By some metrics it’s easy to conclude that the Dallas Mavericks were the second best team in the NBA last season. In the finals, a very confident San Antonio Spurs basically rolled the Miami Heat like a thief rolls a drunk at a bus station. LeBron James and company–the defending champs–managed just a single win in a five game Spurs storm that left little doubt about San Antonio’s well-rounded dominance. And the Spurs made fairly easy work of their semifinals opponent too, dispatching league MVP Kevin Durant and the vaunted OKC Thunder 4-2. But you know who gave the Spurs all they could handle? First round opponent and Texas nemesis the Dallas Mavericks–that’s who. The Spurs needed all seven games of the Mavs series to get by Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and friends. Which pretty much means that in 2014, the NBA team that was closest to the champion Spurs was the Dallas Mavericks.
And the Mavericks have gotten a lot better this summer. Jameer Nelson, the Orlando Magic standout guard, has just signed with the team. This adds yet another smart piece to a puzzle that now includes top forward Chandler Parsons and a returning Tyson Chandler–who played center for Dallas when the Mavs won it all in 2011. The Mavs pieces should combine to make a smart, big, athletic system with plenty of guys, like Nelson, who can knock down shots and take care of the ball.