14. Dallas Mavericks (No. 7 or 8 seed, Western Conference)
Why they're dangerous: I love the Mavericks' franchise. I really do. I think Mark Cuban is the best owner in sports, Dirk Nowitzki is one of the top three players of his generation and their veterans have done a great job. Rick Carlisle is probably the second best coach in the league, honestly. So please understand that their ranking here is not reflective of bias or that I discount what they accomplished.
They can score with anyone. If they wind up in an offensive-centric series, they're going to make it tough on the other team. Nowitzki is the biggest X-Factor you can have. He and Steph Curry are the two guys who can tilt a series with offense alone. If he goes into 2011 mode, they can simply will their way over anyone.
Weaknesses: This team cannot defend. Against other Western Conference opponents, they give up 110 points per 100 possssions. That's a blood fountain of a wound. Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis on the perimeter is a lot of the problem, and with Dirk not a great interior help defender, it gets tougher. Samuel Dalembert struggles to rotate, and Brandan Wrightstill is uneven in decision-making. They're going to create some tight games with their offense, but you need defense to win in the playoffs, as cliche as that is.
Reasonable ceiling: Nowitzki goes 2011 and the Mavericks' high-powered offense goes Golden State 2007 (ironically) as the Mavericks upset the Thunder before losing to the Clippers in a tough seven games.
Reasonable floor: Oklahoma City or San Antonio wallop them because they can't stop anyone and they lose in a five game shootout series.