They say everything is bigger in Texas. And a first round matchup between these two teams could be huge.
With a possibility that these two teams end up as the four and five seeds in the Western Conference, someone has to go home in the first round.
So we ask Who Sucks Less? The Houston Rockets or the Dallas Mavericks.
The Houston Rockets have had big expectations going into every season for the last four years. They have continued to reinvent themselves and their roster.
Their addition of Russell Westbrook in the offseason was definitely a polarizing move to say the least. Questions to whether or not him and James Harden could make it work as two ball-dominant superstars are still being asked.
And while they were hoping they could run more pick and roll with Clint Capela, it simply just didn't work out. They decided to double-down, scratch that, they tripled-down, actually wait, they quadruple-downed on their choice to play small ball. They traded Clint Capela for Robert Covington and essentially decided they were just going to run PJ Tucker out there at the "Center" position.
I put "Center" in quotes because the traditional idea of what a lineup looks like has completely changed. Even with teams that have big centers, they are still pretty useless in today's game if they can't shoot jump shots.
Kobe had a quote once that said positions were only created so the casual fan could follow along anyway.
The Rockets are currently 5th in the Western Conference at 35-20 and have posted one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Looking at those numbers, it's hard to say that what they've built isn't working. The only thing you can say is that you don't like watching their style of play. Five guys spread out wide and they basically run two plays. One is isolation with either Russ or Harden, and the other play is off-ball screens in an attempt to find an open three point shooter.
And when their shots aren't falling, they put their heads down, drive to the basket, and then shoot a million free throws. If someone has a stat for most real time spent at the free throw line, please send that our way. I'd love to see those numbers.
It is yet to be seen whether or not this small ball style will be successful in the playoffs. James Harden has had his own struggles in the playoffs, while Russ has been bounced from the first round everytime since Durant left him.
These guys can shoot the hell out of the ball, but can they win it all?
The Dallas Mavericks didn't have quite the same expectations heading into this season. This was supposed to be a season where they created some hype and built something for the future. But Luka Doncic has been even better than advertised, and is already in the conversation for MVP-candidacy.
Mark Cuban did what he had to do to get Doncic the sidekick he needed to help this team improve when he traded for Kristaps Porzingis. I have no idea what the New York Knicks were doing, but they didn't get shit for a guy who has to potential to return to his All-Star form in the near future.
Kristaps has been good, not great, but luckily they haven't needed him to be. Rick Carlisle is showing why he continues to be one of the smartest basketball minds in the league.
This roster doesn't wow you with talent, but from top to bottom they are full of guys who just don't suck. And when you have a bunch of dudes who don't suck, you can be good under the right leadership. And Doncic has fit perfectly in that role.
They lead the league in so many offensive categories, and it would be easy to say that it's because of Luka and Kristaps. But there have been a couple of stretches where they have been without one or the other or both.
Their depth of shooters and underappreciated ball handlers has made their offense flow whether Luka has been on the floor or not. Guys like Jalen Brunson and JJ Barea are your cookie-cutter point guards. Guys who can get the ball moving when the going gets tough.
And they're not just all shooting. Maxi Kleber and Willie Cauley-Stein give them the size they need to give their potent offense second-chance points.
But if they need a bucket in the clutch, they can let Luka go to work or he can find a shooter in Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Dorian Finney-Smith, Justin Jackson, or Tim Hardaway Jr.
Going into this article, I assumed that I would side with the Houston Rockets simply because of their experience and the fact that they have the superstar power.
But when I look at the rosters from top to bottom, it makes it hard to choose. Let's assume they face each other in the first round for just a second.
Luka and Harden essentially will cancel each other out because their games are eerily similar. The Mavericks get the edge in size because not only do they have Kristaps who can go to work in the post, but they have other big men who can give them rebounds in the clutch.
From an aesthetically pleasing perspective, the Mavericks also get the edge because they whip the ball around like it's a hot potato. And much of that has to do with their coaching advantage as well.
But the outlier that would be the difference is Russell Westbrook. This guy plays like his hair is on fire, and he doesn't give a damn how big his opponent is, he will "Put that shit right into his chest."
The Mavericks would have no answers for a guy who has changed his game for the better in this new system he's in. Especially if it came down to a free throw shooting contest. I don't think I have ever seen a guy who is more clutch from the line than Russ.
So if we're asking Who Sucks Less, we're going to have to go with the Houston Rockets.
For anyone who is a fan of NBA All-Star Weekend, Saturday has to be your favorite day.
Whether you're a fan of the Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, or the Dunk Contest, there is definitely something for everybody.
We're going to make our picks.
NBA Skills Challenge
I love how the Skills Challenge has transformed over the years. It used to just be for guards and guys who play under the rim.
