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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 12. Dallas Mavericks

Overall Win/Loss Record:  49-33,  fourth place Southwest Division

2014/2015 Projection: 46-36, fourth place Southwest Division, eighth place Western Conference

Projected 2014/2015 Finish

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 104.8 (8th)
  • Points Allowed: 102.4 (20th)
  • Team FG%: .474 (4th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .464 (22nd)
  • Team FT%: .795 (3rd)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .384 (2nd)
  • Rebounds per game: 40.9 (26th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.8 (16th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.2 (5th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.4 (5th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Dirk Nowitzki (21.7)
  • Rebounds per game:  Dirk Nowitzki (6.2)
  • Minutes per game: Monta Ellis (36.9)
  • Assists per game:  Monta Ellis (5.7)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Brandon Wright (.677)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Dirk Nowitzki (.900)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Dirk Nowitzki (.398)
  • Steals per game: Monta Ellis (1.7)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Brandon Wright (1.0)
Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

  1. Brandon Wright (F)
  2. Jameer Nelson (G)
  3. Devin Harris (G)
  4. Richard Jefferson (G/F)
  5. Al Farouq Aminu (G/F)
After a 2013 season that saw them finish at just .500 and missing the playoffs, many saw this as a sign of the one time +NBA powerhouse otherwise known as the Dallas Mavericks have finally fallen and was heading into a long and painful rebuilding process.  That outlook immediately changed once the Mavericks returned to the playoffs the following season and even gave their interstate rival, the +San Antonio Spurs quite a scare taking them to all seven games before being eliminated by San Antonio.  Once the off season approached, the Mavs' front office continued to show their fans as well as the rest of the basketball worlds that this team was not ready to call it quits just yet as it plans to remain in the Western Conference playoff picture for a long time.  They started by snatching one of the summer's most touted free agents in Chandler Parsons, as his former team, the +Houston Rockets allowed him to leave as a restricted free agent not even bothering to try to match Dallas' offer sheet.  In addition, the Mavericks also re-signed their veteran franchise player for over the last 16 years in Dirk Nowitzki to a four year 32$ million extension, while at the same time brought back a familiar face in Tyson Chandler, who aided the Mavericks in their championship run in 2011 sending Jose Calderon, +Samuel Dalembert, last year's first round pick Shane Larkin, and two second round draft picks to the +New York Knicks in exchange.

To replace Calderon's veteran leadership at the starting point guard spot and his three point shooting, Dallas took along Raymond Felton in the Chandler trade--a move that many may considered a severe downgrade after his less than stellar performances over the last couple of seasons.  Nonetheless, if Felton failed to make the grade at starting point guard and continued what seems to be a downward slide in his careers, the Mavericks made sure to initiate a backup plan by signing another veteran point guard in Jameer Nelson, known best for his ten year tenure with the +Orlando Magic, along with retaining Devin Harris from last season thus giving the team a three point guard rotation that has a combined 29 years of NBA experience. Dallas then continued to add more veteran experience and depth on its roster by signing 34 year old swing man Richard Jefferson, who boasts a 13 year career that consisted of nine playoff appearances with two of them in the NBA Finals.  They even may have gotten a nice steal in the free agent market as they manged to pick up young and athletic swing man Al Farouq Aminu, who had spent the previous three years as the starting small forward of the +New Orleans Pelicans, for a rather inexpensive fee of less than 1$ million dollars.  Altogether with the signing of who many believe to be a future hall of famer in Chandler Parsons as well as the return of fan favorite and notable All Star himself, Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks look to have one of the deepest and most experienced rosters in the league and no doubt will certainly continue to make noise in the Western Conference.    

