Commentary

Fixing the West's playoff teams

How teams like the Lakers and Thunder can overtake the Mavs next season

Updated: June 21, 2011, 5:08 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | Basketball Prospectus
Kobe Bryant/Kevin DurantAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Lakers and Thunder will be jockeying for position out west next season.

The Western Conference's other playoff teams now find themselves chasing the Dallas Mavericks. What moves can they make to catch Dallas, starting in Thursday's NBA draft? To answer that, let's look at their biggest looming issues. For each team, we've highlighted one statistical weakness from ESPN analyst Dean Oliver's Four Factors as well as positions of need.

For a breakdown of the Eastern Conference's playoff teams, click here

Dallas Mavericks

Statistical Weakness: Offensive rebounding (26th in the NBA)
Weakest Position: Backup PF

The biggest concern for the reigning champs will be re-signing starting center Tyson Chandler, an unrestricted free agent. Unless the new collective bargaining agreement makes it impossible, a new deal for Chandler is a no-brainer for the Mavericks given his key role in the team's playoff run. The trickier negotiations could be with guard DeShawn Stevenson and forward Caron Butler, who are also unrestricted free agents.

Should Dallas bring everyone back, a possible area for improvement is playing more evenly with Dirk Nowitzki on the bench. Despite Brian Cardinal's success in the Finals, The Custodian is not a long-term solution. A healthy Butler would allow Shawn Marion to slide to a reserve role backing up both forward positions, but that pairing was ineffective without Nowitzki prior to Butler's injury. Unless Nikola Vucevic slips, Dallas is unlikely to find an answer at the 26th pick. Most likely, the Mavericks will think long-term by taking an international player.