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The Starting 5: Dirk and Dallas Aren’t Done Yet

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The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet

1. “Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks Aren’t Fading Away Just Yet” – Evans Clinchy of Hardwood Paroxysm

The first 23 games of the Mavericks’ season has been one long fight to convince people they’re for real. Most considered them a team that would win somewhere between 30 and 40 games and ultimately miss the playoffs due to injury issues, old age and defensive problems.

But Dallas, led by a rejuvenated Dirk Nowitzki and some other big veteran performances from Deron Williams and Zaza Pachulia, is 13-10 and tied for fifth in the West (tough loss last night at home against Atlanta). Can they continue at this pace? Maybe, maybe not, but Clinchy provides an excellent breakdown on why the Mavs have succeeded so far and commends them for shaking off an offseason of disappointment.

2. “Four Years Later, Killing the Chris Paul Trade for ‘Basketball Reasons’ Was the Right Move” – Bethlehem Shoals of VICE Sports

Do you remember what you felt four years ago when Chris Paul was reported to be headed to Los Angeles? As a Spurs fan, I was terrified. Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant together in one backcourt, plus budding young superstar Andrew Bynum inside? Yikes.

But the NBA, led by former commissioner David Stern, acted on behalf of the New Orleans Hornets to veto the trade. Paul would join the other Los Angeles team soon after, but it was a key move by the league to maintain the parity it had left. In this piece, Shoals explains the lasting impact of Stern’s decision.

3. “Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson can’t do it all alone” – Jason Brunskowski of Detroit Bad Boys

It’s hard to find a team more reliant on their top two players as the Detroit Pistons. Maybe the Thunder? The Clippers or Cavaliers (sans Kyrie Irving) could be up there. But I’ve still got the Motor City duo of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson taking this one.

Brunskowski highlights the huge difference in both players’ on-off splits, which shows just how much worse off Detroit is when its stars aren’t at their best. Who should and will step up to help Drummond and Jackson? Read the piece to find out Brunkskowski’s opinion.

4. “Ogden’s Opus: In the NBA, Defense Still Wins Championships” – Maxwell Ogden of Hoops Habit

In the NBA right now, it’s not so much that offense doesn’t win championships. It’s just that you also need a very good defense to fall back on when that offense isn’t working. Last year’s Golden State Warriors got dogged for their defense last year by casual observers who didn’t understand pace-adjusted stats, but they showed they could grind it out in the Finals when facing a physical Cavs squad.

Ogden focuses specifically here on the relationships between defense and a league moving toward more and more small ball. The really good small lineups thrive on big wings who are defensively versatile enough to switch screens and adequately cover players of all sizes, and that’s why I think the 3 position (or guys with the size and skill set to play there) is going to be so key in the near future.

5. “Should ROY Candidate Karl-Anthony Towns Be an NBA All-Star Too?” – Dan Favale of Bleacher Report

So far this season, two rookie big men have played much better than rookie big men usually do. Unfortunately, only one of them is getting the attention he deserves for it.

Kristaps Porzingis has shown much more polish on both ends of the floor than anyone could’ve expected for the New York Knicks. Thanks to the big market he plays in and the shock at him being so good so early, we’ve all slobbered over the putback dunks, the smooth offensive moves and all those shots he’s rejected.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, another rookie big, Karl-Anthony Towns, is playing just as well, if not better than his Rookie of the Year rival. Favale eloquently gives him his proper due here.

Even if Towns doesn’t make (or deserve) an All-Star appearance in his first year, he looks headed toward a career filled with many appearances in the NBA’s most prestigious exhibition game.

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