Summer Thoughts

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on August 2, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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With the Las Vegas Summer League over and in the rear-view mirror, the basketball activity period is officially shifting towards the hibernation phase. Crumbs will be thrown to those who can’t get enough of the NBA as there will be a few signings that will be done to fill out rosters, the schedule will be announced and we’ll start to hear about training camp information. Unfortunately, the dead time of the NBA year has to come. It doesn’t leave me with much to do (what am I going to do, try to watch TV? No, thank you).

If I’m not going to dust off my remote and actually try to watch TV shows that everyone loves, I’ll keep thinking about basketball. A lot has actually happened over the last few days/weeks and that has led me to do what I do: wonder and try to assess things. That usually leads to questions and answers. It’s been a few weeks since the Q&A format has been used.

Here is the first batch of questions and subsequent (and questionable) answers.

1. How would you describe the Vegas experience?

Ten days in Las Vegas to cover the Las Vegas Summer League was quite an experience. I was lucky enough to cover the team for ESPNDallas.com and it was quite the beneficial experience for me. It was great to meet a lot of great writers and getting to actually see them for the first time. In addition, getting to see the team on a day-to-day basis, see how they operated in practice, allowed me to really see who could absorb information in a hurry and who…couldn’t.

It’s a shame that Shane Larkin got hurt on the final day of practice and couldn’t perform in Vegas. That will set him back. Coming from Vegas, Gal Mekel and Jackie Carmichael were the two biggest bright spots for the team.

Ten days in Vegas sounds extremely dangerous. I had the goals to not go broke, do all of my work, have fun, avoid getting a tattoo and marriage. I went 5-for-5 on that list. By going 5-for-5 on that list, some might think that the trip was a bust and that I truly didn’t experience Vegas then, but I sure had a great time.

2. Do I like the signing of Monta Ellis?

I like the value of it based on the price they signed him at, but I’m still very skeptical about the potential end result. A lot of the success for this season will be tied to how players buy into what the Mavs are selling as an organization, mainly Ellis.

O.J. Mayo came into last season saying that he would give his game to coach Rick Carlisle. There were plenty of highs and plenty of lows. All things equal, Ellis is a better player, and more dynamic, than Mayo. He has to buy into a culture that wants him to succeed. He’ll be in a situation that he hasn’t been in before. He’ll have a pure point guard by his side in Jose Calderon. He’ll have a true number one option to feed off of in Dirk Nowitzki.

Nowitzki certainly appears to like Ellis. It’s easy to see why he would as Ellis would represent the most electric scorer Nowitzki would have riding shotgun with him. Time will tell with Ellis. He, as well as the rest of the new Mavs, will have to buy in.

3. Looking at where they are at now, are the Mavs a playoff team?

They would have been a playoff team if Dirk Nowitzki didn’t miss the first chunk of the season due to his knee surgery. They were pretty much in the race for the 8th spot in the West until the final two weeks of the season.

They’ve upgraded a major weakness from last season with the acquisition of Jose Calderon. They needed a major upgrade in basketball IQ and he will certainly help in that department.

The Los Angeles Lakers, who made the playoffs last season, are likely to slide out of the playoff mix and there will be teams that were on the outside of the playoff picture such as Portland and Minnesota that will be competing with Dallas for a playoff spot.

You have to wait to see how everyone meshes together but if Dirk Nowitzki is healthy and these pieces do a better job of meshing compared to last season, they should be back in the playoffs.

5. Looking at the departures from last season, who will be missed most?

I think Elton Brand will be the player they miss most. I’m not necessarily sure they will miss his ability on the floor, but I definitely know that his veteran leadership and poise and stature in the locker room was something that impressed a lot of people in the organization.

As for everyone else, I’m not sure they will really miss what the departed Mavs from last season would have given to the team this coming season.

6. Have the Mavs abandoned their plan with cap space?

They have committed more long term money in the deals with Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis, but they still have just over $35 million in cap space to work with next year as Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter come off the books.

