It’s August. Not a single NBA game will be played until preseason begins in October. That doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate on the upcoming season. On the contrary, that’s exactly what we should be doing. Luckily, that’s just what the folks over at ESPN have done.
Using their in-house real plus-minus (RPM) statistic, Kevin Pelton runs the numbers to see where teams might end up in the standings after all 2,460 regular season games are in the books. So, how do the Mavericks fare? Let’s take a look.
RPM projected W-L records for next season.— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 3, 2017
How's your team looking? pic.twitter.com/gWUJxKjeV4
Welp, according to this, Dallas will finish with 34.6 wins, good enough for the 11th best record in the Western Conference. Here’s what Pelton has to say about the Mavs:
Although owner Mark Cuban has described the Mavericks as rebuilding, there's enough talent on hand for Dallas to remain competitive in the West. Assuming the Mavericks re-sign restricted free agent Nerlens Noel -- included in these projections, as are other unsigned restricted free agents -- they will bring back the core of last season's team, adding rookie Dennis Smith Jr.
Competitive is pretty good considering everything. The West has seen an influx of talent this summer, including the likes of Paul George and Jimmy Butler. It’ll be a tough place to play. Dirk Nowitzki admitted as much, saying recently, “It’s not getting any easier, that’s for sure.”
But hey, look at that ranking again. If they were in the East, they’d be knocking at the door of the playoffs, right behind the Pistons. If Mark Cuban had his way, that’s exactly where the Mavs would be playing next season.
“There's no question about it,” Cuban joked on air during one of the Mavs’ Summer League games. “If we were in the East, we would not be rebuilding. We'd be handling things completely different. I think I'm going to kidnap Adam Silver and not let him out until he moves us to the Eastern Conference.”
Of course, Dallas won’t be moving to the East any time soon. They’ll have to stick it out in what will likely be a brutal West and an even harsher Southwest Division.
Who knows, maybe the Mavs can buck the computer projection and move up the ranks. Maybe they can even sneak into the playoffs. As for right now, though, 11th doesn’t seem that far off the mark.