So it’s been a few days since the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat 105-95 on Sunday evening to clinch the franchise’s first ever NBA Championship.
If you are the Dallas Mavericks you’ve had plenty of time to celebrate.
If you are Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, you’ve proven that you really know how to party, as his $110,000 post game celebration tab indicates.
And if you are Dallas guard Deshawn Stevenson, perhaps you’ve done a little too much partying.
But the reality for every other team in the NBA is this: You are not the Dallas Mavericks. You didn’t win a championship and for teams like the Heat, the Boston Celtics, the L.A. Lakers or even the Orlando Magic, it means you fell short of your goal.
So what can a team like the Magic learn from the Dallas Mavericks’ success this postseason? Surprisingly enough, there are a lot of similarities between both teams, although there are also some fundamental differences as well…which is why one team won a title and another was bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s start with similarities between the Magic and Mavericks:
1.) One-Star Squads– Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard are the lone super stars on their respective teams, unlike teams such as Miami (two superstars, one all-star) or Boston (four all-stars). The Mavericks proved that it doesn’t take multiple all-stars to win a championship.
2.) Live By The 3– Orlando led the NBA with25.7 three-point attempts per game in the regular season. Dallas wasn’t far behind with 21.6 trey attempts, which was the fifth highest average in the NBA. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said it worked for the Mavericks and it should work for his team.
3.) Big Men Anchor the Defense– Each team’s defense is predicated on having big, Effective shot-blockers in the paint to dissuade too much dribble-drive penetration. Orlando obviously has the league’s best in Howard, but Tyson Chandler is not stiff and his presence was huge for the Mavericks against the Heat.
Now for the blatant differences between the Magic and the Mavericks:
1.) Perimeter Defenders– Dallas forward Shawn Marion and guards Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson were series changers in the Finals, both with their defensive ability, length and intensity. Orlando’s best perimeter defender might be J.J. Redick because of his sheer effort…enough said.
2.) Dribble-Drive Scoring and Good Ball Movement– J.J. Barea’s energy was huge for Dallas but his biggest contribution was his ability to get into the paint and break down Miami’s defense. He did the same thing to the Lakers. Other guys like Jason Terry—who did his fair share of damage from behind the arc—also has the ability to use his quickness, get past defenders and score. Orlando has Jameer Nelson and that’s about it. At least he’s the only perimeter player willing to attack the hoop at a somewhat consistent basis. Also, Dallas’ point guards are great distributors. Sorry Jameer but that’s not your forte.
3. General Toughness– Marion and Stevenson did not back down from the challenge of guarding some of the NBA’s elite slashers like Dwayne Wade or LeBron James. Count in the mental toughness of a guy like Nowitzki and the desire of Jason Terry and you had a team destined to win as it turned out. Orlando has very few players who will get in their opponent’s face and the mental toughness of last year’s Magic squad left a lot to be desired. Heck even Brian Cardinal was willing to get dirty and take charges. Ryan Anderson is about the only Magic player who regularly does that and Quentin Richardson will get in someone’s grill, but his athleticism is suspect.
What you can take away from the similarities and differences between Orlando and Dallas?
Well, the Magic have a lot of the right ingredients. They have an effective scorer in Dwight Howard, who is also a centerpiece on defense, and good three-point shooters around him.
But what Orlando did wrong and was often criticized for this season is what Dallas did right when it mattered. The Magic lack great athleticism on the wing, something Dallas had enough of. The Mavericks didn’t even need high-flyers; they simply had willing defenders with enough length and quickness to complement their superstar.
And the Mavericks were able to move the ball and get shots in rhythm, which wasn’t necessarily the case for the Magic in the postseason.
Not all of Orlando’s problems can be solved this offseason but adding athletic wing players who can defend and bring toughness would help out tremendously.
It worked for the Mavericks after all.