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Zach Lowe thinks the Mavs are a lottery team

He’s probably not wrong.

NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Lowe, he of the too long DID read NBA columns, is out with another effort ranking the various franchises for the coming season. It’s not a traditional numeric based ranking, however. This time it’s tier based. The Golden State Warriors, of course, sit at the top in a tier all by themselves. The Cleveland Cavaliers and other contending hopefuls sit just below. So where do the Dallas Mavericks fall?

Fall is the operative word here. Scrolling down the page to find the Mavs can feel like taking an unfortunate plunge off the face of El Capitan. Lowe has them in his “Lottery West” tier, meaning he doesn’t see them making the playoffs. Here’s a bit of what he has to say:

Betting against Dirk Nowitzki and the only warlock NBA coach makes you queasy, but it's hard to see how this team cracks .500. Lineups with Nowitzki at center can't defend; Rick Carlisle will have to swallow hard and consider starting Nerlens Noel, and giving the Harrison Barnes-Nowitzki-Noel trio extended run.

It’s true, lineups with Dirk at the five aren’t going to lock down opponents. Yet, I just don’t see Carlisle giving in and starting Noel. Tim Cato wrote about this very thing, and I think he’s spot on in his assessment of Noel’s role:

The Mavericks should play Noel as much as possible — starter’s minutes, even if he’s not technically one. (Ideally, a Nowitzki-Noel backcourt will be more manageable against bench units.) Hopefully, that compromise satiates him. If not, Carlisle doesn’t tolerate fools. Everything we know about him indicates that he will not start Noel merely to appease a potentially damaged ego.

What we’ve seen so far in preseason is that Nowitzki will start games and play the first six to eight minutes of the game before subbing out for Noel. Expect this to be a nightly routine. Noel is going to get his minutes. Nowitzki can’t play extended minutes anymore. If he averages more than 24 per game, I’ll be surprised. But playing Nowitzki next to Noel just isn’t ideal. (Seriously, go read Tim’s post.)

Even if Lowe’s frontcourt suggestion doesn’t come to fruition, he does spot something about the roster that we should all be aware of. The Mavs come in two sizes.

...the Mavs don't have the right sort of depth to make them fly; the bench consists mostly of giants, little guys, and Dorian Finney-Smith.

Guards, forwards, and centers are all this team has. Finney-Smith is essentially the only wing. Sure, Barnes will shift to the three at times and Wesley Matthews will play extended minutes there, but neither are really suited for that role. Expect a lot of guard-heavy lineups, including ones with Devin Harris at the three.

It is hard to bet against Dirk and Rick Carlisle, but this season isn’t about making the playoffs. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s a goal akin to summiting Everest. Keep on the look out for those warlock coaching skills, though. They’re sure to be in full form.