- Rick Carlisle’s team is 21-10 on the road this season
- It’s safe to bet that the Mavericks will improve their 16-14 home record down the stretch
Why we’re backing the Mavs:
The Rockets are absolutely the most likely team to finish the season atop the Southwest Division standings. That doesn’t mean Russell Westbrook, James Harden and company deserve your support from a betting perspective. Instead, invest your hard-earned money on Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
At the end of action on Sunday, Dallas trailed Houston by three games in the standings. That’s a healthy lead with just 21 regular season games to play. That lead doesn’t justify the fact that the Rockets are -280 to win the division. That’s just not good value.
Betting on the Mavericks at +1200, in sharp contrast, represents excellent value. They are the only other team in the Southwest Division with a realistic chance of overtaking Houston. With all due respect to the upstart Memphis Grizzlies, they’ll be lucky to sneak into the playoffs. Dallas has a realistic shot of making noise once the postseason begins.
The fact that Mavericks officials believe their team has the talent to make a playoff run is important here. Dallas isn’t going to be satisfied with a first-round exit. They keenly understand that every chance they get to win an NBA title with Doncic on the roster is a chance they need to maximize.
One key in maximizing their chances of winning a playoff series (or more) in 2019 is to secure the best match-up possible. Lining up the right opponent in the postseason is almost impossible. That means Dallas should focus their attention on grabbing the highest seed possible. In a perfect world Dallas could even find a way to sneak into the No. 4 spot on the Western Conference standings. Doing so would give them home court advantage in Round One.
One other issue working in the Mavericks’ favor is the importance the Rockets have recently put on building their roster with an eye towards the postseason. Houston officials were clearly concerned that Clint Capela wouldn’t be a player who could really help them in the playoffs. That might be true, but he was certainly a big man that helped his team grind out wins in the regular season. Flipping him for Robert Covington likely helps improve the Rockets’ chances of winning high-profile playoff matchups, but it could easily cost them a win or two in the regular season.
The best reason to back Dallas to win the division is the sheer star power they possess at the top of their roster. If the Western Conference had their own MVP Award it would almost certainly go to Doncic. He’s blossomed into a top-notch scorer and creator in his second season in the NBA. The fact that he’s still just scratching the surface of maximizing his fitness should give Mavericks’ opponents nightmares.
The relatively recent emergence of Porzingis as a high-quality foil for Doncic does change the way you should look at the Mavs. He’s always been a tantalizing talent, but injuries have limited his development. Now that he’s sustained a long run of health for Dallas he’s starting to really put his game together.
Specifically, that gives Doncic a pick and roll partner who can give him the space he needs to operate. Porzingis isn’t the greatest rim runner of all time, but he comfortable shoots the ball well beyond the three-point arc. That puts a great deal of stress on opposing defenders who want to get the ball out of Doncic’s hands. Doubling him frequently gives Porzingis a wide-open look from three.
The last ace in the hole for the Mavericks is the presence of Carlisle on the sidelines. He isn’t a media darling, but he’s unquestionably one of the most effective coaches in the NBA. With all due respect to Mike D’Antoni, Carlisle is just a better tactician. That narrow advantage could be the difference between the Mavericks cashing in a big win as the Southwest Division champs or heading into the postseason as a No. 7 seed. The likely might be the more likely outcome, but the chances of the former are better than the oddsmakers think.