Despite just officially joining the league in 1980, the Dallas Mavericks have already left a huge imprint in the entire NBA.
The current crop is indeed a promising one, as the European combination of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis appears destined to bring the Mavs back to contention for years to come.
Despite being in the same stable as the murderer’s row of talent in the Western Conference, the upstart team managed to record a respectable 40-27 slate (7th in the West) prior to the suspension of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doncic is indeed the Mavs present and future, but there’s no denying there have been plenty of amazing Dallas players and teams that paved the way for him in the past.
Before we usher in the Doncic era, let’s have a look at three of the Mavericks’ best teams of All time.
Obviously, fans remember the Mavs primarily due to Dirk Nowitzki, but they actually had a pretty decent run prior to his legendary stint in Dallas.
During its inception, the Mavs were simply viewed as the third team in Texas overshadowed by its more popular siblings the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.
That all changed in the mid-’80s when the Mavs actually assembled a rather formidable unit that managed to surprise a lot of teams.
Prior to getting his hardware with the Detroit Pistons, people often forget that Mark Aquirre started his career in the Lone Star State. The 6-foot-6 swingman was a three-time All-Star under the Mavs banner and was one of the most lethal scorers in the league during his eight-year stay in Dallas.
Aquirre averaged 25.1 points per game in the 1987-1988 campaign and led the Mavs to a 53-29 record in the regular season (third in the West).
That Mavs team just so happened to also have Rolando Blackman (22), Derek Harper (12), and Brad Davis (15) — whose jerseys all ended up high up the rafters of the American Airlines Center. Their center James Donaldson also made his only career All-Star appearance that year, while their reserve Roy Tapley went on to win the Sixth Man of the Year plum.
The team dispatched strong contenders Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets in the first two rounds, before pushing the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers to a thrilling seven games in the Conference Finals.
It is also worth noting this Mavs team also had upcoming players Sam Perkins and Detlef Schrempf at the time, who went on to become serviceable stretch fours.
Dallas had to endure years of mediocrity after they blew up that ‘80s team. Their franchise savior came in 1998 when they traded for Dirk Nowitzki from the Milwaukee Bucks in the draft that year. After struggling early, Nowitzki blossomed into an All-Star in his third-year and led the Mavs back to the postseason.
They became perennial contenders in the ensuing years but perhaps reached their peak in the 2002-03 season. For the first time in quite a long time, Dallas formed it’s own Big 3 — as playmaking savant Steve Nash and scoring dynamo Michael Finley perfectly complimented the 7-foot German’s game.
That team also had a solid group of role players, including Shawn Bradley, Adrian Griffin, Raef LaFrentz, Raja Bell, Eduardo Najera, Nick van Exel, and Avery Johnson, among others.
Dallas won 60 regular-season games that year. They managed to escape a two hard-fought series against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Sacramento Kings in the first two rounds — which both stretched to seven games.
However, they could not keep up with eventual champs San Antonio Spurs in the conference finale and succumbed in six games.
2010-11 championship team
It’s only fitting to name the 2010-11 Mavs squad as the best in franchise history considering they delivered the team’s first and only NBA title.
The Mavs 2005-06 squad, which also made the Finals, wasn’t too bad either since they had Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Devin Harris, and Marquis Daniels.
However, this championship unit under Rick Carlisle was truly special, as they managed to learn from their mistakes from that stinging 2006 Finals loss and get their revenge on the Miami Heat five years later.
Nowitzki and Terry, who were the only remnants from that ’06 team, once again led the charge for Dallas in the regular season. Dallas took on a more defensive approach that year, starting with the acquisition of Tyson Chandler to shore up the middle. DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Brewer also gave the team additional defensive grit and shooting at the wing position.
Despite their stellar performance in the regular season (57-25 record, 3rd in the West), Dallas did not stand out as much was still not considered as a legitimate contender. Nowitzki missed some games in the middle of the season due to injury, while guys like Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Peja Stojakovic were deemed well past their primes at that point.
Caron Butler was expected to give them a major boost but was ruled out for most of the year after suffering a ruptured patella tendon.
Dallas’ road to the title was quite impressive, as they turned back the Brandon Roy-led Portland Trail Blazers in six games in the first round. They swept Kobe Bryant and the defending back-to-back champions Los Angeles Lakers in round two, and set up a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in the Conference Finals.
The Mavs won the last three games with fourth-quarter comebacks to secure a Finals rematch with the Heat. Dallas pulled off the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history in Game Two and used that momentum to win three of the next four games to claim the Larry O’ Brien trophy.