It’s all about Next summer…again…..for the last time.
In: Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, D.J. Mbenga…rookies Bernard James, Jared Cunningham, Tadija Dragicevic.
PG Darren Collison Rodrigue Beaubois, Jared Cunningham (r)
SG O.J. Mayo Delonte West, Dominique Jones
SF Shawn Marion Vince Carter, Tadija Dragicevic (r), Dahntay Jones
PF Dirk Nowitzki Elton Brand, Brandan Wright
C Chris Kaman Bernard James (r), D.J. Mbenga
Offseason Recap: A year ago Mark Cuban made the tough decision to not pay the guys who helped win the championship vs Miami. Instead, he wanted to preserve cap space for this past summer: Deron Willams & Dwight Howard. I though it was a good move at the time, and still do. Well, ‘Cubes’ got neither of those two marquee names and now must sell the same old message to his fan base: it’s all about next summer. But, unlike last year, the team didn’t just add a bunch of mercenaries this offseason…this time they actually added some young guys that have something to prove. The backcourt is much better than last year (J-Kidd is far from a kid these days), with the unlikely pairing of Collison (UCLA) and Mayo (USC). The Mavs stole Darren from the guard-heavy Pacers while picking up O.J. from the forgotten-free agent pool (Boston liked him but couldn’t afford him). As for the frontline, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand practically fell in GM Donnie Nelson’s lap. Rick Carlisle should be more excited this year heading into training camp. Yes, he’s got another group of one-year hired guns around Dirk Nowitzki, but at least this group has something to prove. Unfortunately, Vince Carter is still there too. Despite his deal being partially guaranteed, the team needed to fill out its roster for next season. However, ‘Vinsanity’ could be gone anytime.
Strengths: There is a lot of talent on this roster, not named Nowitzki. It’s a unique blend of veterans and youth. More importantly, a lot of these guys have something to prove after last year. The backcourt of Collison and Mayo both were passed up last season in their team’s gameplans (Indiana and Memphis, respectively). They’ll both relish the chance to show what they can do with starter’s minutes. Kaman and Brand, should they stay healthy, will also bring a lot to the table.
Weaknesses: Who are the Dallas Mavericks? I don’t know and I doubt Rick Carlisle does either. Sure, we know who Dirk is and what he’ll give the team…but how do the other pieces mesh on the fly and, more importantly, what is the defensive philosophy? The vaunted zone defense that dismantled the ‘Heatles’ in 2011 is a distant memory. It’ll be a long month of October, and likely November as well as this group tries to gel on the fly. Holding training camp in Europe may help bring this team closer together, sooner…..but I doubt it.
Prediction: With the exception of the Seattle Supersonics in 2005, no team of hired guns on ending contracts ever made any serious noise in the playoffs. That group was a bunch of guys who all had career years and it still got them only to the 2nd round of the playoffs. This year’s Mavericks, though just one year removed from an NBA championship, can hardly be expected to do even that well. Their defense will again be inconsistent while offensively they’ll likely be looking around and pointing fingers for much of the season. When the ball isn’t in Dirk’s hands it’ll likely be in Collison’s. Carlisle will feature more pick n’ rolls than ever just to keep some sort of continuity out on the court, but it won’t be enough.
I see another first round exit this year in the playoffs, this time to a much lesser opponent. Don’t be surprised if the Minnesota Timberwolves or Utah Jazz finish with a better record than Dallas.