On November 4th, when the Dallas Mavericks had played 4 games this season and gone 2-2, I wrote about how they would fare during the 2015-2016 campaign and where they would finish in the standings. The Celtics own the Mavs’ Top 7 protected pick, and it was (and still is) important enough that the Mavs start out the first few months of the season well enough that they won’t even consider tanking late in the season to finish in the bottom 7. The first step of that quest was for the Mavericks to win at least 3 and preferably 4 of their next 7 games before they faced the Celtics on the 18th, which of course is tonight.
Well, they won 5. The Mavs sit at 3rd in the Western Conference standings behind an impressive showing early in the season. As Celtics fans, we are rooting for Dallas to fare just well enough that they’re not horrible yet just bad enough to not make the playoffs or miss out by a few games; essentially, we want to avoid extremes. So am I worried that the Mavs might be too good to meet that criteria?
Nope. So far this year, the Mavericks have beaten the Suns, Lakers, Pelicans, Clippers, Lakers, the imploding Rockets, and the 76ers. With the exception of the Clippers, those are EXACTLY the kinds of teams that I want the Mavs to beat early in the season. Given that the Pelicans, Rockets, and even the Clips themselves have looked worse this year than I would have expected 2 weeks ago, it doesn’t worry me in the slightest that the Mavs have beaten these teams. If they were going into OKC and Houston on back to back nights and beating both teams handily, then I’d be worried. (Wait, did the Celtics just do that??? I had no idea!)
That the Mavs are 7-4 through 11 games puts them on pace for a 52 win season. Of course, I don’t want that to be their final outcome by any means, because that would give the Celtics something like the 24th pick. But if they can hover at about 3 to 5 games above .500 through the new year, that puts the Mavericks in their most dreaded spot, which is the best spot for the Celtics. They have a few injury prone players, and it’s reasonable to expect 37 year old Dirk to come down a little bit from how he’s playing now. The Western Conference will likely require teams to get about 44 wins to make the playoffs, so if the Mavs drop back to about 38 or so, that puts them right in line for about the 11th pick, maybe 10th. If they finish exactly .500, that should still net the 12th or 13th. I’d like it to be a little higher, but I could live with that, and it’s better than not getting the pick until next year when the Mavs can retool and probably gift the Celtics a pick in the 20s.
While it’s probably time to start rooting against the Mavs when they play good teams — starting tonight against the Celtics of course — it’s not a problem that the Mavs went 5-2 in their last 7. While I wanted them to win “at least 3 and preferably 4,” a total of 5 wins is definitely better than 2 wins and probably even better than 3. The Mavs are running pretty close to the exact course we need for the Celtics to get a pick in the 10-15 range this year, and that’s better than risking losing it at all.