The season is still two months 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 month or so. We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z. Today's team: Dallas.
Last year's record: 67-15.
Playoffs: Lost to Golden State 4-2
In: Eddie Jones (free agent), Brandon Bass (free agent), Nick Fazekas (draft), Reyshawn Terry? (draft)
Out: Austin Croshere (free agent), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (free agent).
Projected starting lineup: Devin Harris, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier.
Bench (in no particular order): Jose Barea, Eddie Jones, Greg Buckner, Maurice Ager, Devean George, Jerry Stackhouse, Brandon Bass, Nick Fazekas, DJ Mbenga, DeSagana Diop.
So what do we think? Was their playoff loss an aberration, or a sign of things to come? Is Dirk really a guy who chokes in the clutch? Will Devin Harris take another step forward? What about Josh Howard? Do they have too many swingmen and not enough big guys?
It seems to be that Dallas is neither as good as they were all season or as bad as they were in the playoffs. Sure, those are two incredible extremes, but did they really seem like a 67 win team last year? Honestly, they seemed like a team that stayed healthy when the rest of the league didn't, as evidenced by the fact that they significantly outperformed their expected winning percentage. At the same time, however, Golden State was a terrible matchup for them, so I think they did the right thing in not blowing this team up.
But even though they did nothing, I see them getting a bit worse. With the exception of Harris and Howard, their core players seemed to have plateaued. Dirk's now 28, and while he won the MVP last year, his 2005/06 season was better. Terry's 29, and it's becoming problematic to play him alongside Harris in a small lineup (and he's signed for the next five seasons). The Diop/Dampier duo is not going to suddenly improve, and I don't expect Jerry Stackhouse to have as good a year as he did last year. Then, on the bench, you have the pu-pu-platter of Devean George, Greg Buckner, and now Eddie Jones, who have no upside whatsoever.
I think they made a big mistake in not trying to get a post-up guy to play off the bench. Jones was nice and cheap, but they don't need him when they already have George, Stackhouse, Buckner, and Maurice Ager at the 2/3 spots. Dirk's backup is now either the untested Brandon Bass or second-round rookie Nick Fazekas, and neither can be that guy. Their lack of a post scorer just killed them against Golden State, a team that wants you to jack up jumpers, when you should be killing them inside. They did nothing to improve that, and with a mostly older core, that's going to really hurt.
I'll say 54-28 and a first-round loss to either Houston or Denver.