So we all want to know what the Mavericks’ chances are to do some damage when the playoffs come around in a little more than two weeks.
More to the point: could they steal one in this crazy, disjointed and completely wide-open season? One series? One championship?
The so-called experts believe that the Mavericks are a year or two away from really being legitimate championship material.
Give Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson an offseason or two to surround Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis with some added firepower and anything’s possible.
But that doesn’t mean that they can’t accomplish something big in the next month or two. The early signs point to the usual reasons for optimism – scoring and chemistry.
And the three scrimmages also showed some consistent problem areas that are all too familiar – defense, physicality and rebounding.
It’s true that it’s dangerous to try to glean too much from the scrimmages. Preseason games are called exhibitions for a reason. They aren’t always showing true signs of what a team is. Still, the three scrimmages showed reasons for concern.
And while the Mavericks will start the eight seeding games with a match against perhaps the NBA’s smallest team – the Houston Rockets – the physical problems they had against Philadelphia, Indiana and the LA Lakers are bothersome to coach Rick Carlisle.
Although . . .
“It’s a challenge that I think is good for us at this point,” he said. “Because as we head into the eight seeding games, I believe all these games are going to be physical.”
They usually are the closer the league gets to the playoffs. And they will be here in no time. The Mavericks hope to move up from the No. 7 seed they own after the season was abruptly halted on March 11 because of the coronavirus.
The bottom line for the Mavericks is that most of their heavy lifters have no, or very limited, playoff experience. So nobody really knows how Doncic, Porzingis, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith are going to respond when the playoffs start and the whistles stop.
All of them have played in high-stakes games before. But the NBA playoffs is just a little different.
And so, the key for the Mavericks is to rise as far as they can in the eight seeding games. No. 7 is the equivalent to a death sentence in the first round. On paper, anyway.
Nobody wants to play the LA Clippers in the first round. Or the LA Lakers for that matter.
If you can climb to No. 6 or higher in the Western Conference, it gives you a legitimate chance to get out of the first round, which would turn this season into a major success story for the Mavericks.
Plus, getting two rounds of playoff experience for Doncic and Porzingis would be invaluable.
Of course, the other side of that argument is that if you’re going to eventually have to beat the Lakers or Clippers (or both) to get where you want to go, then why not tackle them in the first round and take your chances?
Both scenarios will be difficult, no matter what.
But before they get to the playoffs, the Mavericks have to go about the business of playing the eight games to finish the regular season.
The best course of action, of course, is to win as many of those games as possible and move up in the standings.
It starts with Houston, tied with Oklahoma City for the fifth and sixth spots in the West directly in front of the Mavericks.
Obviously, winning that opening game gives the Mavericks a much-improved chance to overtake the Rockets.
A loss means they would need to win three more games in the final seven games than the Rockets do.
Not impossible, but certainly the odds are stacked against it.
At the very least, the Mavericks probably have to win six of their eight seeding games to have a legit shot at passing Houston, OKC or Utah, which is a scant fraction ahead of the Rockets and Thunder.
So let the fun begin. The Mavericks are ready. It’s been far too long since March 11.