With every new year, we usually find ourselves setting new goals and resolutions.
With 2014 upon us, we’ll look at what each Dallas Mavericks’ player can work on to improve.
Dirk Nowitzki: Many doubted Nowitzki’s ability to still be able to carry a team, to their surprise Nowitzki (21.3 pt, 5.9 reb, 3 assists) is putting up numbers compared to his 2011 and 2012 season. He’s also close to put up a 50-40-90 season as he’s shooting 49.3 % overall, 40.5% 3pt, and 91.9% from the free throw line.
Nowitzki though is putting up his lowest rebounding numbers since his rookie season (3.4). The Mavericks rank 27th in the league in total rebounding. To fix the rebounding will take a collective team effort, but if Nowitzki can grab closer to 7 boards a game it would not just help the team, but also show that he’s feeling fully healthy and fresh.
Monta Ellis: Just as many doubted Nowitzki’s ability to put up All-Star numbers, more doubted the addition and fit of Ellis on this Mavericks team. Ellis has not just exceeded expectations, but could be in line to play in his first All-Star game. He’s putting up 20.3 points, 6 assists (tie career-high), 1.8 steals, and shooting 45.5% from the field, which is his highest since the 2007-08 season (53.1%).
Ellis has struggled with taking care of the ball. He’s averaging a team high 3.5 a game, which is more than double of any other play on the roster. Turnovers are expected, especially when he has the ball in his hands so much (26.9% usage rate). Ellis must focus on cutting down his turnovers. Many of the Mavericks’ blown leads have led to increased turnovers and lack of offensive execution, though Ellis isn’t the only one to blame, he is a big part of the solution.
Ellis along with the whole Mavericks’ squad must improve his defense. The 6’3″ Ellis is out sized majority of the time and though he hasn’t been flat-out bad/terrible, he needs to be able to defend and try to limit opposing guards. He, Jose Calder, and the other Mavericks guards can’t rely on Shawn Marion chasing around small guards and banging with big posts game to game.
Ellis has also made it an emphasis to get to the basket to create for himself and others. He must continue attacking as he had. There are moments where he will settle for those devastating long-2s.
Jose Calderon: The first major free agent signing by the Mavericks has delivered as expected. He has been the perfect complementary piece to Nowitzki and Ellis. Calderon has put up 12 points a game while shooting a career high 47.9% from 3.
Outside of rookie Gal Mekel (112), when Calderon is on the court the Mavericks have their worst defensive rating (111). Calderon and the Mavericks must find a way to improve their defense while he’s on the court.
Calderon is putting up his lowest assists (4.8 per game) numbers since his rookie year (4). Much of that is due to his 15.4 usage rate, which is also his lowest since his rookie year. Calderon has always shown the ability to take care of the ball (1.5 turnovers a game). Though Calderon has been important to spread the court with his shooting,it may be just as important to have the ball in his hands even more as the season progresses.
Shawn Marion: Since putting on a Mavs jersey, Marion has done it all for the Mavs, from scoring to rebounding to guarding the best players. Marion has always come to play and do whatever is asked of him.
With all the attention Ellis, Nowitzki, and Calderon draw, Marion usually benefits more than any other player on the roster. He must continue to be able to hit the 3-ball (33.8%). His 46.4% shooting overall can improve though, as he’s ha games/moments of struggling to finish easy opportunities.
Vince Carter: The Mavericks’ 6th man started off the season slowly, but has steadily seen his numbers improve with the return of Brandan Wright.
Carter is second on the team with 1.6 turnovers per game. He’s also shooing just 40.1% from the field and 34.4% from 3. Carter needs to cut down his turnovers and shooting. When Carter struggles so do the Mavericks as he puts up 10 points and shoots 35.3% from the field in losses.
Devin Harris: Needs to get healthy and get on the court
Brandan Wright: Wright has made an impact since returning from injury. He’s stabilized the second unit as he’s averaging 11.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks.
Wright must continue to prove that he can hit that midrange jump shot. If he can consistently hit that shot to go with his ability to finish and drive he should continue to see his scoring increase.
Wright’s ability to defend bigger and more physical bigs will be important. When Wright is on the court the Mavericks average 146 points per 100 possessions. It’s evident that his presence for the offense is huge, so if he’s able to rebound and defend bigger bodies, it will help the Mavericks be a much tougher team to matchup with.
Samuel Dalembert: When he’s on the court the Mavericks are a much better team. He’s second on the team with a 103 defensive rating. He’s also the only true center on the roster.
Dalembert’s consistency, motor, and toughness have been questioned at time during the season. He needs to be the starting center for this team to live up to its full potential.
DeJuan Blair: Probably the best free agent bargain from the off-season, Blair has done it all for the Mavericks. Whether it’s filling in for Wright or starting, he’s consistently found a way to contribute.
His ability to fit alongside Wright on the second unit will be huge. If those two can coexist it will make the Mavericks far better. Both have played too well for one to be out of the rotation.
Blair on the season is only shooting 54% from the free throw line.
At just 6’7″ Blair has struggled against bigger/taller bodies. Though the numbers don’t show it with a 102 defensive rating (leads team), he must do a better job to rebound against bigger bodies.
Wayne Ellington: Prior to the signing of Ellis, Ellington was penciled in to be the starter at shooting guard. He finds himself struggling to get off the bench at this point of the season.
Ellington a career 37.9% 3pt shooter has only shot 28.6% this season. For him to find a consistent role he must be able to hit shots and defend.
Jae Crowder: After starting the season on fire, Crowder is shooting 43.6% from the field and 36.7% from 3.
Crowder must be able to shoot the ball well. His defense and toughness will always be needed, so he must be able to not hinder the offense.
Bernard Jame, Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel, Ricky Ledo: All have had great moments this season, but at the same time have had many struggles.
Rookies Larkin and Mekel have not been able to handle the backup point guard duties, as they’ve both struggled with turnovers and their shooting.
James is stuck behind Dalembert, Wright, and Blair. He hasn’t shown the ability to consistently defend and rebound.
Ledo must continue to learn to play on an organized team as he hasn’t played since High School. He’s currently playing for the D-League Texas Legends.
As a whole this team must continue to score the ball as they have. The defense and rebounding need improvement and it’s sure that Rick Carlisle will continue to emphasize that to the team. Preserving leads is also on the Mavericks’ list of to-do’s.
With the struggles and weaknesses the 8th seeded Mavericks (18-13) have had, they find themselves just two game behind for the 4th spot in the West.