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2014-15 Dallas Mavericks Season Preview

Has Dallas put themselves back among the West’s Elite?

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The Cleveland Cavaliers made a bit of a splash this past offseason, but aside from them, it can be argued that the Dallas Mavericks did the most to improve themselves from last season. After posting 49 wins last season, the Mavericks will enter this autumn with their eyes set on building upon last season’s success and hopefully recapturing past glory.

Basketball Insiders takes a look at the 2014-15 Dallas Mavericks.

Five Guys Think

The Mavericks were better last season than everyone this side of Mark Cuban thought they’d be, and the Dallas front office did a nice job this offseason making the appropriate moves to ensure that positive momentum continues along in the right direction. Chandler Parsons was expensive, but he’ll be a great fit on that roster, while Tyson Chandler brings back a defensive component the team has been missing since they first allowed him to walk away in free agency a few summers ago. Jameer Nelson came at a bargain this summer, and there are actually quite a few young players on this roster with breakout potential. Dirk Nowitzki may be past his prime, but his “budget” contract allowed for Donnie Nelson to go out and make some big moves to improve the team. It looks like they’ve succeeded, though it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be winning a championship this year considering how stiff the competition is out West.

3rd Place – Southwest Division

-Joel Brigham

After a one year postseason hiatus, the Dallas Mavericks returned to their usual stomping grounds in 2014 but were quickly eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Not resting on their laurels, the Mavericks spent the summer retooling their roster and swung a trade for former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. The team was also active in free agency, signing emerging forward Chandler Parsons and veteran floor general Jameer Nelson. High scoring guard Monta Ellis silenced skeptics and proved he fit within the team’s dynamic and he’s poised to take on a larger role in the rotation this season. While the Mavericks aren’t residing in the land of title contention, the franchise is in position to be a solid sleeper candidate.

3rd Place – Southwest Division

– Lang Greene

This was an interesting summer for Dallas as they brought in a ton of new faces, but I’m not sure how much better they got. I think they overpaid for Chandler Parsons and I’m not confident that he can be a No. 1 option or face-of-the-franchise player. There’s a reason that the Houston Rockets didn’t match that offer sheet and were publicly saying that they wanted to add a third star player to put alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard. They obviously didn’t think Parsons had that kind of upside, and I agree. Their other offseason additions such as Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson and Jameer Nelson have all been on the decline in recent years. I believe Dallas will once again be fighting for the eighth seed in the West, even with so many moves this summer.

4th Place – Southwest Division

Alex Kennedy

One could argue that the Dallas Mavericks are second to only the Cleveland Cavaliers in terms of teams that have improved themselves this past summer. Chandler Parsons is one of the league’s more promising youngsters and at just 25 years old, the thrifty and prudent Mark Cuban got himself a winner. Whether Parsons can continue his progression is the $45 million question, but playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki should make it a bit easier. Tyson Chandler is returning to the scene of one of his finest profession moments and with him, the Mavericks may be able to recapture some of their past glory. With the recently signed Ivan Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu joining Richard Jefferson and Jameer Nelson in Dallas, the Mavericks suddenly have a team laden with talented veterans. Although the team is not as young as some of the other contenders out West, the Mavericks seem to have improved dramatically this offseason. Playing in the league’s most competitive division, though, does not promise them anything more than a puncher’s chance at winning it. The Southwest Division will be a dogfight, but it is still difficult imagining the Mavericks toppling the San Antonio Spurs, though they will certainly be competitive with the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets.

2nd place – Southwest Division

– Moke Hamilton

It’s a distant memory for most, but the Dallas Mavericks actually gave the San Antonio Spurs as tough of a playoff series as anyone this postseason. Then they went out and re-acquired their defensive anchor from their championship run in Tyson Chandler, landed Chandler Parsons and some other nice veteran pieces that I think are going to help them be a difficult out again this postseason. All you ever hear about Parsons’ contract is that the Mavericks overpayed, but someone was going to give Parsons that kind of money, and he’s young enough that I believe he can play up to it. He was one of the better all-around small forwards in the league last year, and the Mavericks were in desperate need of a talent like him. The point guard position is going to be key for them. Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton have seen better days than the last couple of years, but I think they’re motivated and capable of making the kind of contributions the Mavericks need in a combined effort to be one of the better teams in the West.

