Three seasons removed from Dirk, Cuban, and Co finally holding up that long awaited Championship trophy, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves with a new starting Point Guard, Shooting Guard, and Center for a third straight season and only six returning players(Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jay Crowder, Brandan Wright, and Bernard James) after seeing their 12-year playoff streak in.
The Mavericks happily bid farewell to O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand(excluded from the happily) and five others this offseason, as they were able to acquire Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Devin Harris, DeJuan Blair, and rookies Ricky Ledo, Shane Larkin, and Gal Mekel.
It was very aperient last season that the guard positions were not up to Maverick’s standard after Jason Kidd and Jason Terry held the fort down season after season. The Mavericks took a risk pairing aging point guard Jose Calderon with the undersized & so-called “inefficient” Monta Ellis. Calderon brings a high basketball-IQ, great 3-pt shooting (40%), and great playmaking (7 assists/game). Ellis had a terrible 2013 season in Milwaukee shooting 28.7% from the 3-pt line and 41.6% overall. For as poorly as Ellis shot, he still averaged 19 points and 6 assists a game and still has the speed, quickness, and athleticism to attack the basket (4.5 FTA/game). Offensively when these two are inserted with Nowitzki it gives the Mavericks a different look on offense. Ellis and Calderon both excel in the pick and roll/pop, and this is the first time that either player will have a player such as Dirk who acquires so much attention. The attention Dirk will acquire should create operating room Ellis has never seen before. As Dirk said “To me, it’s amazing what he does at his size, get in the paint at will and finish with the big boys, He’s really not that tall. So he’s a special, explosive player and I really think we can play well together. His strength is putting it on the floor and my strength is stretching the floor, so we should play well together.” If Carlisle can get Ellis to consistently attack the basket and make the right play instead of settling for long contested jump shots like he did in Milwaukee, you can expect Ellis to have a career season as he plays off of Dirk and Calderon and the Mavericks to be finishing in the 7th and 8th seed in the West.
Dallas also brought back Devin Harris and signed shooting guard Wayne Ellington. Both can be seen as the counterparts of Calderon and Ellis. Harris is the athletic, quick, scoring point guard, who can guard both guard positions well and Ellington is a 3-D player who shot close to 40% from 3 last season. Those two put alongside returning 6th man Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair, Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright will once again give the Mavericks a versatile, strong and deep bench. Expect Carlisle to use different lineups game to game as we’ve seen during his tenure with the Mavericks.
The Final key piece brought along was center Samuel Dalembert, who is more in a mold of a Tyson Chandler than a Kaman. With Ellis, Calderon, and Dirk not known for their defense, the importance of Dalembert is magnified. Dalembert comes in with career averages of 8 rebound and almost 2 blocks a game. The Mavericks will be happy If Dalembert can produce numbers similar to those and be able to make up for the lack of defense on the perimeter. DeJaun Blair was also brought in to platoon the center position with Wright and Dalembert. Blair though undersized(6’7″), brings a toughness to the court and boards that hasn’t been seen since Chandler left to New York.
There is a lot of optimism, potential, and concerns with this team. Will the veterans hold up? Will Ellis be efficient and coachable? Can Dirk still lead this team on the court? Will we see the beards again? Mark Cuban believes “if we stay healthy, I think we’ll surprise some people.” I’m going to agree with Cuban and say the NBA will be surprised as they see that Dirk is still a top PF in the NBA, Ellis shows and all-around and efficient game, and Carlisle gets all the pieces to work together on offense and defense as the Mavericks easily surpass last season’s 41 wins and finish with 45-50 wins as a new playoff streak begins.