clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The definitive Dallas Mavericks starters tournament: Elite Eight

New, comment

We’re entering the second week of our look at the best Mavericks starting fives in the last 20 years. And today a couple teams are on upset alert!

NBA Finals Game 6:  Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The second weekend of the NCAA tournament is where a lot of the interesting competitive match-ups happen. They survived the massive upsets and are now head-to-head with some high quality teams where a few possessions can decide winners. And here we are.

If you need to catch up, check us out here:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Below is the updated bracket. Be sure to make your voice heard and vote at the end of each match-up. Now buckle in, because Cinderella has taken the stage!

#1 vs #9

#9 2003-04 (52-30, .634):

  • Steve Nash
  • Michael Finley
  • Josh Howard
  • Antoine Walker
  • Dirk Nowitzki

SAM: How I see this team advancing is if they run, run, and run some more. They are the antithesis of the 06-07 group in almost every category. Top three in the league in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, total rebounding, assists, turnovers and points, this group led the charge of an offensive powerhouse.

The thing is, this 03-04 group is a lot like the Warriors team that gave the 06-07 team trouble. They run, chuck up shots, play active and fast. There's some positional flexibility, though Walker or Howard would not be near as effective defenders as Stephen Jackson was. However, the point is the 03-04 starters are a terrifying matchup for the No. 1 seed. Steve Nash was on the precipice of point guard play rarely seen before. I'll give him the upper hand over 23-year-old Devin Harris. Finley and Terry are comparable, with Finley being the slightly better defender and Terry being the slightly better creator/scorer. We'll call them a wash. Dampier would struggle mightily to guard Dirk, giving the 03-04 group the advantage there. With strong point guard play and key positional mismatches, I think the 03-04 starters have a good chance to pull off the upset.

#1 2006-07 (67-15, .817):

  • Devin Harris
  • Jason Terry
  • Josh Howard
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Erick Dampier

JORDAN: I’ll give it to you Sam, this is a much more interesting match-up than the seeding or records advertise. That 2003 group is a really interesting five, no doubt. Four elite players either close to or in their prime, paired with a young rookie with loads of potential. And you’re right, this is the sort of unit that’s built for an upset.

Outside of the fact that this was the winningest season in Mavericks history, by a full seven games, perhaps you’re forgetting Sam one important aspect of my team: they played defense. The 2006-07 team was fifth in the league in defensive rating (103.2), and fourth in the league in opponents points per game (92.8 oppg). But outside of numbers, let’s go head-to-head match-ups: Nash over Harris, Finley/Terry draw, Dirk over Walker, Dirk over Dampier. But the x-factor? 2006-07 all star Josh Howard over rookie Howard. I have a hunch that Howard would have to be relied upon to turn the tide. And even still....after saying all that...it feels like history could repeat itself against such an opponent. In a single game setting, I could see the 2003 gunners taking it to this group, with just too many shooters on the floor. As long as they keep the game fast.

Winner: 2003-04 Mavs

Poll

Who do you have advancing?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    2003-04 Mavericks
    (86 votes)
  • 58%
    2006-07 Mavericks
    (120 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now
Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks

#4 vs #5

#5 2010-11 (57-25, .695):

  • Jason Kidd
  • DeShawn Stevenson
  • Caron Butler
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Tyson Chandler

JORDAN: This is the one I’ve been waiting for. This is where I’m ok with throwing most stats and numbers out the window. This is the exact kind of match-up I was thinking of when I decided to take this project on - why sometimes the best point you have in a debate is just intangibles. This 2010-11 team represents that.

In most statistical categories the 2004-05 team has advantage. They scored and defended at similar rates, the 04-05 unit was younger pretty much across the board. I was surprised to see that the 10-11 group actually rebounded at a lower rate than their opponent. But one thing this older group did better was pass the ball. The Mavericks were second in the league in assists, one of the highest rates in Mavs history at 23.8 assists per game. For those wondering the 04-05 group was near the back of the league, dishing out 19.6 per game. And that’s why the title team was so good. Rick Carlisle had them playing as one unit. I’m confident that this 10-11 team, and wizard Carlisle, would find and expose the weaknesses in their opponent, and play enough team ball to move on.

#4 2004-05 (58-24, .707):

  • Jason Terry
  • Michael Finley
  • Josh Howard
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Erick Dampier

SAM: Look, Jordan, I get the intangibles aspect. The championship starters definitely had it. With two hall-of-famers in Kidd and Dirk, an emotional leader in Chandler, and two players that brought the dog to the fight in Butler and Stevenson, yeah, this group had the mental makeup.

But numbers don’t lie. The 04-05 starters led a team that had a better offensive and defensive rating than the 10-11 group. They rebounded better. They shot more free throws. They had a lower turnover percentage. The list keeps going. So I guess the question is, at what point does intangibles outweigh statistics? But if we we look at the individual matchups, in my mind the 04-05 group only has the advantage at two spots: shooting guard and power forward. Fortunately, the 04-05 versions of Finley and Dirk are probably the best two players on the court. Is that enough to advance that group? Team ball is hard to beat, and I don’t think we can overlook championship mettle.