Unfortunately for the Dallas Mavericks the noise that they will make will turn out to be quite mute as the Western Conference is already teeming with talent; plus, the Mavs have the poor fortune to also belong in the most difficult division where four of the teams made the playoffs last season. One of them was the +NBA Champion +San Antonio Spurs, and coming into this season, there are essentially six spots essentially taken with Dallas essentially on the outside looking in; plus with just two spots available, there is less margin for error, especially with team that are coming up in the league.  Last season, Dallas had to deal with just the +Memphis Grizzlies and +Phoenix Suns to clinch the final playoff spot, but now they will have to not only them but also two up and coming teams that have looked to make significant upgrades in the +Sacramento Kings and +New Orleans Pelicans. Add the +Los Angeles Lakers into that equation and that makes six teams altogether vying for two playoff spots where the most likely result will be a quick first round exit and very little if nothing else to show for all that effort to get to the post season.  Even at full strength, the best the Mavs can do is probably return to the seventh or eighth place in the West, unless something were to occur that would dramatically change the face of the Western Conference.

First of all, for Dallas to even have a remote chance of claiming a top four seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, either one or two of the six already enshrined playoffs spots were suddenly up for grabs which can be considered as a near impossibility.  The only chance of such a thing to even conceivably occurs is if the +Oklahoma City Thunder, who will already start the season without last season's reigning MVP +Kevin Durant, lose its second best player, +Russell Westbrook to a gruesome injury forcing him to miss opening tip off as well; however the odds of the occurring range from slim to none. It is not as if the Mavericks do not have talented players or solid depth in their roster to make a strong playoff run; however, the problem for the Mavs is that fact that they are five other teams that are basically at par with the Mavs and have just as much opportunity and ability to surpass Dallas just as well as Dallas' ability to overtake them.  They certainly did not help themselves by letting go of Calderon, a veteran point guard capable of both setting up up teammates as well as playing off the ball thanks to his three point field goal accuracy; plus, in the case of Tyson Chandler, he was coming off an injury plagued season with the Knicks and at 32 years old, he may not be the same player that helped Dallas win that NBA title in 2011.  If anything, one can argue that the Mavericks are no better off than they were last season when they had to claw and scrape just to get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.     

Secondly, for Dallas to remain in playoff contention, it will certainly have to improved its overall team effort on the defensive end as it allowed more than 102 points per game and more than .460 shooting from its opponents last season which ranked near bottom in the league.  The Mavericks, despite the team's size were not much of a factor on the boards as well as they ranked near the bottom of the league in rebounds per game while at the same time allowed their opponents to out rebound them by a +2 margin.  Neither Dirk Nowitzki or Chandler Parsons will provide much help on the boards as they produced a combined 11.7 rebounds per game last season, which will leave most of the rebounding along with rim protection duties to Tyson Chandler who has seen much of if his abilities and athleticism erode with each passing year.  Once he subsequently falls to injury, the Mavericks will have no one else capable of picking up the slack as the team will be coming into the regular season with mostly perimeter oriented players who are either too old to contribute more in the paint and on the boards, such as Nowitzki, or one whose game is simply not attuned to that style of play as Parsons.  Although he has shown plenty of promise over the last couple of seasons, it is doubtful that Brandon Wright, the team's first front court option to come off the bench, is even capable enough to handle the physical trials of increased responsibility in the center position due to his rather slim 210 pound build.

Overall, Mavs fans will certainly enjoy watching their team this season as it will certainly be able score in the high 100 making for more fun and fast paced basketball; however, there is no way that their Mavericks being more than a middle of the pack team capable, at best, of only making it to the first round of the playoffs and nothing more.  In spite of the acquisitions of big time scoring talent such as Monta Ellis and Chander Parsons, the fate of the Mavericks still rest on the aging and weary shoulders of Dirk Nowitzki and unless Dallas finds an inside presence capable enough of taking some of the weight off his shoulders, then its is possible that the Mavs' future will most likely sink or swim in a 36 player heading towards the twilight of his career.  Nonetheless, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will not concede the apparent fact this his teams is on the verge of decline choosing instead to continue pushing in until the entire foundation collapses upon itself.  He has been absolutely adamant about his team not following the example of the +Philadelphia 76ers or +Minnesota Timberwolves tanking his team in order to acquire high draft picks because he wants to maintain the same winning culture that it has had for more than a decade.  Unfortunately for Dallas, due to age and the misfortune of being in the NBA's most stringent conference, it simply no longer has the goods to be the championship contender it once was and if they continue on this current path, the Mavs' by no choice of their own, will find their grip finally slipping and thus falling to the bottom with a devastating crash.