Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog has taken it upon himself, every year for the past century, to assemble a giant crew of bloggers for the singular purpose of previewing each and every team for the upcoming season. Here’s my contribution on the Mavs, and rest assured: this is just a taste of the previewing to come, so stick around.
Last Year’s Record: 50-32
Key Losses: Brandon Bass, Antoine Wright, Ryan Hollins, Gerald Green, Devean George, Jerry Stackhouse
Key Additions: Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, Quinton Ross, Kris Humphries, Rodrigue Beaubois, Nathan Jawai, Jake Voskuhl
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The Mavs made significant strides this off-season by turning a lot of nothing into something. Jerry Stackhouse barely laced up in 2008-2009, and yet a money-saving provision in his contract made him valuable enough to net Shawn Marion via trade. They added Quinton Ross to fill the void of the departed Antoine Wright. Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas were picked up for pennies on the dollar, and Kris Humphries may hold unexpected value after being considered a throw-in in the Marion deal. That’s quite a catch of players, even if it doesn’t quite heal the burns Otis Smith was kind enough to leave with the Marcin Gortat ordeal.
It’s comforting to know that the powers that be (Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson, Rick Carlisle) are willing to really go for it when it comes to improving the team. Between the courting of Gortat, the acquisition of Marion, and the trio of signings that brought Gooden, Thomas, and Ross, the Mavs’ brass clearly has an eye on the prize and the Mavs’ shortcomings in the cross-hairs. Whether or not those moves are enough is still very much ‘To Be Determined,’ but I’m optimistic. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the hustle and bustle.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
- Overall offense. What more would you expect when you toss one of the greatest distributors the league has ever seen, one of the most potent shooters on the planet, and a handful of high-production/low-turnover players into a blender? Mmm…that’s one offensively efficient smoothie.
- Roster flexibility. The Mavs are blessed with all kinds of options. Against bigger teams with more traditional post threats, the Mavs can use a big lineup of Kidd-Howard-Marion-Dirk-Damp. When in need of more offense, they can sub out Damp for Gooden, or play Terry at the 2 and shift Dirk to the 5. If they’re looking for all-out defense, Carlisle could theoretically trot out Kidd-Ross-Howard-Marion-Damp. And all of those lineups don’t even mention point guards J.J. Barea and Rodrigue Beaubois, big man Kris Humphries, or resident gunner/headcase Tim Thomas. Most of the Mavericks can swing multiple positions, and that gives Rick Carlisle nothing but options.
- Defensive rebounding. You may not think it, but the Mavs have always been a pretty strong team on the defensive boards. Dirk is surprisingly good in that area, as are Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden. Jason Kidd is primo when it comes to rebounding point guards, and adding Shawn Marion to that bunch can only help.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
- Quickness on the perimeter. This is where the Mavs usually get burned. Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and pretty much all other point guards capable of breaking the sound barrier tend to give the Mavs fits. Jason Kidd’s lateral movement just isn’t what it used to be, and unfortunately Jason Terry lacks the defensive acumen to pick up the slack. The great hope is that some combination of Josh Howard and Shawn Marion can be used in a Trevor Ariza-ish role, where speed is countered with length and athleticism. It could work, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
- A lack of “true” centers. Erick Dampier is the only true center on the roster, and he may not even start or finish most games for the Mavs. If Dampier were to be injured or if the Mavs opt to cash-in on Dampier’s virtually expiring contract with a trade, the Mavs would be without a big man to counter the few existing centers left. Others consider this to be a weakness much more than I do, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t sleep easier knowing there was another big body on the roster in place of say, Shawne Williams. And no, Jake Voskuhl doesn’t really count.
- Age. The Mavs are bordering on geriatric. Rodrigue Beaubois is essentially the team’s one great, young hope, but the rest of the rotation is either in their prime or beyond. It starts to show with the team’s quickness, and the Mavs’ — shall we say — experience could certainly play a part in recovery from injury and durability.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The playoffs are an assumption for a team that has yet to miss the post-season (or fall short of 50 wins) this decade, so the goal is to have some measure of success come April. I’d say a reasonable goal for the Mavs would be the Western Conference Finals, a destination well within their reach, but one that would require triumph over some stacked competition.
Another goal (albeit one that’s a bit more difficult to gauge) jotted down on the Mavs’ white board is defensive improvement. Some of last season’s defensive performances were inexcusable, but with the off-season additions and a renewed commitment to the defensive end, the Mavs seem as focused as ever on improving the “finer” end of the basketball court.
5. Will Shawn Marion be able to play effectively alongside Josh Howard?
This is another argument based on the somewhat arbitrary positional designations, but one that seems to be getting a lot of buzz in Mavs-land. Howard and Marion are, at their core, small forwards. I would agree with that. But both players are more than capable of manning multiple positions, meaning the capital letters next to their name and number in the program are a bit arbitrary. The real question is: do Shawn Marion’s talents create too many redundancies with Josh Howard’s, and leave too many flaws exposed? I have a hard time believing that to be the case.
Howard and Marion are both solid 3-point shooters and slashers. They’re both capable defenders and rebounders. And position aside, what part of Howard and Marion’s do-it-all games means they can’t play well with others? Marion’s success depends more on his place within the hierarchy of the team and less with the space he occupies in the program.
Predicted Record: 53-29