Time of death: May 4th, 2014. A little after 3 pm PT.
Leading into the series, many thought this would be a bloodbath, after all, the Mavericks were the eight seed in the West, struggled on the glass, and were one of the worse defensive teams in the league. Well, the Mavericks pushed the NBA’s best to seven games; even with the loss, they showed they’re right on the doorstep to being one of the NBA’s best once again.
Prior to the season, many doubted the Mavericks as a team, and rightfully so. They brought in a point guard who can’t defend, an undersized and inefficient shooting guard who also can’t defend, a center who plays when he wants to, and not much else to get excited about. The age and health of the franchise’s face was also a concern.
49-33 and a first round exit. Seems like the Mavericks should be back at the drawing board. But if this season taught us anything, it’s that this upcoming offseason won’t be as the two previous, where the roster was completely retooled.
We saw Dirk Nowitzki have an All-Star season and barely miss out on a 50-40-90 season. We saw Monta Ellis actually “Have it All”. We saw Rick Carlisle once again push the right buttons. We also saw a flawed roster that needs fixing.
Even with Nowitzki’s stellar season and Ellis’s reincarnation, both need more help on both sides of the ball.
Nowitzki, Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, DeJuan Blair, and Bernard James are set to hit free agency. Nowitzki is a no-brainer to come back.The Mavericks will have to decide on whether to bring any of the other pieces back. Marion, the lone piece outside of Nowitzki from the championship team will be the toughest decision of the bunch.
After Nowitzki re-signs his new contract, the Mavericks will have around $20 million to play around with.
The center position needs to be upgraded. Samuel Dalembert turned it on to conclude the season, but he’s better served as a backup. With Blair potentially out and Brandan Wright still unable to be a consistent defensive presence, this will must likely be the teams number one target during the offseason. Marcin Gortat, Larry Sanders, Omar Asik, and Greg Monroe will most likely have their names tied to potential Mavs targets.
Even if Marion is retained, it’s tough to see him being the starter at small forward due to his decline play. Like the center spot, expect the Mavericks to work hard to upgrade at this position. Expect the team to focus on bringing in a defensive wing who can hurt defenses for focussing on Nowitzki and Ellis. Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza would be ideal fits. Or, they can shock everyone and make a run at Carmelo Anthony.
Jose Calderon occupies the starting point guard and is locked up for three more years. If there is an opportunity for Dallas to upgrade, don’t be surprised if they take it. Even with Calderon’s great shooting and basketball IQ, his inconsistency and lack of defense aren’t great a fit next to Ellis and Nowitzki.
The Mavericks have their one-two punch in place, but now must alleviate the pressure from their stars. They must rebuild the supporting cast. It won’t be a shocker to see the majority of this season’s Mavs back. Whether most are retained or not, for this team to take the next step, they’ll need to add athleticism, defense, and size to an old, small, and offense oriented roster. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will do all they can to improve this roster.
While the season ending is always a disappointed, there’s plenty of reason to get excited for next season.