What does it tell you about yourself when everything is pointing towards your sports team(s) having a great upcoming season or future and your reflex is to temper expectations.
Am I smart, pessimistic, or have I just seen too many things while following sports this century? Maybe if the Dallas Cowboys and Mavericks had won more titles, but I should be lucky to say that at least the Mavericks won it all in 2011 while the Cowboys, even at their worst have been interesting.
If I had to bet which team would do better next season, even with NBA free agency not finished as I write this, short of landing Kawai Leonard, the Cowboys are set up for immediate success next year more so than the Mavericks.
Coming off a 10-6 season where they won a division title and won a wild card playoff game, the Cowboys have kept most of the important players.
Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper are looking to get paid this offseason after the midseason trade for Cooper turned the team’s season around last year. Both are expected to get their deals done like defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who signed to long-term deal after back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.
Ezekial Elliott may have gotten in trouble with a security guard in Las Vegas during the offseason, but it looks like he won’t be missing any games.
At linebacker, the team might have found the future heart and soul of the defense in Jaylon Smith and rookie Leghton Vander Esch. In the past, it seemed the defense was only ever better than average when the injury prone linebacker Sean Lee was healthy, but Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl and Smith showed the athleticism that made him a consensus top 10 pick in the draft before a catastrophic knee injury in his final college game.
Also on defense it looks like the move Byron Jones made to cornerback paid off as he made his first Pro Bowl.
Adding to this team is tight end Jason Witten coming back from retirement. He didn’t rely on top end foot speed for the last decade of his career anyway, so maybe a year of not getting hit and putting on pads will have him looking better than his consistent 11 time Pro Bowl self.
Also returning is Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, who missed all of last season battling Guillain–Barré syndrome. The highly thought of offensive line, that did have guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith make the Pro Bowl, had its ups and downs as Prescott was sacked the second most (56) in the league last year.
The Cowboys didn’t make any big splashes in free agency, but one free agent signing people have hope for is receiver Randall Cobb. Cobb has long been a reliable slot target for the Green Bay Packers this decade and the Cowboy’s nemesis quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He struggled with injuries last year and his production has started to fall off in recent years despite being only 28 years old.
I didn’t mention every player or position group, but when my dad and I were trying to figure out what group the team should focus on in the draft for the first time in recent memory, it should tell you something.
Most position groups have at least one promising young player who has recently been drafted the franchise believes in who theoretically will only be getting better as they age. If most of them take that step and at least one of the rookies makes an impact, this team could be one of the top teams in the NFC.
The Mavericks were not so lucky the past year. The team missed the playoffs for the third straight year as they went 33-49. No, the one bright side from last year’s team besides savoring every minute we got of Dirk Nowitzski in his last year in the NBA, is our new European phenom and rookie of the year Luka Dončić.
He lived up to and surpassed every expectation some people, including me, had about him after lighting up the Euro League like no other teenage had done before.
Despite not flying through the air like Michael Jordan or having the physique that makes you embarrassed to be the same species as him like most professional athletes, Dončić displayed a level of skill and poise that comes with being a professional athlete in Spain for most of his teen years to be a franchise player from day one at only the age of 19.
On top of that, the franchise recognized his brilliance and made the big move to trade for injured post player Kristaps Porziņģis and moved the young guard Dennis Smith Jr. as his playing style did not mesh well with Dončić.
Porziņģis is a foundational piece himself as the 23-year-old European is like a taller, more athletic Nowitzski minus the unstoppable fadeaway shot.
He is coming off a serious ACL injury that saw him miss the last season and half, but the Mavericks just signed him to a long term contract. He was on his way to superstardom before the injury as his size and skill allowed him to average 22 points a game while blocking more than two shots a game.
Despite the team not signing any huge names this offseason, both of these players are in their early 20s and the sense of what both of these players can achieve together as both grows is an exciting prospect to watch.
It’s like starting a television series you like the premise of that doesn’t blow your socks off in the first few episodes or seasons, but you keep watching either because a friend told you or you read it goes places later that will destroy your socks.
This has the long-term sports story telling potential of two young superstars taking the three-to-five year journey of personal and professional growth towards the ultimate achievement, an NBA title, which is so cliché you want it to happen since it writes itself.
My teams have been in position before and the memories of how those teams did not live up to their potential haunt me more than the victories.
I can think of three times the Cowboys have had amazing seasons in 2007, 2014 and 2016 as those teams combined records add up to 38-10.
The following seasons, despite usually not losing anybody major in the offseason, they missed the playoffs.
The Mavericks lost the disastrous 2006 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat after leading 2-0, but the team came back next season motivated.
Unlike the Cowboys, the Mavericks looked to be even better as they put up the best record in the league 67-15.
Nowitzki was named the league’s most valuable player and the battle tested team was poised to battle through the tough western conference.
All of that went away when they became the third team in NBA history to lose to an eighth seeded team in the first round of the playoffs.
To read the full story, pick up a copy of the weekend edition of the Bowie News.