Feb 24, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton (2) defends Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Dallas Mavericks won 110-108. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The world champion San Antonio Spurs remain the top team in the NBA but it seems they have a rising challenger. Why is it the Dallas Mavericks?
Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler
More than any other team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks improved the most. Primarily it centers around two acquisitions. The first is a trade that reacquired Tyson Chandler. Losing the veteran center to New York was one of the most difficult blows Dallas suffered three years ago. By getting him back in the middle they add one of the best defensive big men in the NBA and also a guy who can put up almost a double double every night at 8.7 points and 9.6 rebounds.
The second and even more stunning signing was 25-year old forward Chandler Parsons. Considered a key part of the western rival Houston Rockets, Parsons was expected to be retained as a restricted free agent. Instead the Rockets chose to let him walk on a three-year, $45 million deal to Dallas. In him the Mavericks get a consummate offensive presence who averaged 16 points per game in 2013-2014 and is also a three-point threat.
Dirk Nowitzki is back
Those two additions were meant to help out returning star Dirk Nowitzki, who signed a new deal of his own to stay in Dallas. The contract was apparently cheap by comparisons to others Nowitzki could’ve gotten, signaling he took a pay cut to help the team get better talent around him. It appears they’ve succeeded in that goal provided Nowitzki keeps playing like he did last season, averaging 21.7 points per game.
Recent NBA history
More than anything the San Antonio Spurs have to stay wary of with Dallas is recent NBA events. No team gave the eventual champs a bigger scare in the playoffs than the Mavericks in the wild card round, where the two teams battled in a seven-game epic that almost saw San Antonio’s revenge campaign on Miami end before it even began. Considering Dallas might be even better now than it was in that series is important to note.
The other history to remember is that the San Antonio Spurs, for all the glory they received for knocking off the Heat in the Finals, were not the first team to do that. The Mavericks were back in 2011. They’ve had a taste of championship success and can still remember what it took to get there.