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Competition Discussion: Dallas Mavericks

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: 51-31

In: DeSagana Diop, Gerald Green, Shan Foster
Out: Tyronn Lue, Antoine Wright, Jamaal Magloire.

Projected starting lineup: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, DeSagana Diop.

Key themes:

  • What difference will new coach Rick Carlisle make?
  • Does Jason Kidd have anything left in the tank?
  • How does Josh Howard respond after a tumultuous summer that continues to this day?
  • Is Dirk Nowitzki beginning to slow down?
  • Why in God's name did they re-sign Devean George?
  • Who exactly do they expect to produce off the bench, other than Brandon Bass?
  • Does the return of DeSagana Diop help at all?

Let's be clear: Dallas is no longer a championship contender.  A lot of shuffling happened last year, but you can't tell me that the team as currently construced will really make a dent in the Western Conference.  Jason Kidd is old and declining, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are in their 30s and nobody knows how Josh Howard will respond after this summer.  The Mavs are expecting Rick Carlisle to be the answer, but his coaching style is just the same as Avery Johnson's.

That said, I don't expect Dallas to be bad.  Through all the problems last year, they still won 51 games with an expected win/loss record of 54-28.  In Terry, Howard and Nowitzki, Dallas still has a Big 3 that can rival most teams in the league.  Kidd may be slowing down, but he's not awful just yet, and the return of the Diop/Dampier two-headed monster at center will help matters.  Dallas' guard depth is atrocious, yes, but Brandon Bass emerged last year off the bench.

The thing is, this team is suited for slow-paced basketball, which is what Carlisle teams have traditionally done.  Nowitzki and Howard are excellent at scoring from the pinch-post (aka the elbow), and Terry and Nowitzki still run one of the meanest pick-and-rolls in the league.  Of course, this begs the question of why Kidd was acquired in the first place, but Diop's return will help the defense and hopefully trigger more fast-break opportunities, which suits Kidd well.  That's the hope, anyway.

Under Carlisle, I expect this team to defend better than last year, because they won't have tuned out the coach.  That at least should get them back to 50 wins, but I can't see too many more because they'll never be able to run the same halfcourt offense with Kidd in there.  Those wonderfully efficient Dallas offenses under Avery Johnson?  Gone, because of Kidd, Carlisle and general age. 

So, I see another low Western Conference playoff finish and another first-round exit.  Not great, but not falling off the face of the planet either.

Prediction: 50-32, fourth in Southwest, sixth in West

Previously (predictions are me/Jake/Truth)...