the most volatile front office in the entire NBA (if not in all of sports), so who knows what will happen? One thing I can guarantee is that Sacramento is never short on gossip and intrigue.
And finally, the Suns. I honestly have no idea what to expect from these guys. Interim head coach Earl Watson is now THE guy—and at this time last year, I would’ve sworn he was still on the end of someone’s bench, just waiting for the right injury situation to find himself with legitimate minutes in a guard rotation. But no, apparently he retired in 2014, and now he is the head coach of Phoenix—hey, at least he’s older than Luke Walton. The Suns added some interesting pieces in the draft and brought back fan-favorites Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa. Unfortunately they have too many point guards and too many centers and not a lot else. It’s a weird roster for even an experienced head coach to handle. Expect some growing pains and truly unusual lineups.
Games to circle
And finally the part that, you know, actually relates to the Dallas Mavericks. Here are a few games against the Pacific that might you might find entertaining, for one reason or another:
November 9, at Golden State: Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut’s first game back in Oakland. Who knows if Dallas has any shot in this game, but it’ll mean something for those guys. Barnes began his career in Oakland, and Bogut has been a key cog there for the past four years.
November 23, vs Clippers: Even without the recent history to fuel these two teams, they always seem to play each other tough.
December 7, vs the Kings: #BoogietoDallas
December 18, vs the Kings: Devin Harris Bobble Head Night! (Oh who am I kidding, #BoogietoDallas)
January 5, vs the Suns: Having Tyson Chandler in the AAC is always nice, plus there will likely be some good quotes as usual, given his unusual history with Dallas.
January 12, Suns vs Mavs in Mexico City: Sure it’s a late game against what will likely not be anything close to a contender, but it’s really cool that the Mavs are playing a game south of the border.