Mavericks Get Younger, More Talented
With Dirk Nowitzki unable to play at 100%, Lamar Odom mentally checking out, and Jason Kidd and Jason Terry miscast a few spots too high on the depth chart, the Mavericks went from NBA champions in 2011 to a first round exit in 2012. Although their offseason took a turn for the worse when Deron Williams decided to remain with the Nets, Dallas has managed to succeed in achieving the main goal that every franchise should work towards during the offseason: improving the team.
Backcourt Losses: Jason Kidd (Knicks), Jason Terry (Celtics)
Gains: Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones
This past season may have been Kidd’s first in which his intangibles finally ceded to the tangible aspects of the game, as he averaged a career low in points, assists and rebounds. Although this isn’t apparent from the box scores, the inability of Dallas to win a single game against the Thunder in the playoffs was as much about Oklahoma City's adjustment to not react to Kidd’s drives, knowing that he was unwilling and perhaps unable to score inside, as it was about any roster changes the championship team might have made the previous offseason.
The acquisition of Collision will effectively end teams choosing to defend the Mavericks by ignoring the point guard position. A natural scorer, Collision offers the quickness and ability to create off the dribble that Dallas hasn’t possessed since Devin Harris. A capable shooter from deep, Collison will not only be able to space the floor for Nowitzki, but aid him in the scoring department, which is especially pertinent given Dallas’ struggle to put up points this past season. On the defensive end, Collison should also allow the Mavs to field a consistent starting line-up, as opposed to their previous approach of having to be creative in order to hide Kidd from specific matchups.
Similar to Kidd, Jason Terry struggles to create off the dribble. Although people often assume that he is quick due to the fact that he is a 6”2 shooting guard, Terry’s effectiveness begins and ends with his ability to spot up, curl off screens and run the pick and roll.
Unlike Terry, Mayo is a player who has a lot of upside and is severely undervalued. An athletic combo guard, people forget that Mayo averaged 18 points per game while shooting just below 45% from the field, and almost 40% from the three in his first two seasons. His decline in production can be attributed to his sacrifice in accepting a bench role to facilitate the Grizzlies’ inside-out offensive approach, rather than a loss of ability. Along with Collison, Mayo will provide the Mavericks with their most dynamic, and offensively capable backcourt in years, while being a defensive strength rather than liability.
As for Dahntay Jones, look for him to be a defensive specialist similar to Deshawn Stevenson, except with the athleticism to make some highlight plays throughout the year.
Frontcourt Losses: Brendan Haywood (Bobcats), Ian Mahinmi (Pacers)
Gains: Chris Kaman, Elton Brand
Although neither acquisition was received with much fanfare, Kaman and Brand will arguably be the most offensively skilled big men that Dallas has ever paired with Nowitzki. Whether he is facing up or has his back to the basket, Kaman has a potent and diverse offensive game consisting of a reliable midrange jump shot, and a consistent hook shot over both shoulders. Kaman’s ability to not only catch and finish a la Tyson Chandler, but independently create scoring opportunities can only help free up space for Nowitzki to operate.
Possessing a similar offensive game to Kaman, Brand will fulfill the crucial role of providing Dallas with a more than ample back-up for Dirk. Over the past few seasons, Dallas has struggled to rest Nowitzki as the team has struggled to score without their All Star on the court. With Brand’s ability to post-up and hit mid range jumpers, look for Dallas to execute more consistent substitution patterns, and ultimately have a very dangerous frontcourt.
Despite missing out on the marquee player of their choice, Dallas has gotten younger, more athletic, and has filled their roster with a handful of offensively gifted players. This version of the Mavericks should offer a completely different look on offense, with multiple scoring threats playing alongside of Nowitzki, rather than requiring him to create for them.
As for the defensive end, there is no reason to believe that this team will struggle. Rick Carlisle and Monte Mathis have created a culture that emphasizes team defense, and all of the players added thus far are either strong or have the potential to be above average defensive players.