Mavs better than record suggests

Dirk has made a huge impact on the floor for the Mavericks this season. Glenn James/Getty Images

At 47-20, the Dallas Mavericks own the third best record in the West. But as impressive as that record may be, they're even better than that.

To see why, let's rewind back to late December when the Mavericks were rolling through league. Heading into their Dec. 27 matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks had won 12 of their previous 13 games and were toe-to-toe with the San Antonio Spurs for the league's best record. For the Mavericks, all was going smoothly against Kevin Durant and the Thunder until the 9:10 mark in the second quarter, when Dirk Nowitzki tweaked his knee. He left the court and the Mavericks were forced to endure the rest of the game without their star player.

The Mavericks won that game. But they lost many more thereafter with Nowitzki sitting on the end of the bench. All told, Dallas proceeded to drop seven of their next nine games without their German All-Star. The Mavericks are a different team when they don't have Nowitzki, and that rough patch only confirmed that notion.

So when we look at their record now, take a moment to think about what it tells us. We use win-loss records as a tidy form of accounting, but often times we fully rely on them as a barometer of team quality. The case of the Mavericks demonstrates why that becomes a dangerous game.