It's times like these that I wish I could write season previews the day after the trade deadline. The Dallas Mavericks' roster doesn't make much sense right now; it's solid, but it just doesn't make sense. That little tidbit, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily mean that the Mavericks will make a move. Lots of teams go into seasons with glaring needs and don't always make a move to improve.
But don't be foolish enough to think that Mark Cuban will just sit back and count out the dollars he's paying Erick Dampier to play like, well, Erick Dampier. With that in mind, follow me over the jump so that I can completely ruin your excitement over the upcoming season.
In some ways this offseason was marked by disappointment more than accomplishment. Despite encouraging fans to email the Polish center to court him at the stroke of midnight, the Rockets were barely even on Marcin Gortat's mind. David Lee and Nate Robinson can't find multi-year deals, and Ramon Sessions had to settle for very little pay in an undesirable situation. The Trailblazers were burned by Hedo Turkoglu. And Grizzlies fans, myself included, had to scream, kick, and throw remotes while we watched David Stern announce that Hasheem Thabeet was all we got with a number two pick.
But no team was disappointed quite like the Mavericks. Otis Smith rope n' dope'd the Mavericks into giving away Brandon Bass, at a very reasonable salary, while also preventing them from signing Dampier's replacement Marcin Gortat. In the place of these two very effective players, the Mavs could only get Drew Gooden, who did little to nothing for the Spurs last season.
Don't let that make you think that the Mavericks didn't make changes this offseason though, because they were very active. Jason Kidd is sticking around on a three-year extension. A couple goofballs named Tim Thomas and the previously mentioned Drew Gooden were added to shore up the front-court losses. And Shawn Marion is also coming to Dallas, which could be an enormous acquisition if Kidd keeps running.
"Clearly Dallas police also suspect Kidd's defense will be ugly this season"
Of course the trio of Josh Howard, Jason Terry, and Dirk Nowitzki will continue to be dangerous, providing scoring at tip-off, during the downtime, and crunch-time, respectively. Kidd will probably continue his revival, though I suspect his defense will become even more suspect. And Erick Dampier is going to be Erick Dampier, at least as long as he's on the team.
Dampier has to play a certain number of minutes this season, a number he won't exceed, for his monstrous contract to be guaranteed next season. In other words he is the honorary 'Raef LaFrentz' expiring contract of the year. So who could the Mavs move Dampier for? Andris Biedrins and Andrew Bogut seem like possibilities, though I suspect the Mavs would have to really sweeten the pot for either team to consider. If the Pacers are out of contention, Troy Murphy also seems like a plausible target, though his skill set is duplicated by Dirk to a degree. But, in my esteemed opinion, Samuel Dalembert seems like the most likely candidate.
Don't get me wrong, the Mavs have pulled together a solid team that's definitely ready to win now, but they're nowhere near competing in the West without making an impact trade. Fortunately if anyone is willing to pay for success, it's got to be Mark Cuban.
Breakout Player- Shawn Marion- With Kidd leading the break and the opportunity to bang on the boards as a power forward again, which he'll likely play during the fourth quarter while Dirk is a stretch center, I like Shawn Marion's chances to return to relevancy again this season. He'll never be a consensus top-ten player again, but take a flyer on his upside in the sixth or seventh round (ESPN has him ranked at 81). Look for something like 16 points, 8 boards, and something like the coveted 1-1-1 combo of threes, steals, and blocks, with a little more emphasis on the defensive stats and an outside shot at averaging one three a game.
Bust- Jason Terry- Terry won't be a bust in the purest sense, but if you expect him to finish 32nd on the player rater again this season then you're in for trouble. I'd be happy to find Terry in the sixth or seventh round, but he's just not a true top-50 player. As a sixth-man who relies on shooting, Terry is very inconsistent, and is coming off a career year, which should always be a red-flag at his age. Remember what happened to Hedo Turkoglu last season, when everyone told you to expect a drop in production? Terry falls under the same corollary.
"It's all mathematics."
Draftability Guide- Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, and Jason Kidd: Like the Celtics 'Old Three,' these guys are fantasy stalwarts. Dirk Nowitzki is a borderline first-rounder, though I don't know I would take him until the early second. Josh Howard is the prototypical small-forward for fantasy, and is a safe 5th to 7th rounder when healthy. Finally Kidd is coming off a top ten season that I can't see him repeating. You've got to give him a look in the late 2nd or early 3rd, but chances are you'll find something more enticing. Kidd is one of those guys that the auto-drafters always end up with, even though he almost always fulfills his ranking.
My Prediction: 48-34 (ESPN: 50-32)
ESPN picked the Mavericks to repeat last season's record. I'm not so generous. Jason Terry and Jason Kidd look to regress some this season, and Brandon Bass was an enormous loss. Is this team dangerous? Of course. But until they figure out the situation in the front-court, they're not an elite team. And this year the West seems to be packed with at least four elite teams, which is going to make life difficult for the Mavs.
The Mavericks should be facing either the Nuggets or Trail Blazers in the playoffs this season, and unless they can trade Dampier for a true impact player--not Samuel Dalembert--they won't sneak by either of these two squads. Dallas is going to have another solid year, but their core is definitely on the way down, and Shawn Marion isn't nearly enough to reverse the trend.
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