NBA Preview 2013-2014 Season: Dallas Mavericks
Last Season: Finished 41-41 (Finished 10th in the Western Conference)
Key Losses: PF/C Elton Brand, SG O.J. Mayo, PG Darren Collison, and C Chris Kaman
Notable Free Agent Signings: SG Monta Ellis, C Samuel Dalembert, and PG Jose Calderon
Notable Draft Picks: PG Shane Larkin
The aging Dallas Mavericks are beginning to spiral downwards in the Western Conference. Despite winning the Larry O’Brien trophy just three years ago, disappointing roster changes and injuries resulted in the Mavericks failing to make the playoffs last season. And in spite of remaining active this off-season, Dallas failed to sign anyone of major significance and will likely post a worst record next season.
Age has played a huge factor in the Maverick’s decline. Their franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki, is 35 and crucial role players Vince Carter and Shawn Marion are 36 and 35, respectively. They traded away the 25-year old O.J. Mayo, who had a breakout season with the Mavs last year, and former UCLA star Darren Collison, who failed to play at the level he did with the Indiana Pacers, but was entering his prime at 25 years of age.
Nowitzki, Marion and Carter have 1-2 more seasons where they can contribute at a relatively high level, but Dallas really needs to begin rebuilding around a younger star and this off-season failed to yield one for Mark Cuban’s team.
Dallas signed SG Monta Ellis, a glorified shot chucker, who failed to pan out for the Milwaukee Bucks, despite playing as the Golden State Warriors franchise star from 2006-2012. Ellis shot horrendously from beyond the arc last season, making 28% of his shots. He also shot poorly from the field, shooting 41% while averaging 19 points for the Bucks.
A bright spot for Ellis is that he matched his career high assist average last season with six per game. If Ellis can concentrate on his role as a facilitator more than getting his due in shot attempts, the former high school player of the year can get his NBA career back on track and repair his reputation as a ball-hog.
Point guard Jose Calderon also became a Maverick this off-season after being traded to the Detroit Pistons from the Toronto Raptors, where he had played from 2005-2013, in a three-team trade that included the Memphis Grizzlies in late January. While Calderon is 31, he has consistently been an above-average point guard, and an even better shooter.
Calderon led the league in three-point percentage last season, shooting a scorching 46% from downtown (that’s better than Ellis’ field goal percentage). Calderon will also act as an excellent mentor to rookie Shane Larkin, who was a strong leader on his college team and has potential to become an elite guard in the league.
Calderon is one of the most selfless players in the NBA. Given an opportunity to shoot a semi-contested shot or pass the ball, the Spaniard almost always passes and he averages a career 7.2 assists per game. He is also extremely level-headed and can run the offense effectively in high-pressure situations and at the end of a highly contested game. While Calderon’s defence is nothing to sneeze at, he will provide stability for the Mavericks. This is certainly a “plus” pick-up for Dallas.
The last notable free agent Dallas signed was Samuel Dalembert. The centre won’t score a bunch for you, but he’ll rebound with authority and defend the basket. He’s a good shot-blocker and provides decent help in the paint, which the Mavericks sorely need after allowing the third most points in the NBA this past year. Because he’s rather slow, when Dalembert is on the floor, coach Rick Carlisle won’t be able to run a fast-paced offense and will have to settle for the slower half-court offensive sets.
Despite these free-agent signings, the Mavericks are getting older while having barely made up for their losses this offseason. They lost out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and unless they make some mega-deal during the season, they could miss out on the playoffs again.