Southwest Division Preview: Dallas Mavericks
From shedding unwanted contracts to taking on veterans hoping to reinvent themselves, this Mavericks team is far from a lock to make the playoffs for the first time since Dirk arrived in 1998.
Stop me if you’ve heard it before, but this is not the same Collison who took over from an injured Chris Paul in 2009 for the Hornets, when he started 37 games whilst putting up 18.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 9.1 assists.
Collison is a decent player, though undersized and not particularly adept at scoring or running the break, and possibly he just isn’t as good as people thought he was after his huge showing while Paul was hurt. He is starter quality and he should mesh well with the veterans on this team, but we may have seen him topped out career wise.
Mayo on the other hand has seen his star fade ever since being highly touted as the next big thing in High School before starring at USC, and then being picked #3 in 2008. After two stellar campaigns for the Grizzlies to start his NBA career – albeit mirror images of themselves, ie no improvement from year one to two – he was relieved of his starting duties not even a month into the 2011 season.
Mayo was courted by numerous teams who were enticed by his untapped potential, before he eventually settled for less money with the Mavericks. I’m not convinced he’s the answer at shooting guard for the Mavs; this guy shot 6-34 over the last five games of their first round loss to the Clippers including 1-11 on threes, so he’s hardly a sure thing, but at least at $5.6m this season he’s not costing them too much.
They have a glut of role players, guys who are likely coming to the end of their career but are still contributing in their defined roles, and collecting pay-checks to set themselves up when they eventually ride into the sunset.
The 34yr old Shawn Marion is the likely started at small forward, although he’s a shell of his former athletic self, and perhaps he’s The Matrix Retired within a year or two. He still plays defence though and can guard multiple positions, as well as get out on the break and finish, just not as often as in his Suns days.
Backing up Marion, or potentially starting alongside him at least until Dirk is back, is second round pick Jae Crowder. Incredibly undersized to play the PF at just 6’3” without shoes, he’s a tenacious energiser bunny type, who coach Rick Carlisle already entrusts to play big minutes.
It bodes well for the team that Crowder gets minutes with the starters, he’s got a unique skillset that sees him shooting from the outside as well as crashing the boards, and often finding himself marking players much bigger than himself.
The ex-Clippers already mentioned earlier are Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, two other veterans who will collectively earn some $26m next season – an incredible number to stomach, but at least the Mavs are only on the hook for $2m for Brand – a true bargain.
Brand’s professionalism and approach to the game will prove his worth as the season goes on, as a shift in the NBA centre position recently means he can man the middle as well as his natural power forward spot.
Alongside Kaman, they led the Clips to the West Conference Semi finals in 2006, so both are familiar with each other’s game, so fitting in should be relatively easy.
Both players have long injury concerns, Kaman especially, having played just 540 of 722 possible games in his career, while Brand too is no spring chicken at 33, but he remains an elite rebounder and strong defensive player.
While the names are familiar, this isn’t 2008 and they’re not going to be putting fear into anyone, especially now that team stalwart Nowitzki is on the sidelines for 4-6 weeks. Having gone the majority of his career injury free, Dirk finds himself watching from the bench as the tallest cheerleader in the NBA – not the sort of tall german blonde many fans would like to see leading the cheers.
He should come back from the knee injury in the prescribed time frame, as he doesn’t rely on his athleticism as much as he does his court smarts and shooting ability.
Coach Carlisle is just a year removed from winning the title, but this may be more of a transition year with so many new faces coming to the team.
Mark Cuban is like a spoilt child at times, never one to sit still and stand pat, claiming any and every player he can off the waiver wire, and always getting amongst the player movement around the deadline.
The Mavs will be lucky to make the playoffs this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re out of the hunt around the All Star break and they ship out some players to contenders for caps-pace and picks, and I’m picking them to finish just outside the top eight in the West.
Projected record: 41-41, 3rd Southwest Division.