The NBA season is upon us… or at least it would be if this lockout were not going on. Nobody is quite certian when the NBA season will start. But if the collective bargaining agreement gets figured out soon, we will see a flurry of moves to make up for our lost offseason. So, with that in mind, it is time to begin opening the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year’s NBA Blog Preview (don’t worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks).
Last Year: 57-25, NBA Champions
Last Year vs. Magic: W 105-99 in Orlando on Dec. 21; L 117-107 in Dallas on Jan. 8.
This Year vs. Magic: March 30 in Orlando
Magic Connection: DeShawn Stevenson (Player, 2004-06); Assistant Coach Darrell Armstrong (Player 1995-2003).
The Previews: LJRotter/Mavs Moneyball
No better place to start the Second Never-Ending NBA Preview (yes, I never finished the first one, and I guess that is the point) than with the top. The Dallas Mavericks captured the imagination of NBA fans by… defeating the Miami Heat.
Yes, America was firmly behind the Mavericks just to make sure that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did not find success in their first year together. There are many that will be hopeful that the Mavericks or some other team continues to disrupt the Heat’s intentions — I mean, they already celebrated those championships, right?
But let’s not make this all about Miami. Last summer Dallas took us on a really amazing ride. They were a team, much like the Magic, built around one star and reliant on the 3-pointer, as Stan Van Gundy pointed out shortly after the Finals ended. They proved that an unconventional team with an unconventional star and a strong supporting cast could defeat superstar-laden teams.
The Mavericks certainly got hot at the right time, but showed a grittiness and determination that was lacking in 2006 when the franchise lost to Miami in the Finals. This team could protect the basket with Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood around the basket. Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson were saavy defenders. And Rick Carlisle has always been a fantastic defensive coach. Jason Terry provided a huge emotional lift off the bench with Jose Juan Barea. And Jason Kidd just does not seem to age.
But this team was all about Dirk Nowitzki. And Nowitzki cemented a winning legacy in claiming his first ring. He was no longer just that tall guy who could shoot and wilted in the clutch. Nowitzki shed all those labels in the 2011 postseason run. He was absolutely masterful and for those really watching him for the first time, they were treated to an incredible performance. Nowitzki is just undefendable when he got on the kind of role he got on during the Playoffs.
Moving forward to 2011-12 though, Dallas is fighting father time to get back to the top. This was a very veteran team. Nowitzki is ageless because his shooting ability and height will never go away. But Kidd, although he has aged well, is a step slow. So too is the once and still occasionally speedy Jason Terry. Caron Butler, a free agent this summer, showed flashes of being Dallas’ second scorer but tore his patella tendon in January and missed the playoff run. J.J. Barea is hot and cold and DeShawn Stevenson is hardly reliable offensively, although a lock on the defensive end. And don’t forget Shawn Marion too, who has lost the athleticism that turned him into the Matrix.
Dallas wants to keep its core together that helped deliver the franchise its first title. But it also needs to be preparing for the future. Last year’s roster was a perfect mix of chemistry. But moving forward, with the target on their back as champions, the Mavericks have to be ready to adapt. This is not to say Dallas will completely fall off the map. They just need to be ready to adjust and adapt more. That might mean letting go of some of the team’s older players and preparing the next generation of Mavericks to help Dirk Nowitzki in the near future.
Re-signing Tyson Chandler is a must as he was the defensive linchpin of the team. The next thing is preventing a problem of more and hoping the same mix of guys, with some hungry role players added in, can deliver another championship. Nobody knows who Mark Cuban will be able to keep in the new NBA, but some new blood might be needed to keep Dallas at a championship level for years to come. There are some interesting choices oncoming for Dallas.
How the Mavericks will Beat the Magic: Chandler is notoriously good at defending Dwight Howard, although he fouls him a lot. So too is Brendan Haywood. Dallas is one of the few teams that have the unique mix of personnel to handle Dwight Howard. Yet, the Magic did a good job competing against the Mavericks last season. That might have been because Orlando was still in its post-trade honeymoon phase when they met. I have a feeling if Orlando’s games against Dallas came in February or March, the results would have been different.
Dallas has a good roster to matchup with Orlando. The team can neutralize Howard to some extent in the post. And Dallas can spread the floor and attack in a variety of ways that keep the Magic defense moving and spread out. There is a reason this team won the championship. The Mavericks do not have to worry too much about their backcourt size going up against Orlando — especially with Jason Richardson as a free agent.
I would suspect Dallas would have an easy time defeating Orlando twice next year with the rosters as presently constructed.
How the Magic will Beat the Mavericks: Having said that about Chandler and Haywood… there may be no one in the league who can stop or slow down Dwight Howard in the league anymore. And if Howard gets Chandler and Haywood into foul trouble in any game, Dallas loses its defensive linchpin and opens the door for players like Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas (theoretically for him) to get into the paint. And when the Magic guards are able to drive and kick with all the shooters the Magic have, that is game over for a lot of teams.
Orlando also has one advantage which it exploited in both games against Dallas last year. Hedo Turkoglu.
Turkoglu had some good moves in the December game in Orlando, his second since returning to the team, not including the missed layup in the fourth quarter. Turkoglu was a little refreshed in his return that night. It was his first game back in Orlando. But it was clear that he could get to the basket against Dallas’ defense at that time.
He did even more in Orlando’s win over Dallas a month later. He recorded 17 assists on that January night and looked like the Hedo Turkoglu Magic fans romanticize about. It is clear then that Turkoglu enjoys playing the Mavericks. And likely he would have to be the guy supporting Howard in this matchup.
Photos via DayLife.com.