2nd Place – Southwest Division

– Yannis Koutroupis

Top Of The List

Top Offensive Player: Even at 36 years old, Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the top offensive players in the NBA. He’s one of the few players in NBA history that is a member of the 50/40/90 club and he is coming off of a bit of a bounce-back season in which he scored just over 21 points per game after managing to score just 17.3 per game back in the 2012-13 season. Anyone who has watch Nowitzki play over the course of his 16 year career is well aware of the versatility that he possesses on the offensive end. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are often mentioned as being amongst the top offensive players in the league, but it is Nowitzki who has the most efficient and most versatile offensive repertoire. Whether operating with his back to the basket, from the low post, or facing up outside of the three-point arc, there is no area on the floor from which Nowitzki is unable to score. Although the sun may be setting on his career, he still ranks amongst the top forces in the game.

Top Defensive Player: After a three-year stint in New York, Tyson Chandler has returned to the site of his finest moments—the city of Dallas. In Big D, they are well aware of the impact that Chandler has on a team’s defensive culture and that is usually the true measure of how good of a defensive player someone is. Can he clean up the mistake of his teammates? Can be effectively cover for them? Can he inspire them? With Chandler, the answer on all three accounts is a resounding yes. Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle are both well aware of that fact, as Chandler was a major catalyst that enabled the team to score the shocking upset over the Miami HEAT in the 2011 NBA Finals. Chandler is back patrolling the paint in Dallas, and with his defensive prowess, Mavericks fans are rightfully optimistic. When healthy, he makes that much of a difference.

Top Playmaker: The major downside to the Mavericks’ offseason was the loss of Jose Calderon. Although Calderon helped the team reacquire Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks now lack a playmaker of his caliber. Raymond Felton (acquired from the Knicks), Devin Harris and the newly signed Jameer Nelson will join Monta Ellis in the backcourt to pick up the slack. At this point, we would dub Ellis as the top playmaker. He has quietly averaged right around six assists per game over the past four seasons and excels at breaking down defenders and creating space off of the dribble. Although he can still be a bit trigger-happy on occasion, Ellis has the toolset to be a dynamic playmaker and could be counted on to create scoring opportunities for his teammates now that Calderon has been moved on to New York.

Top Clutch Player: The benefit of the doubt goes to the man who is arguably the greatest European-born NBA player in history, and that would be Dirk Nowitzki. Over the course of his career, in countless battles against the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and a few with the likes of both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, Nowitzki has had more than his fair share of big moments. When the game is on the line, Monta Ellis will be given opportunities to create, either for himself of his teammates, but if it came down to getting a single shot to win an important game, Rick Carlisle is quite likely to put the ball in the German seven-footer’s hands. And we can’t say we’d blame him in such an instance.

Top Unheralded Player: The Mavericks do not have many unheralded players who are worthy of recognition here, but Brandan Wright seems to fit the mold. Despite never living up to the expectations born from being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft, Wright has overcome both a lack of opportunity and serious injuries to become a defensive force and key rotation piece for the Mavs.

Top New Addition: Without thinking twice, it is obviously Chandler Parsons. Often, when teams sign coveted youngsters to restricted free agency offer sheets, the contracts are matched by their incumbent teams. The Mavericks scores a rare victory in that realm with Parsons. After agreeing to pay him about $45 million over the next three years, the Houston Rockets ultimately allowed Parsons to make the 240 mile trek up the I-45 and take his talents to North to Dallas. Parons has emerged as one of the most impressive young players in the league. Last season’s 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, four assists and 1.2 steals per game put him alongside the likes of Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant as players to contribute at least 16, five, four and one steal. Whether he will eventually emerge as a first ball Hall of Famer like those aforementioned greats is anyone’s guess, but we do know that he will attempt to do so in Dallas.

– Moke Hamilton

Who We Like

1. Chandler Parsons: After just three years in the league and at 25 years of age, Parsons has arrived. He adds a superstar caliber player to the Mavericks existing core, but will be flanked by both Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. If healthy, he will become the third cog of what has the potential to be a devastating offensive trio. In Dallas, Parsons finds himself in the perfect situation—next to a guard in Ellis that can create opportunities for him off of the dribble and next to a big man in Nowitzki that will draw double teams on the low box and look for Parsons to score off of the defense collapses. Overall, easily an A+ signing for the Mavericks and perhaps the second-best acquisition of the summer.

2. Tyson Chandler: A foursome of Chandler, Nowitzki, Parsons and Ellis will certainly have challenges on the defensive end, but Chandler’s presence will go a long-way toward solving them if he can remain healthy. Based on his recent history in New York (he missed 27 games last season) and his advancing age (he will turn 32 years old before the season begins), his ability to stay healthy may come into question, but still, Chandler is a culture-changer on the defensive end and could help propel the Mavs to an improbable division title – if things break right.

3. Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis: Last season, this duo truly impressed us with their chemistry and their ability to play off of one another. They each took about 16 shots per game with Nowitzki converting on about 50 percent, compared to 45 percent for Ellis. In a way, Ellis is the perfect complement to Nowitzki—a spry offensive weapon that can create his own shot but walks the fine line between playing aggressively, but not overly selfish. Watching the combination is often fun and only leaves us regretting that they did not become partners three or four years sooner.

