2013-2014 Dallas Mavericks Season Preview
After watching their team win the 2011 NBA championship, Mavericks management decided to go in a completely new direction. Rather than commit to a core of older players long-term, they would preserve cap space with short-term deals and prepare to make a run at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul this summer. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out so well. The Mavs’ big free agent targets all landed elsewhere and they were left to pick from what was left. Dirk Nowitzki is an amazing player, and he has carried some questionable lineups to 50+ wins and to the playoffs. Last season, he started to struggle with age and injuries, and as a result the team missed the postseason. This season’s roster looks bound for the same fate.
In & Out
Additions: Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, DeJuan Blair, Devin Harris, Ricky Ledo, Gal Mekel.
Subtractions: Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Roddy Beaubois, Chris Kaman, Mike James, O.J. Mayo, Jared Cunningham, Anthony Morrow.
Five Guys Think…
In an ideal world, the Mavericks would have headed into the season with some sort of combination of Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard on the roster, but only the one of the three will actually wear a Dallas uniform in 2013-2014, which means this summer was all about the Mavs reining in a bunch of their second and third-choice free agents. Monta Ellis can score, Jose Calderon can distribute, and Samuel Dalembert can defend, which means this won’t be as embarrassing a roster as some hyperbolic media members have made them out to be. A solid group of rookies that includes Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, and Gal Mekel is also laden with sleeper talent, but at the end of the day this probably isn’t a major championship contender, as much as Mark Cuban genuinely seems to think it could be.
5th place – Southwest Division
– Joel Brigham
The Mavericks didn’t land Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, but they had an intriguing offseason. For the second straight year, Dallas will have a locker room full of new faces, but this year’s batch of free agents is more talented than last year’s bunch. A starting lineup of Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Samuel Dalembert is interesting. On paper, the group seems like a playoff squad and the individuals appear to complement each other well. Dallas also has some impressive depth with DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, Devin Harris and Gal Mekel joining a bench that already included Vince Carter, Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright. Last year, the Mavs missed the playoffs for just the first time since 2000 and it’s hard to imagine them going two straight years without a trip to the postseason, especially considering Nowitzki will enter this season at full strength and many of the newly acquired players have something to prove. Playing in the Southwest Division will make things difficult for Dallas this season, but snagging a final playoff seed in the Western Conference certainly seems possible.
4th place – Southwest Division
- Alex Kennedy
Last season the Mavericks missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2000 campaign. The postseason absence left a sour taste in the organization’s mouth and the team will look to get back into the hunt in 2014. The problem is the club wasn’t able to bring in a certified number two option to put alongside former All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki. The hope is talented scorer Monta Ellis, signed in free agency, can fill the void. Lost in the mix was how well the Mavericks played once Nowitzki became healthy toward the end of last season. But in an improving division the aging forward won’t be enough on his own for the Mavericks to regain the perch it once held among the elites in the West.
4th place – Southwest Division
- Lang Greene
While he has a viable explanation for every move he’s made over the last two years since winning his first championship, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has to be sick to his stomach over the way his plan has played out. Not only has Monta Ellis been the biggest name Cuban has been able to land with the cap space he coveted, but while swinging and missing on bigger stars the rest of the Southwest Division has loaded up and surpassed the Mavericks. No team with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki should be counted out, but the Mavericks are going to need a heck of a season from the 35 year old if they’re going to avoid being in the lottery for the second straight year. Chemistry is going to be another major concern of the Mavericks. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is once again going to be tasked with trying to get almost a completely new group acclimated to each other in his system. As he’s learned first-handedly the last two seasons, it’s no easy feat.
5th place – Southwest Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
Mark Cuban opted to blow up the 2011 NBA Champion Mavericks rather than dole out long-term contracts to supporting players that were either close to or entering the downsides of their career. Just two years after winning the only championship in franchise history, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are the lone holdovers remaining from that team. Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon will each give Nowitzki something he needs at this stage in his career. Calderon is a true pass-first point guard who is a much better distributor than the departed Darren Collison. Ellis is a ruthless scorer who, if aggressive, will make it extremely difficult for opposing defensive schemes to double Nowitzki and leave Ellis with an open floor to operate. The Mavericks though much improved, have done little to change their place in the Western Conference’s pecking order.
4th place — Southwest Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Dirk Nowitzki. The arrival of Monta Ellis could mean that Nowitzki has his work cut out for him getting touches, but head coach Rick Carlisle will do his best to make sure that the offense runs through his All-Star forward. Nowitzki is still one of the best shooters in the league, able to do damage from just about anywhere on the court. He will also do plenty of damage from the foul line.
