As it sits right now, the Mavericks are 1.5 games back from the 8th seed in the playoffs, which seems mind-boggling considering the way this team was trending to start the season. But before we get excited about where the team is now we have to remember how we got here in the first place.
At the start of the season, expectations were high. Just watch some predictions from the home opener back on October 28th
Ah… we were so young and naive. Who would have guessed the Mavs team everyone expected to see securely in the playoff hunt would have the worst record in the NBA just a month later?
On November 25th the Mavericks lost by 38 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and dropped to a 2-13 record. The worst record in the entire NBA at the time and one of the lowest moments in recent memory. Dirk Nowitzki had already missed 10 out of the teams’ 15 games and would end up missing the next 14.
Tensions should have been high but in all regards, many Mavs fans accepted their fate. Their rationale was:
“Dirk is old and won’t last much longer, the team needs to get younger, and the Mavs own their first round draft pick this season. So why not tank it up?! The Mavericks should lose games and rise up the Inverse Standings to secure better lottery odds to acquire a better draft pick. The 76ers do it, the Lakers do it, the Nets… well, we’ll get to them. Why not the Dallas Mavericks?!”
Here’s “Why not the Mavericks”
On Nov 28th Mark Cuban came out and definitively said in an interview with ESPN that the Mavericks are not and will not be tanking.
“This is not a race-to-the-bottom year,” Cuban said. “So we get every chance to be as good as we can be. The team that has the worst record has a 75 percent chance that they won’t get the No. 1 pick. That’s not good odds. You’ll get a top-three pick … but there’s no good reason to tank unless you think that there’s three difference-makers. Not just All-Stars, but difference-makers. We’ll see what happens across the course of the season to see if anybody emerges like that, but I’m not panicking, not rushing to judgment, not pulling the plug — pick a euphemism.”
MFFLs seemed to be split right down the middle. One side (Team Tank) couldn’t believe Cuban was missing the mark so bad regarding the team’s future, and the other side (Team Playoffs) couldn’t believe that Team Tank existed and were appalled by the sound of the words.
This argument has been well documented on the Mavs Fanatic Podcast by Taimon Turner and myself all season.
Since that 2-13 start, the Mavericks are 25-23, 16-9 in their last 25 games, and Mark Cuban has actually come out and said the Mavericks are in fact tanking despite playing significantly better. See, what had happened was… The definition of the word changed. At the start of the season Tanking was simply, “trying to lose games” and now it means “emphasizing young players, letting them play, and accepting the result.”
Tonight the Mavericks take on the team that also just has to “accept the result” but in a totally different way. The Brooklyn Nets owe their first round pick to the Boston Celtics in a pick swap as a result of the infamous Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce deal that happened back in 2013. Both of those guys are long gone and the Nets have the worst record in the NBA by a staggering 8 games. The Nets record is actually 2 games better than the Mavs record back in November. So to imagine what this season would look like if the Team Tankers had gotten their way just check out what the Nets bench looks like during timeouts tonight… It’s not fun.
The Mavericks are coming off arguably the best moment in Mavericks history since winning the 2011 NBA Title and have their sights are set on the playoffs. Sitting only 1.5 games back from the 8th seed means that goal is in reach and in the Inverse Standings the Mavs are 7 games back from a Top 3 spot in the Lottery.
The Mavericks have made their choice. They’re going for it and despite their awful start, they’re somehow right on the cusp, right where they always are.
Gif Via: Neodaone on Mavs Reddit