Last year's Dallas Mavs were a flawed aging team that was slow defensively and struggled to find their offense at times. Their veterans had difficulty adjusting to the shortened schedule with all the back-to-back games and traveling. They suffered major injuries. Jason Kidd led the offense but was not an offensive threat which allowed for defenses to effectively play 5 on 4.
With the notable departures of Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Brenden Haywood, Lamar Odom and Ian Mahinmi, the Dallas Mavericks had to replace key rotation players and a couple of starters.
After missing out on the opportunity to land a "big fish" in free agency, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson pulled off some savvy deals enabling their team to cut cap space and acquire young talent as well as former All-Stars slightly past their prime for dirt cheap.
Chris Broussard said here that the Mavericks were "losers" this off-season and that may be true if you base that on the hype around the "big fish" comments from upper management and ownership but when you break it down position by position, the Mavs have actually improved at 3 positions. Sure, not signing Deron Williams hurt and atching the Jet go green and seeing Kidd do an about face to side with the Knicks stung but let's examine the roster once the smoke has cleared.
The Mavs brought in Darren Collison to run the point. He's no Jason Kidd but that's not a bad thing necessarily. Collison attacks the rim with reckless abandon while Kidd was allergic to finishing at the rim (he only did it 10 times last year). Collison is excellent attacking and facilitating the pick and roll which will force defenses to guard all 5 positions. Collison is small in size but possesses the speed and quickness to force turnovers and draw charges a la J.J. Barea.
OJ Mayo has big shoes to fill now that the Jet has taken flight to Boston but has proven that he has the skills to produce in a starting role at 2 guard. Mayo came off the bench recently in Memphis but is more productive and efficient as a starter. Mayo has stated that he is eager to improve his PG skills and wants to see minutes running the Mavs offense. There may seem to be a logjam at the guard position but competition breeds success. The cream will rise to the top.
Domonique Jones is tearing it up in the Summer League and will challenge Rodrigue Boubois for back up minutes at SG and PG. Dahntay Jones is a legit backup 2 guard with length to defend big guards and small forwards. All three players can shoot the ball and can be valuable pieces this season. Jared Cunningham is the player to watch! His athleticism is AMAZING and he is a thief on defense. Check out his highlight tape
Shawn Marios still has a lot left in the tank and is the Mavs most versatile defender. Vince Carter will make the natural transition from SG to SF to provide a much needed spark to the offense from the bench. Carter is a tough wily veteran with a lot left in the tank. Jae Crowder has proven that he has what it takes to compete at the NBA level with an impressive Summer League showing.
With Dirk Nowitzki holding down the PF position, the Mavs are in good hands. Dirk is still the biggest matchup problem in the NBA and will prove that last year's numbers were an aberration. With Elton Brand backing Nowitzki, the Mavs may have the best PF tandem in the Western Conference.
Chris Kaman is an improvement over Branden Haywood. Offensively he's better, hands down. Defensively, Kaman is a better rim protector. Brandan Wright will bring spark plug energy packing him up and contributing key minutes backing up Dirk when they want to rest both Germans. Brand is perfectly capable of contributing minutes at the C position as well. Bernard James is a leader. Time will tell if the 28 year old rookie has what it takes to lead at the NBA level but he has had a good showing in Summer League.
In a nutshell, the Dallas Mavs have improved at PG, PF and at Center. They have gone from one of the NBA's oldest teams to a team with a core of young talent. The Mavs slipped a little at 2 guard with the loss of Jason Terry but OJ Mayo is younger, more athletic, a good 3 point shooter and still improving. If Domonique Jones and/or Rodrigue Boubois have a breakthrough year, the team might be improved at SG. Time will tell. The SF position holds steady with no significant improvement other than Vince Carter now having a more defined role on the wing.
I like the Dallas Mavericks playoff chances. Barring injuries, they should be higher seeded than last year's 7th place ranking. If the Mavs can grab home court advantage with the 4th seed, they could win a playoff series. The 2012-2013 Mavs will be competitive and fun to watch. Most of their players will enter free agency after the season so who knows what the 2013-2014 roster will look like but we'll take it one year at a time.