New Dallas Mavericks and the Players They’re Replacing
The New Dallas Mavericks
Though they were unable to land a superstar this offseason, the Dallas Mavericks were able to put together what figures to be a competitive roster. The Mavericks only have five players returning from last year's squad, meaning that there are plenty of players to introduce.
Last season was not easy to watch for fans of Dallas. The Mavericks started off stronger than expected, especially given all the missed games by star player Dirk Nowitzki due to knee surgery. However, even after Dirk’s return, the team declined steadily throughout most of the year. Sub par guard play was a major issue, as was suspect post defense. Turnovers plagued the Mavericks all season long, especially during clutch situations. It seemed that every time they played a close game, they would find a way to lose.
At the end of the year, Dallas finished with a record of 41-41. It was the first season since Mark Cuban bought the team that they had failed to win more games than they lost. The Mavericks’ front office made it clear that such a record would be unacceptable and went about improving the roster with a familiar blueprint that had proven successful.
As the Mavericks attempt to get back to their winning tradition, there are still questions about how the team will play together and if they will be have any sort of chemistry. By taking a look at last year's team, as well as the 2011 championship team, and comparing them to this year's team, perhaps it will paint a clearer picture of what to expect from the 2013-2014 Dallas Mavericks.
Monta Ellis is the Mavericks' biggest free agent signing this year. He should fit in as a scorer to alleviate some of the pressure for Dirk Nowitzki. Ellis has a reputation as being somewhat inefficient, but he has never played next to an offensive superstar such as Dirk.
Last Year's Comparison: O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo was meant to be the second scorer to fit next to Dirk, and at first it appeared that he would be the perfect fit. However, as the year went on, his impact gradually disappeared. He was prone to making turnovers in clutch situations, and his scoring numbers steadily declined month by month. Ellis has proven he can score with ease over a much larger sample size.
Championship Team Comparison: Jason Terry
Ellis and Jason Terry's statistics look almost identical in their time before coming to the Mavericks. That doesn't mean that Ellis will automatically be as effective as Terry or form the connection with Dirk that Terry had, but it is cause for some hope that Ellis could be Dirk's new sidekick for a few years. Ellis is better at creating his own shot than Terry, but in order to be the best fit for Dallas he'll need to play off of Dirk and help him get easier scoring chances. If Ellis can execute a pick and roll even close to how well Terry used to, Dirk and Monta could be a deadly duo.
The Mavericks hope Jose Calderon will bring a calming influence to their offense. He has consistently been among the league leaders in assists per game and is a phenomenal three-point shooter, though he doesn't attempt as many shots as some of the other great shooters. He is known as a liability on defense, but Dallas hopes that his ability to orchestrate the offense will outweigh that setback.
Last Year's Comparison: Mike James
Point guard was not a strong position for the Mavericks last year. After Darren Collison was moved to the bench and Derek Fisher joined and promptly quit the team, Mike James started most games at point guard. While he was actually better than most could have expected, he had a tendency to hog the ball a bit and take very ill-advised shots. Calderon should be a massive upgrade as the quarterback on the court with his ability to find the open man and his ability to knock down an open weakside three without needing the ball too much.
Championship Team Comparison: Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd is a Hall of Famer who helped guide the Mavericks to their first championship. To expect Calderon to have that kind of impact is entirely unrealistic, but the two play very similarly on the offensive side. Even though Calderon could be described as a poor man's Kidd on offense, on defense there is no comparison. Kidd has always been a solid defender whereas Calderon has always been a sub par defender. Calderon will never match Jason Kidd, but he should still be able to make the whole team run smoother.
Dirk Nowitzki has a reputation as an underachiever on defense, but when he has a decent rim protector next to him, he's actually quite an effective weakside help defender. Samuel Dalembert is intended to be that rim protector. He has limited offensive game, but he should be able to really help with his rebounding as well as his defense.
Last Year's Comparison: Chris Kaman
Chris Kaman was a good signing in theory. He was going to be the best offensive center the Mavericks have ever paired with Dirk in the front court and that would make up for his lack of defense or rebounding. The problem was that the team needed that defense and rebounding, and he didn't turn out all that great on offense, either. Dalembert is more of the type of center the Mavericks have gravitated toward for years, such as Eric Dampier or Brendan Haywood. He isn't going to drop any jaws with his athleticism or offensive prowess, but he quietly goes about protecting the paint effectively.
