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Dallas Mavericks are Ready to Compete

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the deal: the Dallas Mavericks have every reason to believe they will compete at the highest level during the 2014-15 NBA season, and it’s ridiculous to say otherwise. Their starting trio of Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler (assuming good health across the board) is the best starting frontcourt in the league on paper. Their starting shooting guard should probably have a couple of all star selections under his belt by this point in his career, and while, for some reason, he doesn’t, Monta Ellis appears on the verge of breaking into the Western Conference‘s roster for the All-Star game any year now.

The point guard position is currently viewed as the team’s biggest weakness, but it seems like everyone has forgotten the level at which Devin Harris is capable of playing. At the tail end of their free-agent frenzy, Dallas used their cap room exception to lock down Jameer Nelson, and while Raymond Felton receives a good deal of ire from America’s basketball audience, you could do worse in the way of a third-string point guard. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has some options in the way up lineups and rotations, specifically at point guard. Perhaps the most attractive option would be to have Harris as the sixth man, providing a scoring spark off the bench and expertly directing traffic for the team’s second unit when he isn’t lobbing the ball to the top of the backboard for a Brandan Wright catch-and-slam. Nelson is more than capable of starting and playing smart basketball, in some ways as a role similar to that played by Jason Kidd during the Dallas championship run in 2011.

The point is, whatever it looks like, the Mavericks will have a starting lineup with five quality NBA starters, which is more than many teams can say, and most of the teams that can say it cannot back it up with quality depth. The Mavericks themselves will concede that they will have no stars coming off the bench unless they make the unlikely decision to name Ellis their sixth man, but their second unit has everything on a basketball team’s bench-related wish list. Size and strength in backup centers Greg Smith and Bernard James, length and athleticism in backup forwards Wright and Al-Farouq Aminu and veteran poise and leadership in Nelson and swing man Richard Jefferson — Carlisle will have to utilize the remarkable versatility of the players on his roster to fill all five positions, but make no mistake: there will be no holes.

The team will have its weaknesses, as all teams do, but the weaknesses in Dallas will be smaller than those seen in other parts of the league. Parsons is a solid rebounder, but he’s certainly a downgrade from Shawn Marion in that category. Where will the rebounding come from amongst the starters? Chandler will obviously take care of some of that, but the other four will have to fight tenaciously for every missed shot. If Carlisle does go to battle with Harris as the first player off the bench, he will certainly be capable of putting up points, but likely not at the level Vince Carter did as the team’s sixth man last season. The rest of the reserves, however, are much more capable scorers across the board than last season’s bench.

Yes, this team has weaknesses, but only in the finer details of the game. The fact is, this team has the opportunity to make a deep playoff run into June of 2015, even if they have to do it from the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference. And don’t forget: the season doesn’t start tomorrow. Trades can happen, big (Rajon Rondo?) and small (Jason Terry?), and through that avenue, the Mavericks have the potential to get even better by the end of October.

Things are looking up in Dallas.

Brian Ogle is a Dallas Mavericks columnist for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @TheOgle.

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