Mavs fans have a lot of gifts under their tree this Christmas.
First, there are two shiny new toys: Chandler Parsons and Rajon Rondo have already impacted this team for the better. Parsons had arguably the best stretch of any Maverick for the entire season toward the beginning of December, and Rondo is maybe the biggest midseason acquisition in club history. It might have taken a few games for Parsons to become completely comfortable within the offense, and Rondo is certainly still growing used to his teammates as well (batteries are never included with the best stuff, after all), but this Mavs team is ultimately better off with the pair than without. That much is clear. And, sooner than later, this team is going to be pretty special.
Then comes the return of some old reliable toys. Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea won a championship together in Dallas just a few seasons ago, and now both are back hopefully push the Mavericks up the mountain yet again. Chandler’s ferocious defense, relentless intensity, and touch around the rim have been on display all season, and he’s reminded us all how valuable an All-Star-level center can be, especially when paired next to his old pal Dirk Nowitzki. Barea, meanwhile, has performed well in his role as a dynamic playmaking point guard off the bench. He and once-and-still Mav Devin Harris have at times carried the second unit this season, and both players have won games for the club. The Mavs have prided themselves on having the best bench in the NBA for years, now, and Barea is a huge reason why.
After that come the stocking stuffers, the meat and potatoes of every great Christmas. Al-Farouq Aminu, Richard Jefferson, Greg Smith, Charlie Villanueva, and Harris are all arguably playing for less than they’re worth, a testament to each player’s desire to sacrifice individual gain for the chance at making noise in the playoffs. Each of those five players round out a Mavericks bench still trying to find its way after the Rondo trade, but they all have provided steady production throughout the season. Villanueva, especially, has come alive in recent games, finally receiving the playing time he’s no doubt earned in practice. He’s provided the Mavericks with much-needed shooting in a time when everyone else is getting the feel of the new offense.
The best teams aren’t only considered so because of who starts; they’re the best because they roll 13 deep. Throw Ricky Ledo, Raymond Felton, and Dwight Powell into the mix, two of whom still haven’t received playing time all season due to injury and recent acquisition, and you have one of the deepest benches in the entire NBA. The Mavericks can beat you in so many different ways, with so many different lineups, and at so many different points in the game, that Dallas is one of the most difficult teams to prepare for in the NBA.
Finally, of course, there are mainstays — the bicycles and skateboards, you could say. Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis are still pretty darn good, in case you’ve forgotten. Despite all the roster shakeups during the summer and even into the season, Dirk and Monta have remained, and they’ve stayed effective. Ellis has been one of the best players in the league this season, especially in terms of his performance in the clutch, and Nowitzki still spaces the floor and demands double-teams well into his 17th NBA season. It’s absurd to think that Nowitzki is still the player opponents gameplan for. Defenses are still scheming for a 36-year-old seven-foot German jump-shooter. It’s unheard of.
Don’t let the last two games jade your impression of this team. The Mavs have experienced more roster turnover from last season than just about every other team in the league and Dallas is still 20-10 and in 5th place in maybe the best conference in NBA history. And another thing: Dallas has more new players than anyone else and the Mavs have played more games this season than all but one club. There hasn’t been much time for these guys to get to know each other and they’re still the best offense in the league. It’s remarkable. It won’t take long for them to figure this thing out, and once that happens, our toys will make us the envy of the entire neighborhood.