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Determining title aspirations for the Dallas Mavericks

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Before the season the Mavericks just wanted to get to the postseason, but now their sights may be set a bit deeper

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

If you had asked most Dallas Mavericks fans 12 months ago what they would consider a success for the 2019-20 season, it would have been a resounding call for a return to the playoffs. Having not made an appearance in four seasons, with just five post-season wins since hoisting the trophy nine years ago, watch party plans that include playoff Mavericks basketball would be welcome relief.

But, like Alexander Hamilton once rapped to his future sister-in-law, “I’ve never been satisfied.”

So yes, it isn’t locked in yet, but the Mavericks will at the very least make an appearance in a play-in series for the eighth spot. So MFFLs everywhere can exhale and get to the real heavy hitting questions like:

  • Are the Mavericks the funnest hang in the bubble?
  • What fraternity is JJ Barea pledging with that mustache?
  • Will the Mavericks win the title?

What have they done?

This conversation, just like the Mavericks, begins with offense. It is the basis for their success, and what has put them squarely in the playoff race. It’s a testament to Rick Carlisle’s ingenuity, and the shear star power of Luka Doncic (with an assist from Kristaps Porzingis) that the Mavericks could go from a lottery team to the best offense...not just in the league — in NBA history

At 116.7 points per 100 possessions, this Dallas Mavericks team is outpacing all of the greatest offensive teams the league has seen. While they were notching wins from the start of the season, the offense hit its pinnacle with a forced change to the starting lineup: Luka Doncic, Seth Curry, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, and Kristaps Porzingis — a group that is shooting a combined 38-percent from three.

The other side of this coin is that struggles defensively and in clutch situations has cost the Mavericks all season long. And most crucially it has impacted their record against the teams currently ahead of them in the standings, where the Mavs are only 5-10. Those factors leave questions about how deep a run they can make in the postseason.

Numbers Game

Perhaps it’s not fair to call the Mavericks contenders, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an outside chance of doing some damage. They’re currently 7th in the West, yes, but they have a reasonable shot at moving up in the standings. And from there, it’s up to the matchups.

Bovada currently lists the Mavericks at +1800 to win the Western Conference, fifth best odds among the group, and ninth best odds in the league to win the title. And basketball-reference.com’s Playoff Probability Simulator projects the Mavericks as the fifth seed in the West, with third best odds to win the conference.

Analysts and metrics both seem to like the Mavericks’ talent, offense, and ability to be a tough matchup for a lot of teams. And that last point might be where the Mavericks’ title hopes rest the heaviest.

It’s no secret they need to avoid facing the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round if they want a shot at staying in the NBA Bubble. And if they can, they may be favored against a handful of the teams currently ahead of them in the standings.

They’ve played close to .500 basketball against the likes of the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. In a playoff setting, with a young star that can do wonders in isolation, the Mavericks will always have a shot, and they have the personnel to keep up with this grouping of teams. The title shot may be slim, but the opportunity to be a dangerous fan-favorite in Orlando feels like a real possibility.