Championship Team Comparison: Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler went from being a disappointment to a star and Defensive Player of the Year after his time in Dallas. Perhaps Dallas could take Dalembert's game to the next level, though he is not as flashy as Chandler. This is yet another case where it is unrealistic to expect the new player to match the championship player, but there are still parallels between them. In the end, Dalembert will probably fill Chandler's role decently, though nowhere near as effectively as Tyson himself.
Welcome back, Devin Harris! After a long journey through New Jersey, Utah, and Atlanta, Harris will finally return home to Dallas, where he will most likely man the backup point guard minutes. He was always a fan favorite as a Maverick and appeared to be an upcoming star when he was traded. However, aside from one fantastic season with the then New Jersey Nets, he has been less than stellar. On a bargain contract and coming off the bench, he should be able to thrive.
Last Year's Comparison: Darren Collison
Darren Collison didn't work out as a starting point guard, but he was actually very effective coming off the bench. Expectations may have been a bit too high for him, which made it easy to forget that he averaged a very solid 12 points per game last year. The Mavericks are hoping that Harris can come off the bench and provide that instant scoring punch just like Collison did last year. Backup point guard was actually not a position of weakness for the Mavericks last year, it just felt like it was since the starting spot was so deficient. If Harris can slide right into Collison's role with similar production, Dallas should be happy.
Championship Team Comparison: J.J. Barrea
J.J. Barrea actually played a similar game to Harris, which should make this one of the more favorable comparisons between this year's team and the 2011 championship team. Just like Collison, Barrea provided instant offense when he came off the bench. Where Collison struggled, much like O.J. Mayo, was with playing off of Dirk. No matter the position, any Maverick's main goal should be to play off of Dirk. Unless something has drastically changed from his time here before, Harris has already proven he can handle that.
There's something so satisfying about claiming an ex-San Antonio Spurs player and making him an effective Maverick. DeJuan Blair is trying to make that very transition this season. At only 24 years old, he has potential to improve his game still. He was a major part of their rotation until recently, when he fell out of favor with Spurs coach Greg Popovich. He is a scrappy, hard-working player, which should keep him in better standing with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Last Year's Comparison: Elton Brand
Elton Brand mostly came off the bench last year, like Blair will this year. Like Brand, Blair is a bit undersized but makes up for lack of height with his willingness to outwork the opposing team. Also like Brand, Blair is capable of backing up Dirk at power forward or Dalembert at center depending on lineups. Brand had more range than Blair, though Blair could certainly add that to his game.
Championship Team Comparison: Ian Mahinmi
Like Blair, Ian Mahinmi was a Spurs reclamation project. He could play some power forward as well as center. Blair is probably further along in his development as a player than Mahinmi was at the time, but if the Mavericks can get quality minutes out of Blair or turn him into a decent trade asset like they did with Mahinmi, this signing should be considered a success.
Wayne Ellington's signing by the Mavericks has flown under the radar for the most part. He is certainly not a huge name, but he could fill an important role for a solid team. He has a reputation as a deadly three point shooter, as well as an above average defender from the shooting guard position. He's another young player that could grow during his time in Dallas.
Last Year's Comparison: Anthony Morrow
Remember Anthony Morrow's impact on the team last year? No? Well, that's because he played a total of 82 minutes and scored a total of 39 points for the Mavericks after being traded at the deadline. Much like Ellington, he is a shooter with solid defense, though based on the contract he got, Ellington should play a much larger role in the offense. A reliable three-point specialist was missing from the team last year, and with any luck Ellington should be able to fill that void.
Championship Team Comparison: Peja Stojaković
Peja Stojaković didn't play much during his time with the Mavericks, but he did help blast the Los Angeles Lakers to complete the sweep. Peja was the very definition of a three-point specialist, so don't expect Ellington to be the next Peja. But if Ellington can consistently drain threes while adding some solid defense, he could be a key rotation player for the Mavericks for a long time.