Playoff Results: N/A
Key Additions: Monta Ellis (free agent), Jose Calderon (free agent), Samuel Dalembert (free agent), Devin Harris (free agent), Shane Larkin (draft), Ricky Ledo (#25DollarsOfFaith)
Key Losses: O.J. Mayo (free agent), Elton Brand (free agent), Chris Kaman (free agent), Darren Collison (free agent)
Projected 2013-14 Record: 34-48 (12th in West)*
What to Expect: Mark Cuban’s courage is noble; his cigar blowing plane rides, late-night trophy showcasing endeavors, his championship urinal trips are imperial. His eccentricity is what sets him apart from other owners: you know who Mark Cuban is. His honesty – for good or bad – is refreshing. His confidence is unparalleled. The world was shocked when the Mavericks – behind a number of heroic playoff performances from a number of players – snatched the throne from the hands of King James.
But Mark Cuban – in the midst of his vibrant celebrations – was already planning his next move. He is a natural business, after all. He let free agents Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler – both major defensive components of the 2011 championship run – walk away for nothing. He signed a plethora of players to one year deals and began eyeing the 2013 summer. But plans were stalled when Cuban’s two major free agent targets signed elsewhere. Chris Paul remained with the very dangerous Los Angeles Clippers. Dwight Howard – whose defensive prowess would have fit nicely next to Dirk Nowitzki’s offensive talents – chose Houston over Dallas. Cuban – left with his aging German star and a wing combination of Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, both well past their prime – was quickly forced into a backup plan.
That backup plan added up to the long-term contracts of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. The former is a high usage, inefficient volume scorer, but a creative scorer nonetheless; the latter is a solid game manager with a sweet shooting stroke but with no semblance of a defensive presence to speak of. It’s as if Cuban went to the mall (in this case the free agency market) to binge-shop after missing out on the only two Ferraris on the lot – Paul and Howard.
What that means for the Mavericks is a bit of an enigma. The signing of Calderon and Ellis, paired with a healthy Dirk, will make for a pretty good offense. The pick-and-rolls here have good potential and a backcourt bench rotation of Devin Harris, Vince Carter, and Shane Larkin means the team will be able to shoot a pretty decent percentage from three-point range. The expiring contract of Shawn Marion isn’t a terrible trade chip, if the team chooses to go that route.
The real issue for the Mavericks is on defense. Will they be able to stop anyone? Head coach Rick Carlisle will probably max out the defensive potential, but how much is really there in the first place? Samuel Dalembert – a small part of Cuban’s summer shopping spree – isn’t going to help Dallas’ interior defense woes, as he might have in his early years with Philadelphia, but he isn’t terrible. He’s a good rebounder and can still average 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes.
The Mavericks’ season – and the two-to-three (depending on how Ellis approaches his player option) seasons following – mostly hinges on how Monta Ellis meshes with Dirk. Ellis is unfairly ridiculed a little too much. Here’s a list of players who averaged at least 19.2 points per game and an assist rate at or higher than Ellis’ 27.1 percent last season: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, and Kyrie Iriving. Ellis takes bad shots and his True Shooting percentage is awful, but to undermine is ability as a basketball player is wrong and a little demeaning. If Ellis can finally – for lack of better words – “get it” and if Dirk can remain conditioned and healthy the entire season, then the Mavericks will have a real chance at a playoff spot.
Matchup with the Hawks: The Hawks and Mavericks will play twice this season: Atlanta will travel to Dallas for the season opener on Oct. 30; the Mavs come to the ATL on Nov. 29. It’s difficult to gauge exactly what will happen in those two meetings, especially with both teams undergoing major offseason facelifts.
Al Horford is miles ahead of Samuel Dalembert but the Hawks will face the daunting task of defending Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki averaged 23 points and 6.5 rebounds in the teams’ two meetings last season. He shot an absurd 15-of-25 from the floor and 5-of-6 from beyond the perimeter in those games. Paul Millsap will likely take the assignment, but there’s really no stopping an engaged Dirk.
Atlanta held Monta Ellis in check for the most part last year, until he exploded for 27 points, 17 assists and 8 rebounds on April 12. You never really know what you’re going to get with Ellis: he scored 5 points on 14 shots against the Hawks just a month prior to that near triple-double performance. But he’s a more creative scorer than anyone on the Hawks and will likely have one good game and one bad game in the season split.
Dallas was the fifth worst team defending three-pointers last season giving up 7.8 per game. That should bode well for any combination of Kyle Korver-Lou Williams-John Jenkins-Jared Cunningham as the Hawks averaged 8.6 three-pointers a game, per HoopData.
Jeff Teague is better than Calderon but not by a lot. If rookie point guard Shane Larkin can earn some minutes this year, his match up versus Dennis Schroeder on the bench will be fun; Larkin and Schröder were two of the first point guards selected in this year’s draft.
*projections based off of Bo’s ESPN Forecast standings