4. Jameer Nelson: With the departure of Jose Calderon, the Mavericks immediately had a major question at their point guard position. Re-signing Devin Harris was a must and, at least last season, Raymond Felton played poorly enough to warrant questioning whether he can still be a day-in, day-out contributor as a starting point guard in the NBA. On a two-year contract worth $5.5 million total, Nelson represents an amazing value for the Mavs and will more than likely eventually emerge as their starting point guard. Another A+ acquisition for the team.

5. Mark Cuban: See (1) and (4) above. Since he purchased the majority stake of the Dallas Mavericks way back in 2000, the Mavericks have missed the playoffs only once (2013). He is almost always the smartest guy in the room and is one of the few owners in the NBA that has an open-door policy as it relates to answering tough questions posed by the media. Unless you’re the NBA Commissioner—whose policies Cuban openly questions, at times—you’ve simply got to love the candor, emotion and knowledge that makes Cuban who he is. After such a great offseason, he rightfully gets his due credit here.

– Moke Hamilton

Strengths

Chemistry. There are a lot of new faces, but the pieces should fit seamlessly like a puzzle, and with Rick Carlisle calling the shots on the sideline, Jameer Nelson, Chandler Persons and Tyson Chandler should have no issue fusing their offensive skills and talents with Ellis and Nowitzki. The Mavs have also recovered well from the departure of Vince Carter, adding Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson and Ivan Johnson to fortify their depth. Believe it or not, they are a team on the rise.

– Moke Hamilton

Weaknesses

With Al-Farouq Aminu and Ivan Johnson on the bench, the Mavericks have a few plus-defenders who can help slow down opposing offenses, but their projected starting five may not have the same success. Jameer Nelson and Monta Ellis form a fairly small backcourt and Chandler Parsons lacks the girth to guard some of the league’s bigger small forward such as Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Nowitzki can’t guard them, either, so therein lies the challenge of cross-matching and stopping bigger teams. In the Western Conference, where the margin between winning a division or missing the playoffs is razor-thin, there will be a slight concern for the Mavericks on the defensive end.

– Moke Hamilton

The Salary Cap

The Mavericks dropped below the salary cap to give restricted free agent Chandler Parsons an offer sheet for $46.1 million, which the Houston Rockets chose not to match.  Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson joined via Dallas’ $2.7 million Room Exception   Now the team is fully invested with 15 guaranteed players, along with three non/partially guaranteed deals (Ivan Johnson, Charlie Villanueva and rookie Eric Griffin).  The trio could end up on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate (Texas Legends), unless they choose to play overseas.  The Mavericks have gradually evolved from one of the highest payroll teams in the NBA to a franchise that is under the salary cap nearly every year.  The team should drop right back under next year as well, although that may depends on what Tyson Chandler (in the final year of his deal) is hoping to return for – and what the Mavericks are willing to spend.

– Eric Pincus

Dunc’d On

Best Case

55-27

Chandler forgets that it’s not 2011 anymore and single-handedly boosts Dallas’ defense back to the top half of the league.  Nowitzki continues to defy the aging process, Carlisle cobbles together starter-level production at the point, and Ellis consolidates his gains from a year ago as he continues to evolve into a smarter player.  Parsons improves into a reasonable stopper on the wing and eclipses the offensive production the Mavs had a season ago.  They finish with the league’s best offense.

Worst Case

41-41

Dirk misses 10-20 games and continues to degrade defensively and on the boards.  Chandler resembles the player he was in New York last year and suffers through nagging injuries to boot.  Parsons is done improving as an older fourth-year player.  Carlisle’s magic runs out defensively, and the D craters to the bottom five as Ellis, Parsons, and Nowitzki make up the league’s worst starting 2-4 on defense.  The lack of solid backups on the wings hurts the offense when Parsons sits, and the offense falls out of the top five.

– Nate Duncan

The Burning Question

How far can the Mavericks actually go?

The Western Conference is a dogfight and it would be imprudent to bet against the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. So the Mavericks should not be your favorite to win the Southwest Division, but at the same time, you shouldn’t be completely shocked if they do. If they can manage to stay healthy, this is certainly a team that is capable of winning 55 games. In the end, it will boil down to seeding and how much Dirk Nowitzki has left in the tank. If the Mavs secure a top seed out West and Rick Carlisle manages to keep Nowitzki somewhat fresh for the playoffs, a run to the Western Conference Finals is not outside of the realm of possibility. Though the roster could use another solid two-way rotation player, this Mavericks team may be a more serious contender than many realize.

– Moke Hamilton

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