But with so many big men who can handle the ball and shoot it from anywhere, they have reinvented who qualifies for this tournament.
This year for the big men we've got Bam Adebayo, Domantas Sabonis, and Pascal Siakam. All guys who are up for the Most Improved Player award this season.
For the guards we have Patrick Beverly, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Runner-Up: Bam Adebayo
I had a friend send me a short story of Adebayo's pre-draft workout with the Miami Heat. They ran him through some drills and asked him how many three pointers he could make from the corner and he said 60%.
The Heat scouts thought he was crazy, and then he proceeded to make 62% of his threes after 50 shots.
This guy has a different type of mentality and has continued to show constant growth. He plays huge for a 6'9" guy, but also plays very fast and can pass the ball extremely well.
He'll be the best of the big men, but he's going to fall just short to our winner.
Winner: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai has been one of the best untold stories of this NBA season. In just his second season, he is going to be starting for his second different playoff team.
The whole thing about this competition is that whoever actually tries to win will usually win. And Shai, in his All-Star Saturday debut, will be going all out.
And if he's trying, he's winning.
NBA 3-Point Contest
This contest will not be the same without Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, or Klay Thompson, as they are all out with injuries. But it will open it up for some young guys to make a name for themselves.
Five out of the eight participants are in this for the first time. Trae Young, Duncan Robinson, Davis Bertans, Devonte' Graham, and Zach Lavine will all be looking to make their mark.
Devin Booker and Buddy Hield are looking for their first trophies, while Joe Harris will be looking to defend his title.
Runner-Up: Trae Young
There's not much to say about Trae when it comes to bombing threes. We all know what he can do.
But with him participating in the Rising Stars game and starting in the All-Star game, he won't have too much time to focus on this contest.
Winner: Davis Bertans
I don't think there is a less known guy in this field than Davis Bertans. But I swear, I have never seen this guy miss a three point shot.
This contest is perfect for him as he is one of the best spot up three point shooters in the league.
He has no pressure on him, and everything to prove. A perfect combination for an upset victory in the championship round.
NBA Dunk Contest
The premier event of the weekend is always boom or bust. There's never a time where you're like "It was ok." It's either memorable or it's not.
This year's field has to potential to be pretty forgettable. But there are some factors that could make it interesting.
We've got Dwight Howard, Pat Connaughton, Aaron Gordon, and Derrick Jones Jr.
We may be able to scratch Dwight and Pat as the two who won't be in the finals. But we know Dwight is going to have a Kobe tribute dunk, and that will most likely be the most memorable dunk of the weekend. Get your tissues ready.
Runner-Up: Aaron Gordon
It was hard for me to pick him as the runner-up because he's already competed in this contest twice. You would think he would have the upper hand in experience.
But he may have used up all of his best dunks in his loss to Zach Lavine. But I hope he comes up with something innovative and forward thinking, again.
Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.
The man they call "Airplane Mode" can fly above his competition, literally. He looks so weightless when he is gliding through the air.
He will have to come up with some creativity a lot better than he did when he brought out that small wooden airplane the last time he was in this contest. I have a feeling he's got something up his sleeve.
And in a recent interview, he said he's never lost a dunk contest even when he's lost. Thats all the confidence I needed to hear to pick him.
The All-Star game is just a couple of weeks away, and we're already ready to hand out a few awards.
Most teams have played about 50 games. So unless some dramatic things happen, we know for the most part who is going to be in the running for these awards.
Sixth Man of the Year
In the Hunt: Montrezl Harrel
The Los Angeles Clippers have been as intriguing as we thought they would be, but for all the wrong reasons. There's been rumors that there is some turmoil in the locker room. And it seemingly began when Harrel challenged his team to be better.
This guy has been a leader off of the bench both vocally, and in the scoring department. He is second amongst players who qualify for this award in points per game off of the bench with 19. And he is fourth in rebounds per game with 7.
Runner-up: Dennis Schroeder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have exceeded all expectations this season. And Schroeder has done nothing but get buckets all season.
He hasn't missed a single game all season, and is averaging 19.1 points per game which is best amongst bench players. He has been a much better fit alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than he was with Russell Westbrook. He could still make a run at this award depending on how our winner finishes the season.
Winner: Derrick Rose
How can you not be a fan of Rose this season? The guy has found a way to reinvent who he is and has been healthy all season. The Detroit Pistons would be impossible to watch without him.
He is averaging 6 assists per game which is first amongst players off of the bench. But it has been his efficiency that has elevated his play. Rose is shooting nearly 50% from the field, and has picked his spots near the basket that has helped his team win games in the clutch.
He has a couple game winners already this season, which will give him the narrative vote as well.
