Competition Discussion: Dallas Mavericks

(Previously: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland).

The season is still a ways away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little).  We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else.  In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next couple months or so.  We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z.  Today's team: Dallas.  Jump to the comments to discuss the Mavericks and make a prediction on their record.

  

Last year's record: 50-32 (Pythagorean record: 47-35)

Playoffs: Beat San Antonio 4-1 in first round, lost to Denver 4-1 in second round

Offensive Rating: 110.5 (5th)

Defensive Rating: 108.4 (17th)

Pace: 91.5 possessions/game (16th)

In: Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, Kris Humphries, Quinton Ross
Out: Brandon Bass, Antoine Wright, Jerry Stackhouse, Ryan Hollins

Projected starting lineup: Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier

Key themes:

  • Can Jason Kidd hold up and have another solid season at age 36?
  • What impact will Shawn Marion have?  Is his game really declining like it seems after he's left Phoenix?
  • Will Josh Howard successfully man the shooting guard position?  Does this mean fewer minutes for him?  How will his creaky ankles hold up? 
  • How will they improve on defense when they lack size?  How much will not getting Marcin Gortat hurt them?
  • What's the next big shoe to drop?  Dallas has two non-guaranteed contracts in Erick Dampier and Greg Buckner that are worth so much in this economic climate, but how will those chips be used? 
  • Can Drew Gooden replace Brandon Bass effectively?  Dallas' best lineup last year was Kidd/Terry/Howard/Nowtizki/Bass, so losing Bass is big if Gooden can't fill in.
  • How fast will they play?  Rick Carlisle opened things up a bit last year, but their defense suffered.  Now that Marion is aboard and they are even smaller, will they play even faster?  How wise is that with their oldish personnel?
  • How do minutes on the perimeter get divided between Howard, Terry, Marion, Kidd and JJ Barea?

It's very difficult to analyze Dallas because I'm sure the team we see now is not the team we'll see at the end of the year.  The roster is currently very unbalanced, with lots of swingmen and few bigs.  Mark Cuban has also demonstrated that he's willing to add payroll even in this economic climate, and Dallas has three interesting trade chips in Erick Dampier, Drew Gooden and Greg Buckner.  Bucker and Gooden's contracts this year are only partially guaranteed (only about $1 million/season out of $4 million/season for Buckner; only $1.9 million out of $4.5 million for Gooden), while Dampier's 2010/11 salary of over $13 million is fully unguaranteed.  In other words, a team can trade a player making within 125% of Buckner's salary, cut him, and immediately save about $3 million dollars in each of the next two seasons.  Same for Gooden.  As for Dampier, this article explores how Dallas could use Dampier's contract to get a max salary guy after the season.  

So count on Dallas making another move for someone who can really help them this season using Buckner and Gooden's contracts.  Someone like Stephen Jackson, for example, makes too much sense for Dallas for a trade to not happen.

As for Dallas' current roster?  Last year, the Mavericks were a pretty mediocre team until a fast finish pushed them to 50 wins and the sixth seed.  The Mavericks benefited from San Antonio's injuries, which allowed them to win a round in the playoffs, and New Orleans' struggles, which allowed the Mavericks to move up and face the Spurs in the playoffs.  They weren't a bad team, but they weren't all that either.

It was a different Mavericks team that we're used to seeing too.  Before the season, I scoffed at Rick Carlisle's proclamations to push the pace more, but they actually opened the offense up a lot more than I expected.  Jason Kidd had a pretty good year all things considering, and Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were still outstanding.  The problem is that the team's defense suffered, dropping to below average last year.  No Devin Harris and DeSagana Diop will do that to you.

So let's take that decent-to-average team from last year, add Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden and subtract Brandon Bass.  Does that really make the Mavericks all that much better?  It's a toughie.  I think Marion has a lot more left than most think, and on this team, with Kidd feeding him and Howard guarding top perimeter defenders (if he can play shooting guard and stay healthy, which are both open questions), Marion won't have to do as much as he did in Phoenix.  That could be a good thing.  Marion can focus on defense and rebounding, and he has a point guard who will reward him at the other end.  Gooden is definitely a downgrade from Bass, but not so much so that it'll cost them wins.  Not all that inspiring.

You could look at Dallas and say they're basically the same as last year, except with an older Kidd, an older Nowitzki (not that it'll affect him much) and a complete lack of a frontline.  Not having Marcin Gortat is a big loss for Dallas, because Dampier's no good and they lost his backup, Ryan Hollins, to Minnesota.  Now, we'll probably see a lot of Nowitzki at center, Marion at power forward, Howard at small forward and Terry/Kidd in the backcourt.  That team will light it up offensively, but they will really struggle on defense.  Gortat would have provided that balance.

They're still a good team though.  Carlisle's a great coach, Kidd can still play, Nowitzki is one of the best, Terry is criminally underrated and Howard, when he's healthy, is a force.  Putting all the pieces together will prove challenging, but Carlisle's a coach who could do it.  The lack of interior play, though, is going to doom them to second-class status in the West unless they get something valuable with their trade chips.

Mike's Prediction: 49-33, third in the Southwest, sixth in the West.

Team Mike Prada JakeTheSnake Truth About It Rook6980 bwoodsxyz
Atlanta 47-35 44-38 45-37 45-37 45-37
Boston 57-25 55-27 54-28 44-38 56-26
Charlotte 32-50 32-50 29-53 34-48 37-45
Chicago 39-43 40-42 42-40 40-42 44-38
Cleveland 63-19 60-22 64-18 61-21
Dallas 49-33 44-38 50-32 47-35
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