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The Mavericks simulator: matching up the Mavericks with teams in history

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We’re looking at Mavericks teams and pairing them with iconic NBA teams of the past.

Dirk Nowitzki looks to move

Not long ago we were tuning into a couple Mavericks games per week, as they marched toward their first postseason appearance in four years. There were warning signs well before the March 11 halt to the league season, but in a blink everything changed. Now the the NBA return is unknown.

This month has been a long year.

There are greater problems in our everyday lives than no basketball to come home to, though those bits of normalcy leave a massive hole. So thank god in our desperate attempts in distraction we have something like Whatifsports.com: a simulation site that allows you to toy with all your hypothetical sports dreams.

I learned of the site last week from my brother-in-law. And as I, like so many others, have been furloughed from my job, it opened up some time to ponder what the Dallas Mavericks would look like against NBA teams of the past.

To set some parameters:

  • Five recent Mavericks teams vs. five memorable dominant teams from the past
  • The site allows you to edit depth charts, so I did my best to set them to that year’s postseason rotation
  • Home and Away determined by team with the better regular season record
  • One single simulation, not a series (I have time, but I also need my sanity)

We should take all this with a grain of salt and good fun, but know this: I did one simulation of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks vs. the 2011 Miami Heat and the Mavericks won 103-96; Dirk Nowitzki finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, Shawn Marion had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Jason Terry finished with 20 points off the bench, while LeBron James was held to just 16 points. So...maybe this simulator is a genius.

On to the first matchup...

2003 Dallas Mavericks vs 2014 San Antonio Spurs

Poll

Who do you got?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    2003 Dallas Mavericks
    (241 votes)
  • 22%
    2014 San Antonio Spurs
    (71 votes)
312 votes total Vote Now

The Breakdown

Van Exel, Finley, Williams, LaFrentz and Bell huddle

Dallas Mavericks (60-22)

  • Led by 24 year old Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley. Supporting cast: Nick Van Exel, Raef LaFrentz and Eduardo Najera.
  • A breakthrough season for a relatively young team, that started with a 14-game win streak (had only FIVE losses going into January).
  • Led the league in Offensive Rating and Overall Net Rating (11th in Defensive Rating)
  • First two rounds went to seven games (Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings), before first appearance in Western Conference Finals since 1988.
  • A Dirk Nowitzki injury in the WCF likely cost them a Finals appearance. The San Antonio Spurs went on to win the title.
San Antonio Spurs v Alba Berlin Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs (62-20)

  • Led by Old Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. Also, some third year guy named Kawhi Leonard.
  • Led the league in three-point percentage, shooting 40-percent from three for the season.
  • The revenge squad that came roaring back after a Finals choke the previous season to the Miami Heat.
  • Lost seven games the entire playoffs (three to the Mavericks...remember the Vince Carter shot?)
  • Won the Finals 4-1, beating the Miami Heat by an average of 14 points per game.

The Simulation

Dirk finishes with 22 points and seven rebounds, while Finley adds 18 points and eight rebounds and Nash posts 19 points and nine assists. The supporting crew of LaFrentz, Van Exel and Shawn Bradley each add 11 points.

Tim Duncan turns in a solidly dominant game with 19 points and 13 rebounds, but Ginobili manages just six points off the bench. Kawhi and Danny Green combine to go 2-of-9 from three. Mavericks WIN 105-95.

The Believable

In its time, the Don Nelson-led Mavs could push pace, share the ball, and produce high octane innovative offense. This 2003 squad was the pinnacle of Dirk-Nash-Fin trio, and in retrospect it hurts to think what could have been.

Because Nellie Ball was ahead of its time in many ways this team wouldn’t be scared off but modern sets, and may even thrive against the more traditional team approach that Gregg Popovich employed in 2014. A few more points to their advantage:

  • Age. The Mavericks with Dirk (24), Nash (28) and Finley (29) are catching Duncan (37), Parker (31) and Ginobili (36) at just the right time. Doesn’t hurt that Kawhi Leonard was just starting to come into his own. They aren’t facing full Klaw.
  • Three-point shooting. That’s not to say this 2003 team could outshoot the Spurs—that was a lethal team on a mission. But the Mavericks had seven players shooting at least 37-percent from deep. The Spurs had eight (so...yeah, lethal) but the Mavs wouldn’t get shot out of the gym.
  • Star power. Yes, the Spurs trio had iconic careers. But give me this version of the Mavericks stars just as they’re coming into their own. Plus Nick Van Exel off the bench? Yes please.

The Unbelievable

Nothing. This Mavericks team was one knee injury from a title. This is a much longer conversation, but the history books might be talking about the Mavericks and its star players differently now had Dirk not sustained his injury. It’s possible this would have been one of multiple titles, with the hopeful re-signing of Steve Nash soon after.

This 2003 team may not be able to match the veteran experience of the 2014 Spurs team. They were a laser-focused squad with expert coaching, and a roster built for true team ball. But if the 2014 Mavericks could take that team to seven games, then the 2003 Mavericks could lay down the hammer.