The Dallas Mavericks have made the majority of their offseason moves after missing the NBA playoffs for the first time in 14 years. The addition of Samuel Dalembert, Jose Calderon, Monta Eillis, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, and soon Devin Harris gives the team a new look, but are they better than last year’s roster?
After the 2012-13 NBA season, and after getting swept by the Western Conference Champion OKC Thunder, the Mavs embarked on their new plan to bring in free agents on one to two year deals instead of keeping the older regime of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. They replaced Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi with Elton Brand and Chris Kaman. They replaced Jason Kidd with Darren Collison and added O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones. They drafted three rookies in Jae Crowder, Bernard James, and Jared Cunningham. At the start of the season, most Mavs fans looked at the roster moves as upgrades, but a consolation prize to losing out on the top free agents Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. Little did we know at the time t
hat it does get worse than getting swept in the first round. It’s called not making the playoffs.
Flashforward to July 2013 and the moves the Mavs have made in free agency as a consolation to losing out again in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and another top point guard in Chris Paul.
Point Guard: Jose Calderon replacing Darren Collision is a big win. Darren had plenty of potential at times, but his ball handling skills and poor decision making killed the Mavs in the fourth quarter. The team even brought in 38-year old Mike James to counter his poor skills in crunch time. Calderon has been very efficient as a true point guard, meaning he is looking to run the offense and make the right pass. His career average is close to a double-double, 7.2 assists and 10.1 points per game. Securing him with a four year deal will help bring some stability to the position. The Mavs also drafted Shane Larkin of the University of Miami to learn the point guard role. We have not had the chance to see him play NBA ball, but hopefully he will pan out better than Jared Cunnigham did. They also brought is Gal Mekel, who has been impressive during summer league play. Bringing back Devin Harris is big win for the Mavericks as well. The number one position needing an upgrade was point guard and the Mavs have answered the bell with much better options.
Shooting Guard: The O.J. Mayo experiment started out great until the All-Star break. Mayo was given the opportunity to return to a starting role under Rick Carlisle, but by the end of the season he became the punching bag for the teams poor performance in critical games. Monta Ellis provides a better scorer with a take charge attitude. Many people see Monta’s aggressive offense as a deterrent, but the Mavs need someone that is not scared to shoot the ball besides Dirk Nowitzki. Several times last season, when the shot clock was expiring, it was like watching preschoolers play “hot potatoe” with the basketball because nobody wanted to shoot. They also get Devin Harris back to play both guard positions. A much better option than Mike James. The Mavs also drafted Ricky Ledo at the position, a raw talent with tremendous upside.
Center: The center position has been the Achilles heel for the franchise since it began. Once we thought we had the best center in franchise history with Tyson Chandler, he was gone after winning a championship. The Mavs attempted last year to bring in a scoring big man, the polar opposite of Tyson Chandler, with Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. Neither option could play with Dirk on the floor. This offseason they added Samuel Dalembert, a defensive minded, rebounding center to play next to Dirk. They learned last year that their defense needs help in the paint more than it needs points from a center. He has a career average of eight boards and two blocks per game. The team will also continue to play Brandan Wright at the five position after he had some success in the role last season.
Small Forward: Shawn Marion and Vince Carter will currently be returning in their roles, although the Mavs would like to make moves for this position also. Their best option could be to move Jae Crowder into the starting role. Crowder has lost weight over the offseason and has proven his a high energy player that can shoot inside or outside the three-point line. Marion and Carter may be on different teams after the mid-season trade deadline.
Power Forward: We all know that this is Dirk’s spot. This offseason however, Dirk has been able to be more focused on basketball and the team since he has not had to travel as much. He has been apart of building this new roster. The best upgrade at this position would be to have him healthy the entire season, start to finish. You can easily make the argument that last year’s team would have made the playoffs if Dirk was healthy. Brandan Wright, Shawn Marion, and Jae Crowder may spend some time at the four position to give Dirk a rest.
Overall, this new roster is better than the 2012-13 team, but the season has not started. It also depends on what you consider better to mean. For Mavs fans, better may not just making the playoffs or getting out of the first round, but it is the reality that we all must now face. The Mavs will have one more shot at securing a top tier free agent in 2014. They will need a better season in order to convince any top talent to come to Dallas. More importantly they need to good season to keep fans.
Follow Rodney Fisher on Twitter @RodneyRFisher