In this series of posts Swarm and Sting looks to dissect upcoming matchups that the New Orleans Hornets could face. In it we look to assess the positional analysis, previous history and other outlying factors. The second of these is the Dallas Mavericks.
As teams fight along the Western Conference standings for playoff positioning, the Dallas Mavericks have positioned themselves nicely for a championship run. Many figure that the Mavericks will exit the playoffs like they always do and continue to enforce their “choker” label that was bestowed unto them after the humiliating defeat to the Golden State Warriors all those years ago.
However it seems that these Mavericks might have what it takes to finally win the big title. The important thing is that they are currently above the Lakers in the seeding, giving themselves home-court advantage in any potential series. They’ve also added a nice group of veterans that also is balanced by the talented youth on the bench. While some see their success as short term, that’s really all they were ever built for. The harsh reality of the NBA is that big-city teams can rebuild quicker than smaller-ones, so owners like Cuban strongly pursue over-priced, ageing veterans for their teams playoff run.
It seems that out of all the Western Conference teams under the radar, it’s Dallas who has the chance to upset the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers come playoff time.
Chris Paul vs. Jason Kidd
In the 2008 playoffs many commentators said that Jason Kidd was too experienced for Chris Paul and that he’d dominate him. Turns out the complete opposite was true as CP3 had the series of his life. He got any shot he wanted any time he wanted, he drew 3 defenders to him giving Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler easy points. 3 Years later and the same cannot be said to Chris Paul’s dominance over Jason Kidd. Sure, he should beat him, but recent form shows that Paul is out of shape and just not up to the task of beating people he should. He doesn’t possess the explosiveness that once made him the best point guard in the league. CP would still win this matchup, but not by as much as many would like.
Winner: Chris Paul
Willie Green vs. Rodrigue Beaubois
Roddy slays Willie Green in an epic battle where Green lays bricks and Beaubois lays layers of awesome.
Winner: Rodrigue Beaubois by a mile
Trevor Ariza vs. Peja Stojakovic
On paper Trevor Ariza should absolutely own Peja Stojakovic, on both sides of the floor. Ariza is an above average defender and should shut down Stojakovic’s shot, he should also be able to take him off the dribble with his athleticism. The depressing thing is though that it won’t happen as clear cut as that. While Peja is an atrocious defender he has great defenders around him (ala New Orleans 2008). If Ariza beats Peja he goes into the waiting arms of one Tyson Chandler. Still I do like T.A. to win this match-up.
Winner: Trevor Ariza
Wouldn’t we all love this to happen again. These two guys don’t really like each other and the face tap of death will be brought out again. The thing about these two guys is they always bring out their A-Games against each other. Both would get there own so this matchup is relatively even.
That being said previous history has dictated that when these two guys meet up Dirk usually produces on offense. It’s strange considering that Nowitzki isn’t entirely athletic, but his length gives many problems to West who just cannot get his usual excellent mid-range going. When he drives in on him Dirk can contain him with that length. It’s a problematic match-up but one that David can overcome.
Meanwhile Dirk usually is guarded by either West, Okafor or a combination of the two. The ridiculous thing is that when he’s hitting his jumper he’s pretty much unstoppable. It’s rare you can say that about any player in the league, but Dirk is one of the few. The thing that David and the rest of the Hornets will have to do in order to limit him is prevent him from catching the ball in the post, immediately double of the pass or try and just limit all of his other options. Previously we had Tyson Chandler’s length to help limit him. Now, we have very little in the way of long defensive big-men to stop him.
Emeka Okafor vs. Tyson Chandler
Oh lord what a story this would be. The playoffs, against Tyson Chandler. It seems that Chandler is back into top form with the Mavericks working on his free-throws and his offensive game in general. He still is a defensive stalwart which only adds to his value. The Hornets though haven’t missed him as much as you’d think. Emeka Okafor is playing some of his best basketball this season but again so is Tyson Chandler.
Again, like the Spurs, New Orleans has been flat-out terrible against the Dallas Mavericks over the years. In all the Hornets have won 20 games against the Mavericks to 38 losses. It must be stated however, that the Hornets have done a better job against Dallas in recent years. So far this year they have split the season series and have done an acceptable job of staying competitive in losses. In terms of player personal the Hornets went through a massive restructuring process after the 2009 playoffs. They have all new personnel so any matchup would be brand new. I wouldn’t really take into consideration the previous playoff series between these two ball-clubs, that was a long time ago.
If you glance at the Mavericks you’ll find they are stacked across the board. Mark Cuban has done a good job of bringing in multiple talents that make it easier for his coach to matchup with other teams. Need shooting? Well there’s Peja Stojakovic. Defense? Shawn Marion. Scoring panache? Jason Terry. So many answers to so many questions. The problem for Dallas has always been team chemistry, while I think that the starters will be able to mesh, the bench may be another question. There’s talent no doubt, but clicking yet? Well…perhaps yes.
The Hornets bench meanwhile has been a constant work in progress. If Dallas is to be criticized for “chemistry” then New Orleans ought to be dissected like a science lab frog. A series of mid-season trades have resulted in a decent looking bench…on paper. Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Willie Green and others bring a level of talent that has been lacking for the Hornets in a long time. Again, there is a talent infusion going on and you’d like to hope they’d all bring it like they have in games like the recent Memphis one.
Winner: Dallas Bench
X-Factor: Long-Range Shooting
The Dallas Mavericks have the make up of an old, veteran team that knows what it takes to win. In reality what this means is they are a disciplined, predominantly jump-shooting team. Take for example the two losses the Hornets had against the Mavericks this year, both times New Orleans outscored their opponents in the paint. It was outside shooting that did the trick for Dallas giving them the victory.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, far from it. These guys are a superior jump-shooting squad. It’s not to say they can’t take it to the basket, but most of their offensive sets set up for jumpers. If you glance at their roster most, if not all have the capability to hit the long-range jumpshot (bar Tyson Chandler and Corey Brewer).
This is why this is the X-Factor for both sides. Earlier in the year New Orleans was a terrific 3-point defensive team. Now? Not so much. If the Hornets are to keep up with the Mavericks they have to contain the jump-shooters and Dirk Nowitzki. It’s tough, but it has to be done.
There’s another aspect to this “X-Factor,” that is the Hornets jump-shooting. New Orleans is a very average three point shooting team. They attempt 15 a game (ranked 25th in the league) and hit 5 of those, a decent clip, yet still average (15th in the league). What concerns me most is the highs and lows this team gets in. Sure when we’re hot, we’re blazing, when we’re cold we’re dry-ice. It’s this inconsistency that’ll kill New Orleans in the playoffs.
It’s highly likely that this will be New Orleans’ first round matchup come late April. The Hornets currently sit in the 6th position but aren’t far out of the 7th position (half a game to be exact). Dallas meanwhile appear to be on a roll winning 8 in a row. There is still a bit more left of the season but you’d figure that the Mavericks will lock up that 2-seed. New Orleans is in a tricky situation. They’ve been playing atrociously and are on the brink of missing the playoffs entirely (2 and a half games out of the 9th seed).
If this was to be the first round matchup it’s hard to envision New Orleans winning this one if we rolled the dice 10-times. I am confident that the Hornets matchup well with the Mavericks. Of all the playoff teams I think we’d give them a red-hot run. I still think though that Dallas is sitting on a winner this year, while New Orleans continues to search for any level of consistency. Come playoff time toughness, consistency and outstanding individual plays win you series, I think Dallas possesses 3 out of three, while New Orleans has 1 or 2 out of the three.
Dallas your winner in 6.