Last season, despite Dirk Nowitzki missing the first 27 games of the season, the Dallas Mavericks still finished with a 41-41 record. Dallas entered the season with a bunch of guys under one-year contracts and management was content with seeing how it all played out. It didn’t play out favorably for the Mavericks though.
After missing out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes this summer, Mark Cuban and the Mavs decided to take another approach. Dallas added nine new faces to the team this summer, including three guys expected to be in the starting rotation. Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis will anchor the backcourt for Dallas while Samuel Dalembert was added to shore up the paint on the defensive side of the ball.
Monday’s preseason game against the Houston Rockets is the first time the starting five will be in action together. Calderon played in his first game Saturday after sitting out the first four games with a hamstring injury. Dirk, however, sat out the game to rest.
With all the new pieces, you would think it’s going to take a little bit of time for all of them to start gelling together. Even so, on paper, this team seems to be a lot better than the Mavs from last year. Besides the starting five of Shawn Marion, Dirk, Calderon, Dalembert and Ellis, Dallas has Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair, Jae Crowder and others coming off the bench to play a key role for this team.
Despite all of that, the Western Conference is still extremely tough. The defending Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs still play in the same division as Dallas. The Rockets, with the addition of Howard, the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans all play in this division as well. Some analysts are picking the Pelicans to be the surprise team out of the west.
Move over to the other teams in the west and you have to deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers. All of these teams look to make a move up in the conference this year and all of them are viable playoff teams. However, I still think Dallas has an x-factor that most of them don’t. I would put Dallas’ head coach Rick Carlisle up against anybody else with the exception of maybe Gregg Popovich from the Spurs. Because of Carlisle and the talent on this team I think Dallas finds their way into the playoffs and I think they do it with a record of 52-30.