I think if you surveyed NBA GM’s, scouts, players, and coaches, 9 out of 10 people would say that the Trail Blazers are the most underrated team in the League. Combine that with the 24/7 Greg Oden watch, and this team can’t really be called ‘underrated’ anymore. They’re the sexy sleeper pick, penciled anywhere from a four-seed down to a number eight.
While analysts clamor for Brandon Roy to make the All-Star game and for Oden to earn ROY honors, everyone is actually sleeping on a legitimately good Dallas Mavericks team. They’re being maligned as too old and too slow to contend in the 50-win minimum Western Conference. Add in the firestorm of negative press at Josh Howard and Jason Kidd‘s mediocre performance in Beijing, and it’s clear that the Mavs have as much incentive to prove their doubters wrong as any team in the League. Nothing will quiet the critics like success right off the bat.
I’m not just saying this because Dirk was my first pick (fifth overall) in my fantasy draft. (Please, Fantasy Doctor I need help!) Sure it’s true that Erick Dampier has the knees of a 60-year old man. Sure Jerry Stackhouse just turned 34. But those guys have been playing like they’re in their mid-30’s for a couple of seasons now.
On the other hand, Brandon Bass has officially arrived. He provides a tenacious rebounding force on the block. If he looks anything like he did in the preseason, this guy will be in the Most Improved Player conversation (heard it here first!). And though I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Gerald Green, he’s been playing like there’s no tomorrow. That’s because if he doesn’t prove himself now, there might not be one. A lineup of Kidd (35), Terry (31), Howard (28), Bass (23) and Dirk (30) is young enough, and plenty athletic.
We know that this team doesn’t have a great history of success when everyone is projecting them to win. The current perception of Big D will fuel the Mavs’ fire.