A week into the seeding games down in Disney, the quality of play has been very high. Almost all of the 22 teams are competitive on a nightly basis and have brought the drama to most contests. Such high-caliber hoops only shows up when the stakes are high and there's something worth playing for. The NBA gets credit for properly incentivizing all teams in the bubble, but the bloodbath of the standings before the shutdown has led to a frenetic pace in Orlando.
No place has been more of a bloodbath than the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers clinched the top seed, but teams 2 through 7 are all jockeying for position with each other. Meanwhile, the race for 8 is wide open and could provide drama until the very last seeding games have been played.
Over the next week, we'll dive one by one into the main contenders to see which teams might give them the most difficult matchups in the postseason. Whether due to matchups, style of play, star power or teams trending upward, we'll dive into a list of who each team would like to avoid most.
It's looking like the Dallas Mavericks will be locked into the 7-seed, and as long as they're in that spot, a potential matchup looms with one of the most difficult draws for their play style.
Who they're rooting against: LA Clippers
Right now, the best friend of the Dallas Mavericks is the Denver Nuggets.
Not only would the Mavs match up so much better with Denver in the 2-7 series, but the amount of burden placed on their top scorer Luka Doncic literally hangs in the balance. The Nuggets lack consistent perimeter defenders. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are too small to frequently check Luka. Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. aren't disciplined enough for the task. Perhaps Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig step up, but Doncic is a far superior, craftier player.
Conversely, the Clippers have three legitimate options who can frustrate Doncic, giving them multiple looks to frustrate Dallas' top scorer. First and foremost are Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, perennial MVP candidates and two of the best two-way players out there. Leonard has locked down the NBA greats on the biggest stages imaginable. Throw in defensive gnat Patrick Beverley to get under Doncic's skin in the first few quarters and the Mavs might have a path to exhausting the Mavericks' top threat.
Doncic does all the heavy lifting for Dallas, meaning he's prone to slowing down late in games. As a team that has seen multiple collapses this year, that narrative is all too familiar to Mavericks fans. They have to worry about a team with so many great defensive options to deploy and how it'll impact Luka's overall output.
The Clippers bring the heat with their second unit on offense, led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. I'm not sure Dallas has the defensive firepower in their second unit to contain their PNR tandem when George or Leonard sit.
There are multiple athletic, mobile bigs on the Clippers roster–JaMychal Green, Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson– who can come play spot minutes against Kristaps Porzingis and neutralize some of his threat.
Bottom line is that the Clippers are built to be Dallas' foil. That doesn't mean a first-round showdown guarantees defeat for the Mavs, but that their path nearly doubles in difficulty when dealing with one of the favorites to cut down the nets this year.
Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD).