Just a season removed from winning the NBA Championship, the Mavericks finished with just 41 wins in 2012-13 and missed the playoffs. That couldn’t have sat well with owner Mark Cuban and the front office spent the offseason acquiring a ton of veterans.
Although the team lost O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman who gave them solid production last season, they added five veterans and drafted the highly touted Shane Larkin. The only players that remain from last year’s club are Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright and Bernard James. That is going to be a lot of names for head coach Rick Carlisle to learn – and turn into an actual team. Let’s take a look at how this year’s Mavs are shaping up.
Points Per Game: 8th
Points Allowed Per Game: 27th
Rebounds Per Game: 16th
Point Guards: Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel – Grade: B
Calderon is as solid as solid gets. He never gets the credit for his point guard skills but his 11.3 points, 7.1 assists, 49 percent shooting, and a league-best 46 percent three-point shooting last season is what you want from your point guard. He’s an efficient scorer but doesn’t blow the roof off the place, and can dish an assist with the best of them.
While Calderon is an efficient scorer, Harris usually gets by on volume alone. His 44 percent shooting isn’t terrible for a point guard but he doesn’t have the point guard skills of a Calderon and is probably better suited to a shooting guard role. He’ll split time in the backcourt at both positions.
Larkin was the 18th overall pick in this year’s draft after a very impressive run at Miami over the last two years. He averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and two steals per game in his sophomore year and shot a terrific 48 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from three-point range. He has all of the skills necessary to succeed but, at 5-foot-11 and just over 170 pounds, he’s very undersized and could struggle to play against the bigger point guards around the league.
Mekel used to play point guard at Wichita State and has spent the last five years playing pro ball in Israel. He averaged 9.7 points and five assists in the Summer League this year and won the Israeli League MVP last season but we’ll have to see if Rick Carlisle even uses him with so many bodies in the backcourt.
Shooting Guards: Monta Ellis, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo – Grade: B-
Ellis’ shooting efficiency has been steadily declining, ultimately dropping to 41.6 percent shooting last season and just 28.7 percent from three-point range. If he can get those numbers back into the mid-40s, his 19.2 points, 6.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game will all look much better. Overall, he’s a solid player who does a bit of everything and can steal a ball with the best of them but isn’t playing at the same level we saw a few years ago in Golden State. Perhaps a move to Dallas will be good for him.
Ellington is a passable backup who can nail a three-pointer and does a bit of everything. Last season, he averaged 13.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.0 steals per 36 minutes while nailing two threes per 36 at a 39 percent rate.
Ledo was a second-round pick this year after being academically ineligible to play college ball at Providence College. Just a year ago, he was a McDonald’s All-American and the 21st best college prospect according to ESPN. The Mavs might have gotten a complete steal here in the 6-foot-7 shooting guard.
Small Forwards: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder – Grade: B
At 35, Marion still has it in him to bang in the paint and has been a very serviceable starter for the Mavs. He no longer puts up a double-double on a nightly basis but his 12.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and nearly a block per game are all very reliable numbers. His .514 shooting last season is right around where you want to see him, not the .446 he put up the previous year.
At 35, Carter’s 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.8 three-pointers per 36 minutes are all very strong numbers and close to what he used to do on the Nets. He no longer has it in him to play that much but he’s stayed healthy and productive so, despite their top two small forwards being over 70 years old, the Mavs are very solid here.
Crowder looked like a promising defender in his first season but his 38.4 percent shooting is downright miserable. His 33 percent three-point shooting isn’t stellar either. He’s a solid rebounder and ball thief but he has a lot to work on before he can get significant minutes off the bench.
Power Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright, DeJuan Blair – Grade: B+
Dirk missed much of last season with injury and, when he did play, didn’t look like the same player he was in him prime. That’s not particularly surprising for a 35-year-old injured big man. His 17.3 points per game is his lowest production since his rookie season and his 6.8 rebounds per game was a far cry from the 9+ rebounder he was just a few years ago. His .414 three-point shooting is as good as anyone’s but the Mavs will need a healthy, more consistent Dirk if they want to make a playoff run.
Wright is a very solid shot blocker and a serviceable rebounder who has also found the basket more often of late. Last season he averaged 8.5 points (17 per 36 minutes) on 60 percent shooting and is a solid choice to spell Dirk off the bench.
Blair isn’t a very good shot blocker but he can certainly hold his own on defense and is a good rebounder, averaging 9.7 per 36 minutes last season and 11.1 in his career. His .524 shooting is solid but he doesn’t figure to see a whole lot of time or opportunities barring an injury.
Centers: Samuel Dalembert, Bernard James – Grade: B
Delembert has been starting here and there but hasn’t played more than 25 minutes per game since the 2007-08 season. Still, his 14.7 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes are all phenominal averages and he should provide the Mavs 25 minutes of very solid play each game.
As a 27-year-old rookie last year, James showed some promise, averaging 10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and a vicious 3.0 blocks per 36 minutes while playing a very limited role. He’ll likely see more minutes this year as he continues to develop.
Coach: Rick Carlisle – Grade: A-
Carlisle is as good a coach as you’ll find but with one of the oldest clubs in the league and plenty of new faces, he’ll have his work cut out for him to make a real playoff run. Although he led them to the NBA Championship in 2011, the Mavs were bounced in the first-round in 2010 and 2012 before missing the playoffs entirely last season. A good regular season team does not always translate to an NBA title.
Team Grade: B