Where do the Mavs rank in the West?
According to our main man Sekou Smith of NBA.com, the Mavericks are good enough to sit fourth behind the back-to-back champion Lakers, the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder and the West's runner-ups, the Phoenix Suns, in his rankings of the best teams in the conference.
So, while LeBron James and The Decision to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on South Beach has stolen all the headlines -- along with Carlos Boozer's exodus to Chicago and Amar'e Stoudemire's New York state of mind -- and has made the East stronger, the fact remains that the powers out West still decide who will lift the Larry O'Brien trophy above their heads.
"With the group of guys that they brought in last year, in addition to the guys that were already here, I think it's a great combination," newly acquired center Tyson Chandler said of Dallas' core. "I think we all got the same goal in mind. We all want a championship here."
Though the Feb. 13 trade that brought in Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson was not enough to get the Mavericks over the hump last season, the re-inkings of Dirk Nowitzki and Haywood, a more experienced Roddy Beaubois, an athletic big man in Chandler and a relentless penetrator like first-round acquisition Dominique Jones could be just what the doctor ordered to help the team from Big D compete in an ever-changing playoff picture.
Sixth man Jason Terry foreshadowed the Mavs' summer moves as he headed into the offseason by saying, "We definitely have to get a big man that can run and that can score in the paint. That's key. And then you've probably got to get another big guard, a shooter that can knock down shots."
Terry should be happy with the additions of Chandler, a big man that can run and finish above the rim, and Jones, who was named to the Summer League's All-Tournament team after averaging close to 18 points in the Mavericks' five games in Las Vegas. The Mavs have also gotten younger and more athletic, helping in their matchups against some of the more youthful foes in the conference.
But the Lakers have gotten deeper, adding veterans like Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, while also re-signing Derek Fisher to play next to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
The Thunder, who took the Lakers to six grueling games in their first-round series and were already stacked with budding talent ranging from the league's youngest scoring champion ever in Kevin Durant, 21, to the super athletic Russell Westbrook, has added legit 7-foot rookie Cole Aldrich in a draft deal. Oklahoma City also brought in veterans Royal Ivey and Daequan Cook to supply depth to a talented bench.
The Suns also did not stand pat after the loss of Stoudemire, dealing for the versatility of Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress. Plus, Goran Dragic's coming out party in last year's playoffs prove Phoenix is much more than two-time MVP Steve Nash.
Oh, and don't discount Utah's move to get Al Jefferson in Boozer's stead. All that and we haven't begun to talk about San Antonio, Denver, Portland, Houston and the L.A. Clippers. All of which figure to be in the playoff mix next season as well.
That being said, the Dallas front office led by owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations/ GM Donnie Nelson has put the team in a position to compete following last season's first-round exit at the hands of San Antonio. Now, Nowitzki says the onus is on the players.
"Every time you lose in the first round, you look to get better, you look to make acquisitions," Nowitzki said. "I'm sure Mark and Donnie always look at what's best for this team and how they can always improve the situation here. And obviously, the players that are here have to get better, work on their stuff and come back a better player and a better person next year."
For all of your coverage of the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, visit Mavs.com. Follow Earl K. Sneed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/EKS_MavsNBA.
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