The Dallas Mavericks have been the picture of consistency over a 16-year period. While the San Antonio Spurs garnered the great majority of accolades for a similar (and, admittedly, better) profile, Dirk Nowitzki and company reeled off 16 consecutive seasons with a winning record, including 12 different 50-win campaigns and a memorable NBA Championship run in 2011. Frankly, the Mavericks have been a model franchise under Mark Cuban’s direction and it certainly helps to have Nowitzki and, more recently, one of the best coaches in the NBA in Rick Carlisle.
That, however, brings us to 2016-2017. There is real trouble in Dallas. The Mavericks currently own the worst record in the NBA (2-11) in late November, and while Nowitzki has been on the shelf for 10 of those decisions, Dallas is digging a hole that they cannot be expected to emerge from this season. There have been positives, most notably the strong start from free agent acquisition Harrison Barnes, but not even the day-to-day brilliance of Carlisle can save this roster from a ghastly offense that ranks at the bottom of the league in scoring 95.7 points per 100 possessions.
Will the Mavericks be better, especially on offense, when Dirk returns? Absolutely. Still, “banking” 11 losses before Thanksgiving is not optimal for any NBA franchise, and given their limited roster resources, the run of exceeding competence seems to be coming to an end with the 2016-2017 campaign. The common sentiment when projecting the Mavs this season revolved around “never underestimate Dirk and Carlisle” and it was easy to fall into that trap. However, Dallas just isn’t very good right now, and that is a weird reality.
Now, on to this week’s NBA power rankings, featuring a repeat performance at the top from a team other than the Warriors and Cavaliers.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (13-2, Last week — 1st)
After being crowned one week ago, the Clippers promptly dropped a home game to Memphis, making this lofty perch seem silly. Since then, Los Angeles has reestablished the dominance that provides them with the league’s best net rating, and there is zero shame in taking care of business with relative obscurity. Diehards have already noticed just how well the Clippers are playing, and everyone else is beginning to come along.
2. Golden State Warriors (12-2, Last week — 3rd)
Eight consecutive wins and, perhaps more impressively, a four-game sweep on a recent road trip is enough to catapult the Warriors to this position. It probably won’t be the last time that the Cavs and Warriors flip-flop in this space, but Golden State is looking a lot more like the entity we all expected with an offense that is thoroughly unguardable. Defense is, well, a problem but the firepower is what it is and talent wins more often than not.