Top Defensive Player: Samuel Dalembert. This is debatable, but in a perfect world Dalembert will fill the role that Erick Dampier and Tyson Chandler did on the Mavs’ two Finals teams. They don’t need him to score a whole lot, but if he will protect the rim and block a few shots he’ll be worth his minimal contract. It’s a lot to ask from Dalembert, but he was the best available big man left on the market.
Top Playmaker: Jose Calderon. As disappointing as free agency was for Dallas, one great pick-up they managed was Calderon. One of the NBA’s most underrated point guards, Calderon is an efficient floor general who generates offense equally well in transition and half courts sets. He ranked in the 96th percentile among his peers last season, including 90th percentile in transition and 96th percentile in the half court. The Mavs are in good hands with Calderon.
Top Clutch Player: Dirk Nowitzki. Few players in the history of the NBA have delivered in the clutch like Nowitzki delivers for Dallas. Nowitzki’s flair for the dramatic is why Dallas has been ranked among the league’s contenders for the bulk of his career. Even last year, when he battled injuries, he converted 86 points on 75 plays on a short shot clock, good for a staggering 97th percentile ranking amongst his peers.
The Unheralded Player: Shawn Marion. Few players have been asked to change their games so completely and done so as willingly as Shawn Marion. When he arrived in Dallas, head coach Rick Carlisle sat Marion down and showed him some ways he could extend his career, which started with him being a high-flyer and finishing with flair. Now Marion does more of the dirty work around the basket and does the little things to help Dallas win.
Best New Addition: Jose Calderon. The sexy choice here might be Monta Ellis, who is sure to delight crowds with his open-court steals and his occasional offensive outbursts. In reality, what Dallas needed most was a floor general to lead them long-term, so when the Mavs inked Calderon to a four-year deal they solidified the position for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of unanswered questions in Dallas, but point guard is no longer one of them.
Who We Like
1. Dirk Nowitzki: The Mavericks long-time leader has never been big on individual awards or recognition, and for that reason he often gets overlooked when the topic of the game’s greatest players comes along. He’s simply out of sight, out of mind except on game night. The truth, however, is that Dirk Nowitzki has been one of the top two of three players in the NBA every year for more than a decade, and he is unquestionably the best European player to ever wear an NBA jersey.
2. Rick Carlisle: It hasn’t been easy for Rick Carlisle to see his championship team dismantled right out from under him. One minute he was in the national spotlight hoisting a championship ring, the next he’s running mini-camps just to try and figure out who is on his team on a given night. By the time the dust settled on the 2012-13 season Carlisle had seen 23 different players in a Mavs uniform at some point in time, and yet he had them very much in the playoff hunt right down to the last week of the season.
3. Gersson Rosas: The Mavericks haven’t really had a general manager since 2005, when Don Nelson left the team, but with the franchise struggling to find continuity they brought in former Houston Rockets VP Gersson Rosas to help Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban right the ship. Rosas spent nine seasons in Houston and should help as the Mavericks begin an inevitable rebuild after Nowitzki hangs up the sneaks.
4. Jose Calderon: Calderon may be something of a stranger to Mavericks fans, but rest assured he will be an instant hit. His up-tempo style will suit Rick Carlisle’s offense, which is predicated on scoring quickly without having to get into a set offense that teams are usually prepared to counter. The Mavs are going to have their difficulties on the defensive end, where Calderon struggles as much as anyone, but on the offensive end the team will have little trouble hanging easy buckets on the board.
5. Vince Carter: Every team needs a solid veteran who is willing to come off the bench and lead the second unit, and it’s better if that player is good enough to start. For years the Mavs had that player in Jason Terry, but last year Carter emerged as the guy who brought instant offense and a selfless attitude off the pine. He may not be the highlight reel player he used to be, but Carter can still get it done in dramatic fashion and is often called upon to take and make the big shot that makes the difference in the game. It’s a role he has embraced, and the Mavs will need him even more this season.
It’s tempting to put the Mavericks at the bottom of the Southwest Division, but one factor remains that should give them an edge over New Orleans. The Mavs have a quality group of veterans who understand how to win close games, and to the extent that they will be in close games that should prove to be a significant strength for the team. When healthy, Nowitzki, in particular, is still as clutch as they come.
Age is likely to be a huge detractor for the Mavs this season. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion have shown signs of slowing down, and Vince Carter edges ever-closer to the Hall of Fame, as well. Dallas has taken a huge step back defensively, they won’t rebound as well as they did last season and team chemistry will once again be an issue with so many new faces in the mix for the second straight season.
The Burning Question:
Is it time to trade Dirk Nowitzki?
Nowitzki is as loyal as he is unstoppable, and he values winning above any personal goals or milestones. He took less than max money to ensure he would have a great team around him. Unfortunately, management has not been able to hold up their end. It might be that the only way to make Dirk a contender again is to trade him to one. He’d have to approve such a move due to his no-trade clause, but is that time near?