The biggest name, and perhaps most important player, that the Mavs had to make a decision on was center Tyson Chandler. There is no question that the Mavs front office wanted to bring Chandler back. Chandler brought that long-needed defensive presence in the paint, along with a toughness and competitive fire that helped propel this team to their first championship. But the team also has their eye on the future, particularly one year from now when Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are scheduled to hit the open market (although it is highly unlikely Paul will be available now that he has been traded). The Mavs would greatly love to add one of these great players to their roster, if not both, to build around for the next decade.
With that in mind, Tyson Chandler wanted more than the Mavs were willing to give to a center who does not contribute enough on the offensive end of the floor. So now Tyson Chandler is a member of the New York Knicks. While this may have been the prudent move with an eye towards the future, what impact will this have on the 2011-2012 edition of the Dallas Mavericks?
The Mavericks have not been able to add another center yet. The only two big men left on the roster are Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi. Haywood is most likely the one who will step into the starting rotation. Haywood was very good coming off the bench last season but his ability to consistently produce the numbers of Chandler, or be the same defensive presence, is questionable at best. Without the defensive presence and rebounding ability of Chandler, the Mavs have a huge hole in the middle of the defense. Who is going to clean the glass? Who is going to make people think twice before driving the lane?
There is no doubting that Rick Carlisle will continue to teach and preach the need for solid defense. But will the team continue to buy in? Will the new team members be as committed to their defense as they are their offensive stats (do you hear me Vince Carter?) Will the team continue to have a consistent presence on the glass and provide opportunities for more open jumpers? Or will the Mavs find a way to add a big man who can provide what Chandler gave this team last season?
If the answers to these questions is a ‘no’, then chances are not good that the Mavs will still be playing late in June. The strategy of ignoring the defense and having to score 120 points every night does not work. Let’s hope the Mavs remember the lessons learned from last year and continue to work hard on both ends of the court. Let’s also hope that Brendan Haywood, and maybe Donnie Nelson, have a few surprises for us this year.