Celtics fans have been busy checking the Nets box score after every Brooklyn game this season, but it’s also important to keep an eye on each game the Dallas Mavericks play. The Celtics own the Mavs’ 1st rounder this year as well, and while the Nets are unfortunately trending upwards in the standings, the Mavs are not.
The Mavs overachieved to start the season, and they’ve banked enough wins to sit at 29-26 heading into their first game after the All Star break. Despite that mark, they are tied for 14th in the league with a dead even net rating. They played better earlier in the season, which means that number has been trending down, and they needed a lot of luck such as Deron Williams’ miraculous 3 pointer to win a game against Sacramento that caused me to write this column about how aggressively the Celtics should go after Boogie Cousins. .
The best case that Celtics fans can hope for is that the Mavericks barely miss the playoffs, which is unlikely but in play, thanks to the fact that Daryl Morey couldn’t find a taker for Dwight Howard. The Marc Gasol-less Grizzlies, Mavericks, Jazz, Trail Blazers, and Rockets all sit within 5 games of each other, and they’re playing a game of musical chairs to determine who will be the one left out. My money is on the Grizzlies because Marc Gasol is just that good and they traded Courtney Lee. The Mavs are just 2 games above the 9th place Jazz, and if they do fall out of the mix, it’ll be a sizable difference between the pick they’d get if they finished even in 8th seed. The Eastern Conference is surprisingly better than the West when it comes to the bottom 4 teams in each conference, and if the Mavs are the 9th seed in the West, then there will probably be 1 or 2 East teams who miss the playoffs that have a better record than the Mavs. That means that Dallas could get the 13th or even 12th pick just by missing the playoffs, while they would be guaranteed no better than the 15th pick if they got the 8 seed. If they fare better than that, they could get the 18-20 pick. Big difference between 12 and 20.
While the Brooklyn pick is by far more important, the Dallas pick’s fate may actually hinge on each game more than the Brooklyn one. The Nets are likely going to wind up with the 4th best chances at the #1 pick, which I dissected in my column that I linked to in the first paragraph, because the pathetic Suns are tanking. An extra loss for the Nets probably won’t change their fate, but an extra loss for the Mavs will almost surely wind up making a difference in what pick it is.
Essentially, make sure you check the box scores of each Mavericks game, just like you’ve been checking the box scores of the Nets games all season. The latter is more important, but the former is more volatile.