Rookie of the Year
In the Hunt: Eric Paschall
The Golden State Warriors have been absolutely terrible. But they have had one bright spot with Paschall. He has been fun to watch, and a very pleasant surprise for this organization.
He is averaging 13.5 points per game in just under 27 minutes. His ability to stretch the floor as a big will give the Warriors a reliable bench player once they get healthy again.
Runner-Up: Kendrick Nunn
This guy was on nobody's radar before the season for the Rookie of the Year race. But the Miami Heat and Erik Spoelstra have developed Nunn into one of the most consistent scorers amongst rookies.
While only shooting about one free throw per game, he is still second amongst rookies with 16 points per game. If he can find a way to get to the basket and draw contact, he could develop into one of the best young scorers in the league.
Winner: Ja Morant
This guy has been everything as advertised, plus more. He has not only filled the stat sheet, but he has been electrifying when it comes to his highlight ability.
He can create a play out of just about nothing. You'll think he's got nowhere to go with the ball, and he'll find a way to zip it to an unsuspecting teammate. He is averaging 19 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game. Unless he gets injured, this guy has this one in the bag.
Most Improved Player
In the Hunt: Devonte' Graham
This award is definitely in reach for all three guys on this list. Graham has made a leap in his sophomore season that has given the Hornets hope for the future.
He is fourth in the NBA in three pointers made with 173. He went from averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists in 14.7 minutes last season to averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 assists in 35.2 minutes. Quite a jump for a guy on a rookie contract.
Runner-Up: Domantas Sabonis
The Indiana Pacers have an All-Star this season, and it's not Malcolm Brogdon or Victor Oladipo. Sabonis has continued to improve every year he has been in the league. Which is probably the only reason I am not ready to give him the award.
If you view the award as someone who has gradually improved into a star, then he would be your guy this season. But in our case, we look at it purely from one season to the next. And this next guy has had the biggest jump between these three.
Winner: Bam Adebayo
This is one of the few things we have admittedly got right this season. Bam Adebayo has been one of the best surprises of the season, and much of it is thanks to the Heat for giving him Jimmy Butler. You don't see very many 6'9" guys playing as big as he does.
It's a wonder as to why this guy didn't make the USA team last summer. He didn't miss a single game last season, and this year hasn't been any different. He is the most dependable player every night for the Heat on both ends of the floor. Thank goodness they were able to dump Hassan Whiteside.
Defensive Player of the Year
In the Hunt: Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons challenged himself in the offseason to become one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. He has been successful as he is on his way to his first All-Defensive First Team selection.
He leads the NBA in Steals per game, Deflections, and Loose Balls Recovered. His dedication to being as long as possible on the defensive end has given the 76ers the intensity they need to continue their run towards the playoffs.
Runner-Up: Rudy Gobert
There is nothing new to see here with Gobert. He is consistently one of the two or three best defenders in the NBA every season.
His dedication to denying anything in the paint finally awarded him his first All-Star appearance. Reminding us that the you can still make a living as a Defensive guy.
Winner: Anthony Davis
Before the season, Davis said he wanted to be the Defensive Player of the Year. And up until this far into the season, he has rose to the occasion. His Lakers are first in the Western Conference, and have held opponents to under 100 points 14 times.
He is third in the NBA in Blocks per game with 2.6 and is also averaging 1.5 steals per game. Games missed due to injuries may hinder his chances of winning this award, but when he's been healthy he has been the best defensive player in the league.
Most Valuable Player
In the Hunt: Lebron James
I can't remember the last time Lebron didn't get an MVP vote. He even got one last year when he was injured for most of the season.
In his 17th season, he has still continued to find a way to be one of the most dominant forces in the NBA. His first ever full offseason has served him well as he is leading the Lakers to a potential one seed in the Western Conference. He has become an even better passer as he leads the NBA in assists per game with 11.
Runner-up: James Harden
In 20 years, we're going to look back at Harden's per game stats for this five year stretch and wonder how it is that he only won one MVP.
The guy is having one of the greatest scoring seasons in NBA history as he is averaging 35.7 points per game. He's made more free throws than anyone else in the league with 481 compared to Damian Lillard who is second with 340. This guy can kill you in a number of ways offensively, and most nights he's pretty much impossible to slow down.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
This award has been essentially a two-man race for these last two seasons, and it looks like Giannis will be defending his title.
The Bucks are on pace to win 70 games this season, and it's all because of him. They were without Khris Middleton for a while, and that still didn't matter. He is first in the NBA in Defensive Rating, Defensive Win Shares, Usage, Player Efficiency Rating, and is second in scoring with 30 points per game.
It seems like this guy is never going to slow down. He plays hard on every single play on both ends of the floor. He is not only the Most Valuable Player for his team, but he is also the Most Valuable Player for the entire NBA.