DALLAS – There isn’t a trace of doubt in Dirk Nowitzki’s voice when he compares the current Dallas Mavericks to the squad that went to the 2006 Finals.
“This is the deepest team I’ve been on in my career,” Dirk said.
That’s difficult to debate after a quick glance at the ’05-06 Mavs roster. DeShawn Stevenson, the 10th man this season, is essentially a heavily tattooed version of Finals starter Adrian Griffin. Any question that Brendan Haywood is better than Gana Diop as Erick Dampier’s 7-foot paint-patrolling partner? Jason Terry, who gets paid to be a sixth man gunner these days, started at point guard back then. You want Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Marquis Daniels or Shawn Marion, Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois? Backup point guard (Devin Harris over J.J. Barea) is the only spot on paper that clearly favors the ’06 Western Conference champs over these Mavs.
“The problem is that the West is tougher,” Dirk said. “All eight teams in the West are teams that won 50 games. That says a lot about the West. Anybody can beat anybody. There wouldn’t be any upsets. That’s how deep the West is.”
In ’06, there were only three 50-win teams in the West. Once the Mavs made it past San Antonio, they were clearly the class of the conference.
Four years later, the Mavs believe they’ve got a better team, but the path through the playoffs will be much rougher.