Watching the Mavericks gets confusing.  Sometimes, when I watch them, they look like the greatest team in the history of great teams.  They roll out a starting lineup of 4 guys who are regularly in the All-Star game (Dirk, Kidd, Butler, and Marion).  They have Jason Terry, who consistently competes for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.  And more.  They have this little sparkplug dude who sometimes checks in and just sets the arena on fire (Barea).  They have some rookie from France who is capable of dropping 40 on a given night (Beaubois).   I haven’t even mentioned Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson, and Eduardo Najera, each of whom has played significant minutes for competitive teams in the NBA.  When I watch the Mavs and they are clicking, I feel kind of like I’m watching the Globetrotters: part of me is amazed at what they can do, and part of me remembers that they are not as good as they seem.

Given how good they can be, their inability to win begs the question: Why aren’t they better in the playoffs?  The easy answer is to say that they are “inconsistent,” or that they aren’t built for the playoffs, but neither of those is really an answer — those are just things people say about any team that underachieves.  Here at, we dig deeper.

I think the reason the Mavs aren’t better in the playoffs is that having the best 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th man (or even all of the above) is not the way to win in the playoffs.  The teams that win in the playoffs have guys who marry girls who look like Eva Longoria  are the teams with the best “top 3.”  Check it out:

Bryant / Gasol / Bynum are better than Durant / Westbrook / Green.  The Lakers are up.

Nash / Amar’e / Richardson are better than Roy (especially when he’s injured) / Aldridge / Miller.  The Suns are up.

LeBron / Jamison / Williams are better than Rose / Deng / Noah.  The Cavs won.

Rondo / Allen / Pierce are better than Wade and whoever the other two best guys on the Heat are.  The Celts won.

Howard / Carter / Lewis are better than Wallace / Jackson / Felton.  The Magic won.

The only clear exception is the Hawks / Bucks series, because Johnson / Horford / Smith are better than the Bucks’ best 3 guys.  But the reason the Bucks are beating the Hawks is… um… actually, I have no friggin’ idea how the Bucks are beating the Hawks.  Whatever the reason, I don’t think it disproves the hoopservation that depth doesn’t matter all that much once the playoffs roll around.  A team is only going as far as its top 3 guys can take it.

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