Published November 20, 2014
It wasn't that long ago when the Dallas Mavericks finally won an NBA title.
In fact, it was just two seasons ago, but it feels like it has been years and years. The roster barely resembles the team that knocked off the Miami Heat for the world championship.
Getting this current roster to look like that wasn't the prettiest adventure in the history of offseasons.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wanted to make a splash and clear cap space to sign hometown guy Deron Williams. Then, Cuban didn't show up to the pitch meeting and Williams is still a member of the Nets.
"I think (Cuban) would have been able to answer a lot of the questions me and my agent have for him that really didn't get answered that day pertaining to the future," Williams told reporters. "And I think if he was there he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. It maybe would have helped me."
Cuban was off filming a reality show called "Shark Tank," but responded a few days later while the Mavericks were in Spain to lose a preseason game to FC Barcelona.
"I'm a big D-Will fan, but I'm kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference," Cuban said, according to The Dallas Morning News. "I would have expected him to say. like I'd expect one of our guys to say. 'Hey I'm so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn't have mattered what he did.'"
Sniping aside, Williams is not the Mavericks point guard. Neither is Jason Kidd. That job now belongs to Darren Collison, who the team acquired from the Indiana Pacers in July.
O.J. Mayo came from Memphis to be Collison's running mate and Elton Brand and Chris Kaman were brought in to sure up the frontcourt.
All these moves were made to stay competitive during the twilight of Dirk Nowitzki's career. The future Hall of Famer is 34 and will be out of action for almost the first month of the season following knee surgery. It was a last resort for the Mavericks and their star player after Nowitzki's knee swelled following treatment.
Nowitzki missed four games last season and his 21.6 points per game were the lowest of his career since his second campaign. He is still a supremely effective offensive player, but the end is nearing.
2011-12 Results: 36-30, third in Southwest; Lost in West Quarterfinals to Oklahoma City.
ADDITIONS: G Darren Collison, G O.J. Mayo, C Chris Kaman, F Elton Brand, F Dahntay Jones, F Jae Crowder.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Darren Collison SG- O.J. Mayo SF- Shawn Marion PF- Dirk Nowitzki C- Chris Kaman
KEY RESERVES: G/F Vince Carter, F Elton Brand, G Rodrigue Beaubois, G Delonte West, F Brandan Wright, F Dahntay Jones, F Jae Crowder.
FRONTCOURT: Nowitzki may be on the decline, but he's still a force. A 7- footer, Nowitzki is still the best long-distance shooter in the game. He's always been a defensive liability and the knee surgery two weeks before the start of the season is a humongous pause for concern. But anyone who can shoot like Nowitzki, at his size, is still going to be impossible to defend.
Shawn Marion's scoring numbers dipped last year to his lowest since his rookie season. His rebounding and assists both went up and on a team never known for its defense, Marion might have been the only guy in the locker room to care more about defending than offense.
Chris Kaman was a spectacular signing for Dallas. He's only three seasons removed from being an All-Star and has averaged double figures every season since the 2004-05 campaign. Health is always an issue with this big man. Kaman played a full season once in his career and he's missed 10 or more games five times in nine seasons. When he's healthy and on the floor, Kaman is a really helpful asset. He is far and away the best center Nowitzki has played with as a pro.
BACKCOURT: With Kidd in New York, Collison takes over the point. He had a decent stint in Indianapolis last season, but lost his starting job when he returned from injury. He didn't average 5.0 assists as a point guard, which is troubling, but he doesn't turn it over a lot either. Collison is on the cusp of being a reliable starting guard in the league, but improvement is required.
Speaking of improvement, here's Mayo. Since his rookie year, his scoring numbers and assist numbers are both down. Granted, Mayo came off the bench his last two years, but he still has to define himself as a legit starting "2." He shoots a respectable 37 percent from the 3-point line. Mayo is at a potential turning point in his career. With only a two-year contract from the Mavs, (the second year is a player option) Mayo can try to make everyone believe the hype that was around him before he was drafted. The alternative is to float around the league as a scorer off the bench and that's not a horrible way to make a living.
BENCH: The bench used to be a strength for head coach Rick Carlisle, but now it's a crap shoot. And how can a team expect to replace the best bench player of the last 10 years in the NBA, Jason Terry?
There is talent on the pine for Carlisle. Guys like Brand and Vince Carter can still provide scoring although both looked pretty close to shot last year. Delonte West and Rodrigue Beaubois are serviceable to slightly above-average backup guards, but when does Beaubois actually step up and become the guy the Mavericks think they have? And West, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has already been suspended in the preseason for conduct detrimental to the team.
Brandan Wright looks like a nice player, finally. He was the eighth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft and found a home in Dallas. He can finish at the rim, but is not great defensively. Carlisle found himself playing Wright in the fourth quarter of meaningful games.
Dahntay Jones became a throw-in in the Collison trade, but he can still shoot a little and defend. The less put on him the better.
Jae Crowder is going to play some in his rookie year, book it. His tenacious defense and enthusiasm will force Carlisle to throw him out there for 10 minutes of havoc.
COACHING: Carlisle is a good coach. He runs this team professionally and has a nice mix of veterans and people no one seems to really want on his side. Carlisle spins that to his advantage.
"We won the championship as kind of, what football and baseball would view as a wild card. We were on the radar, but not prominently on the radar," said Carlisle. "People know what we're about as an organization. You're playing for a title, regardless of what people may, or may not think about your roster. We don't care about that."
OUTLOOK: Dallas has exactly enough talent to make the playoffs and not nearly enough to win a round. They are closer to missing the playoffs than making a deep run.
And with Nowitzki on the shelf for a period of time, Dallas is seriously staring in the face of missing the postseason for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
The veteran additions won't let the Mavericks fall too far, though. These are all high-character guys and who knows, maybe they all feel like they have one run left in them.
Before the Nowitzki surgery, the Mavericks were a fringe playoff team. Without him for a while, I'm liking the Jazz or Warriors to take their spot in the postseason.