Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the Dallas Mavericks.
The Dallas Mavericks were the first expansion team to join the NBA’s ranks after the ABA-NBA merger, beginning play in 1980-81.
Under coach Dick Motta, the Mavericks quickly built a playoff team, reaching the postseason in their fourth season. It was the first of five straight playoff seasons that culminated with a seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1988 Western Conference Finals.
But after a playoff season in 1989-90, Dallas went into a decade that ranked somewhere between irrelevance and incompetence, missing the postseason for 10 consecutive seasons.
The Mavericks got back to the postseason in 2001 and have only missed once since, winning an NBA title in 2011 and reaching the NBA Finals in 2006.
Dallas had a bittersweet experience in 2006-07, setting a franchise record with 67 victories before falling victim to a stunning first-round upset at the hands of the 42-40 Golden State Warriors. The Mavs also reached the 60-win plateau in 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Their low-water mark came in 1992-93, when Dallas stumbled to an 11-71 record—the second-most losses in a season in NBA history.
Dallas has made the playoffs 19 times in their 34 seasons, though, so there’s been more good than bad overall.
Don Nelson, who was 339-251 from 1997-2005 is the franchise’s winningest coach, just ahead of Motta, who was 329-409 in two stints with the club (1980-87 and 1994-96). Current coach Rick Carlisle is closing in on Nelson, with a 288-188 record since 2008.
The club has had only five general managers. Norm Sonju took the job in May 1980, gearing up for the expansion season, and held it until May 1996. Current GM Donn Nelson, son of the coach, took over from his father in March 2005 and has held the position since.
Here are the best players, by position, for the Dallas Mavericks in the modern era, beginning in 1979-80. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise and averaged 25 minutes per game.