No. 26: Dallas Mavericks

Ultimate Standings 2012

Updated: September 6, 2012, 5:40 PM ET
By Andy Kamenetzky | ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 29
Title track: 11
Ownership: 17
Coaching: 14
Players: 29
Fan relations: 8
Affordability: 30
Stadium experience: 19
Bang for the buck: 66

Title defenses don't get more depressing than a four-game first-round exit, but the Dallas Mavericks remain in firm standing with the faithful. In large part, that's a credit to Mark Cuban's ingratiating himself as the rare owner with a perspective befitting both fan and businessman. Just like a Mavs booster taking up for the blue and silver in a blog's comment section, Cuban went after Skip Bayless on ESPN's First Take after the host slighted Dallas' D against LeBron. Concerns for the fans are also demonstrated through shuttle service at six local restaurants to and from American Airlines Center (with only one requiring riders to actually dine in!). "I think fans think Cuban cares about them," says Jeff Caplan, who covers the Mavs for ESPN Dallas. In the meantime, Cuban may have whiffed in pursuit of Deron Williams, but acquisitions like Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand should help the squad remain credible until next summer, when you know all the stops will be pulled out to land Dwight Howard. "This offseason has only solidified the perception of Cuban as a savvy, smartest-guy-in-the-room owner," praises Caplan. Cuban's big mouth and unquenchable desire for attention may make him an irritating presence for anybody rooting for the NBA's other 29 teams, but similar to Raja Bell, DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Terry (all former Mavs), if he's "your guy," the personality is appreciated.