We wrap up the staff’s Q&A this week with a rather simple question. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the various voices giving their insight on the topics.
We’ve got a great staff here at The Two Man Game. I can’t thank them enough for their contributions towards this. They were the driving force for the project.
Let’s run the weave one more time.
Do you feel the Mavs have upgraded from last season?
Kirk Henderson, @KirkSeriousFace: It’s easy in retrospect to look at last season as a disappointment on a number of levels. They didn’t make the playoffs and every player Dallas took a risk on failed to pan out. But the team also finished at .500 despite nearly 30 games without Dirk Nowitzki. The squad also featured some players who were talented (Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman), who simply didn’t fit with what the team wanted to do. I’m not sure if the Mavericks upgraded as much as they found pieces who should fit better with what the team wants to do. A Dirk-led offense will be orchestrated by Jose Calderon, who knows how to run a basketball team, something we could not reasonably say about last year’s guards. Samuel Dalembert has a fair amount of question marks, but one thing he won’t do is fire up shot after shot the way Kaman did. Devin Harris, Gal Mekel, Shane Larkin, heck, even Wayne Ellington give the Mavericks some fresh options.
Collison and Mayo could not stop making the same mistakes all season long and Kaman refused to alter how he played the game. The guards refused to get Dirk the ball, even when he was on fire. Couple those things with some terrible luck in late game situations, and Dallas basketball was not fun for long stretches. I expect this team to struggle a bit, but I also think it’s going to be an exciting and entertaining season.
David Hopkins, @davidhopkins: Absolutely. Going position by position, the Mavericks have either upgraded or stayed the same. They haven’t taken any steps backward. They held on to Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. And while every delusional talk show host this off-season has played out a scenario of trading Carter and Marion for the world, I’m glad the Mavs kept them. These two players give so much to the team. The Mavs have some promising rookies, and Jae Crowder is one year older. Plus, DeJuan Blair and Wayne Ellington are two acquisitions that will make the bench pretty deep.
Connor Huchton, @ConnorHuchton: This team is marginally, if not moderately, better than last season’s team. And last season’s team wasn’t that bad – it was average, and only missed out on an eighth seed because of Dirk’s injury. This is an old team, sure, but the significant upgrade at point guard from Darren Collison to Jose Calderon is especially important in how it shifts the Mavs’ offensive capabilities. Collison was a bad-to-mediocre fit for a pick-and-roll heavy team; Calderon is perfect for this system. The rest of the Mavericks’ departures and arrivals may summate to a slight positive, and this team still can’t defend, but the days of offensive juggernaucy (not an official word, but it should be, as a different form of the noun ‘juggernaut’) in Dallas might just return. This is a better, more fun team than the one we covered last season, despite my contemplative wails of disappointment.
Ian Levy, @HickoryHigh: Marginally. Calderon is an upgrade. The Ellis and Mayo swap is a wash for me, at least in terms of net contribution, not style. I thought Kaman was a disaster, but somehow I feel even less confident about Dalembert and Blair than I did about Kaman and Brand. They bench got a little bit younger. Carter, Marion and Nowitzki are all a year older. I think there’s enough talent there to chase a playoff spot, but I’m not sure what happens once they get there. Last summer felt a little like the front office folded, hoping to get dealt better cards this off-season. With Nowitzki a year closer to retirement, it really feels like their backs are up against the wall and now they’re forced to play out another mediocre hand.
Brian Rubaie, @DirksRevenge: Yes. I only mourn the departure of Elton Brand. With all due respect to players like O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman, this year’s Mavericks won’t miss much of what they brought to the old group. Calderon, an above-average starter, is a vast improvement over Collison, an above-average backup. Ellis is a rich man’s O.J. Mayo at a bargain price. Dalembert can’t shoot like Kaman, but Kaman’s shooting was streaky and the defensive upgrade provided by change is tremendous.
The bench could also be much scarier. I’ve made it this far without commenting on upgrades provided by the likes of Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington and DeJuan Blair. I’ve also neglected to mention the improvement of players like Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright and the potential provided by a fully-healthy Dirk Nowitzki. This Mavericks unit might not be the one Dirk deserves to close his career, but it’s a contender with character. The Mavericks can realistically challenge for a playoff spot, and could even emerge as a surprise candidate for a seed somewhere above 8th in the best case scenario.
Travis Wimberly, @TravisRW: Yes–with a caveat. The aggregate talent is better, primarily because of the Ellis and Calderon additions and Brandan Wright’s continued improvement. The question is fit. I suspect that the Mavs’ pieces this year fit better than last. They have a starting point-guard with legitimate on-ball instincts, a shooting guard who can consistently create his own offense without turning the ball over, and a defensive-minded starting center. On paper, that sounds like a better fit than what they had last year. Thing is, you never really know until a team gets on the court. We have seen tremendously talented teams implode because of poor fit, and we’ve seen lesser-talented teams go on incredible runs due to superior teamwork and coaching.
Preseason predictions make sense for teams that remained mostly intact from the previous year. For teams in flux like the Mavs, though, it’s mostly guesswork. Just for fun, I’ll say they win 46 games (a five-game improvement over last year). But really, it’s very difficult to say until a few results against quality opponents.