Once More, With Feeling: The Formula

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 26, 2009 under Previews | 7 Comments to Read

The TrueHoop Network banded together like a rag tag group of unexpected heroes to conquer the most sizable of foes: a season preview of both considerable scope and depth. Having blog representation for every team grants the project some tremendous perspective. So Act I of Once More, With Feeling will feature my contribution of the Mavs’ official season preview:

The 2009-10 Dallas Mavericks

Crystal Ball
The consensus win total prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of The Two Man Game.

Last YearCrowd Says...Blogger Prediction

Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

Team changes are often thought to exist on a continuum. On one end, “rebuilding” teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. On the other, quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions, an off-season strategy that bears the best of both worlds.

Dallas still has a lot to prove before we place them in the top tier, but the Mavs’ moves this summer have them planted firmly among the second group of would-be contenders. Headlining those moves was the acquisition of Shawn Marion, another offensive weapon for Jason Kidd to work with and a decorated perimeter defender. Though Marion’s odometer and price tag have understandably made some wary, it’s hard to see how adding Shawn to an already successful roster doesn’t work out for Dallas in the short-term. Historically, Marion has worked best with other scorers to play off of, and with skilled point guards capable of finding him at his favorite spots on the floor. Dallas certainly has both, though only time will tell if Marion’s down year in 2008-2009 was an aberration or indicative of real decline. In addition to Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, and Quinton Ross will bolster the Maverick reserves, each bringing varying levels of talent, reliability, and veteran know-how.

In spite of all of that spending, the Mavs find themselves with financial flexibility in spades. Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden in particular provide the Mavericks with unusually valuable trade chips, as each can provide a potential trade partner with unique financial benefits. Given the window-shopping going on in anticipation of 2010 free agency and the current economic climate, that’s powerful. And while the Mavs are very flexible financially, they’re perhaps even more flexible on hardwood. By adding various players capable of playing multiple positions, the Mavs can offer a variety of looks and lineups to either befuddle or adjust to opponents. The desired result is a more explosive offense and more versatile defense, though the Mavs might be one more move away from fully actualizing their potential on either front.

And of course, the Mavs’ biggest guns are those returning from last year’s squad. Dirk Nowitzki is still an All-World talent, and his unique skill set will be supplemented by the better-than-you-think Jason Kidd, reigning Sixth Man Jason Terry, and a hopefully healthy Josh Howard. While that core may not measure up to the true championship contenders, it’s still stacked with enough talent to make the Mavs a dangerous element in the West.

A 140-character insight into the
soul of the team.

Samuri Jack is back on cartoon network gotta watch” – Shawn Marion (@matrix31), who incidentally discovered the perfect metaphor for his career arc. The eponymous Samurai Jack is unwillingly thrust into the future via wormhole, and his longing for the comforts of simpler times echoes Marion’s own pining for his days in Phoenix. Though both battle an ambiguous, seemingly unconquerable adversary (be it incompatible offensive systems or the demon Aku), their true enemy is time itself. Just as Jack adjusted to a futuristic dystopia, so must Marion to the limitations of an aging athlete.

On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

Everybody was in attack mode after we got stops…We didn’t have to grind it all out all the time.
–Dirk Nowitzki, following the game 3 playoff win over the Spurs

Last season’s Mavs suffered from an easily diagnosed, but difficult to cure ailment: the defense just couldn’t keep up with the offense. A lack of defensive stability left the 2008-2009 Mavs looking like an elite team one minute and a merely average one the next. That made the Mavs both mortal and dangerous, a combination that bore both a win over the Spurs and a loss to the Nuggets in the 2009 Playoffs.

The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.

Dallas Mavericks
Offense: 5th
Defense: 17th
Pace: 16th
Team Factor Strength(s): Turnovers (4th), Defensive Rebounding (8th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Turnovers Forced (26th), Free Throws (23rd)

Despite the flaws of a system predicated on shooting jumpers, Dallas still boasted a top-notch offense handicapped merely by their inability to wreak havoc defensively. Shawn Marion and Quinton Ross were added for this reason, and, along with a healthier Josh Howard, they’ll ship up the sloppy perimeter. As for the free throws…well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Play
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

Jason Terry collects the inbound pass at the 3-point line on the right side of the floor. Dirk sets a high screen, which opens up myriad options. Terry could have an open shot, or room enough to drive to the basket. Dirk will likely have the space to operate after drifting to the elbow. Just in case JET and Dirk are swarmed, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, and Shawn Marion lie in wait. That’s hardly ever the case, though; Terry and Nowitzki make beautiful music together in the two-man game, and their harmonizing versatility begs for comparisons to Pet Sounds. They simply move together in step and in time, creating an idyllic sequence with an impressive, undeniable finished product.

The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Mavs fans will be chanting for rookie point guard Rodrigue Beaubois…as soon as they can conjure up an appropriate French-themed nickname for the young Guadaloupean. Beaubois has three pretty significant assets working in his favor: he’s a young first round draft pick, he’s a point guard with some flash, and his lack of exposure makes him a figure of intrigue.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

Erick Dampier’s contract has cast a dark cloud over the organization for quite some time, but that cursed agreement could reap some serious benefits this season. Damp is technically under contract for the 2010-2011 season, but some creative salary structuring makes Dampier a living, breathing, eight figure expiring contract (next season’s salary is not guaranteed). But wait! There’s more! Beneath the hard, inflexible candy exterior of the aforementioned expiring contract lies a hidden treat: Erick Dampier can be traded for equivalent salary value late into the 2010 off-season, providing this trade chip with an unusually long and beneficial shelf life. The timing and returns are yet to be determined but Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have a wonderful toy to fiddle with.