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The Dallas Mavericks Are Title Contenders


Remember when Dirk Nowitzki ruined LeBron James and the Miami Heat’s coming-out party in the summer of 2011? Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks were the squad no one saw coming, with a somewhat rag-tag crew of role players, featuring an offense run by a twilight-years Jason Kidd and a defense anchored by the indomitable Tyson Chandler. The world watched with disbelief as a young, unready James watched how it was done by the determined Mavericks.

Nowitzki is one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league, and that was his chance to prove it to his largest audience yet. And while Dirk is now 36, he still has elite gravity over defenses, and he’s still a Maverick. And, augmented by a returned and rejuvenated Chandler as well as the team’s new leading scorer Monta Ellis and Houston Rockets exile Chandler Parsons, Nowitzki is once again at the heart of a championship contender.

It doesn’t hurt having coach Rick Carlisle still on board, either. Carlisle is one of the league’s very best, and his team’s night-to-night game-planning proves that much.The Mavs' democratic, pointed offense leads the NBA with an average 110.2 points per game, while their 11.2 turnovers per contest — made possible through a shrewd point-guard-by-committee system starring Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris — makes them third best in basketball at taking care of their possession time.

The 15-5 Mavericks put basketball on notice with their impressive performance in the Tuesday night’s double-overtime December classic against the burly Chicago Bulls, a game Dallas won behind Ellis’ 38-point explosion, including a handful of icy, clutch shots through both extra sessions. Even on an off shooting night from Nowitzki — who went 8-for-22 on the night — Dallas had the depth and resolve to slay one of the best teams in basketball on the road. Keep the Mavericks on your radar for this spring.

— John Wilmes