They will still have the ability to make another run at a big fish next summer or work off the core they’re hoping they’ve built this upcoming season. I think it’s a misconception that they’ve abandoned their financial flexibility.

7. With an improved and more relevant roster, does Vince Carter have a better chance to be the Sixth Man of the Year?

He certainly would have gotten more consideration last year for the award if the Mavs actually made the playoffs. For those who don’t remember, Carter only received one vote (a third place vote) in last year’s voting for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Carter’s durability and/or longevity will certainly be something to watch going into this coming season. You could certainly make a compelling case that he was the most consistent Maverick last season. He even showed that he was committed to the defensive end of the floor as he wasn’t a liability on that end of the floor. In another example of his commitment to defense, he took a ton of charges for the team. That’s not easy for an older player.

With more support off the bench coming this year, he might not need to be relied upon as much, but he can still be the veteran leader of that group and draw the most attention from the opposition. He’s done a great job adapting to his new role in Dallas. Maintaining his level of play from last year would go a long way in the team’s success. That would also help his chances of winning that award.

8. Is bringing Devin Harris back a good thing?

It’s certainly a good insurance policy. He was first being sold as a strong counter to Jose Calderon’s defensive shortcomings. Now, he’s likely going to be sold as quality guard depth. Either way, depth is a good thing. His first signing would have had him making nine million dollars over the next three years. That was already considered to be great value for the guard. One year at the minimum is absolutely a steal.

If he was going to go anywhere for the minimum, why would he pick Dallas? Harris wanted to be in Dallas. He clearly likes the organization and the faces of the organization. Harris participated in Dirk Nowitzki’s charity baseball game earlier in the summer and the two seemed to interact rather well, with playful heckling and lots of smiling.

He has the ability to be a solid bench player for the Mavs, no matter what guard position he plays. The biggest thing will be whether or not he has the ability to stay healthy. The Mavs have a pretty strong amount of depth in the guard department, so they can do what they need to do to make sure he can stay healthy over the course of the grueling season.

9. Is Ricky Ledo ready to play?

He’s ready to play in the D-League. Sorry to burst people’s bubble, but I don’t think he’s ready to be a rotation player right now for the Mavs. People need to remember that he hadn’t played any organized basketball for over a year until he played in the summer league.

Ledo clearly has solid upside to his game, thus the Mavs giving him the deal they gave him (low risk, right to keep him in the mix for multiple years). He still needs time to develop his game and just learn the NBA game, in general.

Being in Frisco with the Texas Legends would serve him very well. He will be able to spend some time with the Mavs before the D-League season starts. That will give him time to work and interact with true professionals and see how they navigate through the league. He’ll then be able to get to work in Frisco. He simply needs seasoning and time to play, so Frisco is where he needs to be.

10. How would I grade the offseason?

Most people are willing to automatically give the Mavs a failing grade because they didn’t land the big fish. It’s a disappointment to strike out again in the pursuit of the superstar, but the Mavs had to get up off the ground, dust themselves off and find a way to rebuild their roster.

They had to work on the fly as their plans radically shifted with Devin Harris’ injury. That led to them ultimately getting Monta Ellis. Like I said, the jury is still out on if that will ultimately be a good move for the team.

With the acquisitions of Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Ellis and their rumored final signings (along with their rookies), they’ve created a rotation that has a lot of potential to provide value in terms of bang for their buck. Mark Cuban’s goal has been to reload without rebuilding. Everyone still needs to wait and see how things shake out on the floor, but it seems they did an admirable job of assembling a unique roster. It certainly will be an entertaining lineup.

Part 2 Coming Monday…

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University. Bryan channels his inner-Clark Kent on a day-to-day basis. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.

  • Slap Dog Hoops

    The Mavs certainly did not have the off season they had hoped for missing out on Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, bur at keast they got some excellent consolation prizes in Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. As a Raptor fan, I will be so happy to see Calderon play on a good team for a change with player who actually know how to play the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to average a double double in points and assists.