Winner: 2010-11 Mavs

Poll

Who do you have advancing?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    2010-11 Mavericks
    (180 votes)
  • 5%
    2004-05 Mavericks
    (11 votes)
191 votes total Vote Now

#2 vs #7

#7 2009-10 (55-27, .671):

  • Jason Kidd
  • Caron Butler
  • Shawn Marion
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Erick Dampier

JORDAN: The strange battleground for this match-up is pace. I say strange because by 2009-10 standards these guys liked to play slow, at 92.5 possessions per 48 minutes (good for 17th in the league). The 02-03 team liked to play fast, 7th fastest in the league. Their number? 92.5 possessions per 48 minutes.

There are a lot of statistical similarities between these teams, but age might be a determining factor in how this 09-10 squad competes (32 years old vs 27 years old). Caron Butler was the youngest starter at 29 years old, compared to Finley who was the oldest starter at...you guessed it 29. And considering the growth of perimeter shooting, you’d think that would be how this 09-10 group stays in it - but that stat tells a different story as well. That starting five was attempting nine three pointers per game, shooting a solid 37-percent. But the 02-03 starters were attempting 15 per game, shooting 39-percent. Look Sam, I’m not doing a good job of finding a way for this team to pull the upset. Is veteran team basketball enough to sway this one?

#2 2002-03 (60-22, .732):

  • Steve Nash
  • Michael Finley
  • Adrian Griffin
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Raef LaFrentz

SAM: Before I unpack that question, Jordan, we need to remember just how good these guys were. Had Dirk not gone down with a knee injury in game three of the Western Conference Finals - knocking him out the rest of the series, the Mavs had a very real chance of advancing to the Finals for the first time in team history. Led by Finley, it still took a Steve Kerr three-point barrage in game six to put the nail in the coffin of this group. Look up the stats to this series. They are insane.

Now that I’m off my tangent, let me break down this matchup. Let’s start with the obvious: the 09-10 group could not score with the 02-03 group. Sure, Kidd was a good distributor and shooter, but Butler and Dirk were the only two offensive initiators. Counter that with Nash, Finley AND Dirk, and it really isn’t even close. Those three alone shot 37 percent or better from deep and combined for 14 free throw attempts. Dampier averaged two offensive rebounds per game, but that’s not enough to make you worried about LaFrentz’s ability to keep him off the glass, and ultimately, keep the 02-03 starters from pushing the tempo. Add the fact that this group played relatively good defense for a Don Nelson coached team, and I don’t think veteran team basketball would be enough to swing the pendulum. The 02-03 starters live to see another day.

Winner: 2002-03 Mavs

Poll

Who do you have advancing?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    2009-10 Mavericks
    (63 votes)
  • 62%
    2002-03 Mavericks
    (106 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now
Mavericks v Jazz X

#3 vs #6

#6 2001-02 (57-25, .695):

  • Steve Nash
  • Michael Finley
  • Adrian Griffin
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Juwan Howard

SAM: Defense wasn't this group's strong suit, and that's okay. With Nash, Finley and Dirk, they had the luxury of outscoring opponents most nights. Add in a defensive-minded wing in Griffin and a tweener forward who rebounded well and could keep defenses honest with a midrange presence and that's a lineup with a lot of potential.

But man were they bad on defense. For however good they were on offense, they were probably equally as bad on the other end. Unfortunately, the lineup they are facing off against was pretty good on offense and played above average defense as well. But when you have all-star Finley and Nash shooting 45 percent from three while dishing out nearly eight assists per game you are sitting pretty. Throw in Dirk who averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and shot 40 percent from three? That's unfair. At some point though, we can’t look past the defensive ineptitude. Sometimes the jump shots don’t fall. What does this group have to hang their hat on then?

#3 2005-06 (60-22, .732):

  • Jason Terry
  • Adrian Griffin
  • Josh Howard
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • DeSagana Diop

JORDAN: These second round match-ups have given us a tougher task than I was expecting. The similarities at times feel monumental, and the differences minute. But it’s in those minute details that seem to decide it. And part of that is comparing the team frameworks laid out by Don Nelson, Avery Johnson and Rick Carlisle.

The task that JET, Griffin and Dirk would have on the defensive end to contain the monster trio of Nash, Fin and Dirk can feel a bit insurmountable. But like you said Sam, that group wasn’t defending anyone. The 2005-06 team may not score at the same rate as the 2001 squad, but they were far more balanced on both ends. I think the presence of a 27 year old Dirk, playing in Johnson’s slower offense, where they could dictate the pace, would make all the difference. Griffin would have to slow things on the perimeter defensively, and Diop would have to shut down the paint. Getting them out of rhythm, and letting JET and Dirk’s two-man game go to work might be enough to sneak out of this alive.

Winner: 2005-06 Mavs

Poll

Who do you have advancing?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    2001-02 Mavericks
    (46 votes)
  • 70%
    2005-06 Mavericks
    (109 votes)
155 votes total Vote Now

So we’ve had a shake up in our tournament, and we’re down to just four teams. Be sure to check in later this week until we have one team standing!