As we are eyeballing the basketball hibernation period, good news came as the Mavs’ 2013-2014 schedule was announced on Tuesday evening. If you still haven’t seen it, you can check it out here.
Fans of the Mavs are starving for basketball as last season broke a streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances (2001-2012) for the team. The streak was the longest in franchise history and the second-longest in the NBA (San Antonio made its 16th straight trip to the postseason last season). The Denver Nuggets, who made their 10th consecutive postseason appearance in 2013 (2004-2013), now own the second-longest active playoff streak.
One of my favorite things to do is read the schedule and analyze it. An even better thing to do is get a smarter person’s analysis of the schedule. Enter: Television play-by-play voice of the Mavs Mark Followill.
When it comes to preparation and analysis, it’s hard to find many better than Followill.
With that in mind, enjoy his thoughts and insight when it comes to breaking down the new schedule.
Cue the Intelligent Mark Followill!
I’ll be the first to admit, broadcasters seem to obsess over the schedule release. We love knowing where we are going and when and, of course, we enjoy analyzing the good and bad pockets of our team’s upcoming schedule. Without further adieu, here are some thoughts on what’s in store for the Mavs this year.
Everyone seems to be zeroing in on the challenging early part of the schedule. Last season, the Mavs hoped they could navigate the time with Dirk out because they had the easiest schedule in the league up to Thanksgiving based on opponent winning percentage from the previous season. We all know how that turned out.
This year, the Mavs have a bear of an early schedule, (.537 opp win pct in 2012-13 for the first 17 opponents). However, some of them are questionable as to whether or not they can match their performance of last season. Denver and Memphis have lost experienced head coaches, Dwight Howard left the Lakers in free agency and who knows about Kobe Bryant’s status and Utah will likely be in store for a major drop-off. That accounts for five of those 17 games which may not be as difficult. Of course, they play Houston twice in that time frame and they should be better. With that in mind, who knows how it will even out.
That portion of the schedule is also extremely packed. The Mavs play 16 back-to-backs over the course of the season. That’s not a high number, but seven of those are in the first five weeks of the season. That could be pretty tough to manage, but I do feel the Mavs have some quality depth that might be able to help them through that time. Players like Devin Harris (if healthy), Wayne Ellington, Jae Crowder, and DeJuan Blair can provide some energy from the bench on those second nights. It would be ideal if that additional depth can help the starters.
Speaking of back-to-backs, the Mavs took advantage of playing a lot of home games against teams on the second night of back-to-back last season. Dallas posted a 12-4 record in those situations. This season, the Mavs will play 14 games against teams coming to town on the second night of a back-to-back.
Remember, every team plays four Western Conference teams only three times. For the Mavs, it’s Oklahoma City, Phoenix, the Lakers and Portland. The good news: the Mavs only play one at Portland, which as we know is a problematic place for them. The Thunder only make one appearance in Dallas, but one fewer game against them can’t hurt.
The layout of home games is very peculiar to me. Even though the Mavs have that well-chronicled challenging stretch to start the year, it should be noted 11 of the first 19 games are at home. Dallas also has a franchise record eight-game homestand from mid-March to early April. The Mavs play 21 of their home games in the first five weeks or the final four weeks of the season. That leaves a long time in the middle (from early-December to mid-March) where the Mavs play only 20 of 48 games at home.
Outside of the eight-game homestand, the Mavs only have one other stretch of more than three straight at American Airlines Center. They play four straight against Detroit, Sacramento, Houston and Cleveland in late January and early February.
I’ve got to hand it to our boy Bryan Gutierrez who discovered one of the more obscure things I have ever seen in schedule analysis. He retweeted Ed Kupfer, who I know nothing about, but I really liked some of the esoteric basketball stats on his timeline. Anyway, he has travel miles for the upcoming season by team and that Mavs check in a little under 40,000 for the year.
That might sound like a lot, but that is the fewest in the West. That is around 10-thousand miles less than teams some other West teams like Minnesota, Portland, Golden State and the LA Lakers. I guess the central location helps, along with five teams that are 45-75 minute flights, and the road trips must make some geographic sense too rather than hop-scotching all around the country. There is no real way to quantify whether or not that might help, but it certainly can’t hurt. Just looking at the schedule, it doesn’t in my opinion set up as favorably as I would have hoped for Dallas so at this point any small advantage could prove to be valuable.
Of course, this is all just how it looks on paper. How it plays out in reality will start to reveal itself in 12 weeks. Under very difficult circumstances last year, the Mavs still managed to finish 41-41. Remember, they were the first Western Conference team since the Trailblazers in 1981 to be 10 games below .500 in a season and recover to finish at least .500. It looks to me like the Mavs have upgraded their talent at point guard, shooting guard and center and we are obviously all expecting a much, much better (and healthier) Dirk Nowitzki. I’m very excited and optimistic to see how it all takes shape.
Thanks to Mark Followill for the contribution and solid insight! You can follow Mark Followill on Twitter (and you definitely should) @MFollowill.