The offseason moves by the Dallas Mavericks front office are getting mixed reviews, albeit kudos as a recovery from the snowball that started with the dismantling of the 2011 title team and continued through the escape of every targeted free agent point guard including Jason Kidd.
Since that time, the Mavericks have added personnel who at worst replace, and at best improve on the existing roster. Mavs fans seem to be enthusiastic and optimistic, but turning the rest of the world from "meh" into "wow" shouldn't be rocket science, especially to a seasoned coach such as Rick Carlisle.
If nothing further changes, the depth chart will likely look something like this:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Chris Kaman
PG: Delonte West, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Jared Cunningham
SG: Vince Carter, Dahntay Jones, Beaubois, Jones, Cunningham
SF: Carter, Jae Crowder, Dahntay Jones
PF: Elton Brand, Brandan Wright
C: Brand, Wright, Bernard James
Defensively, the Mavericks have a much better interior presence now than they've possibly ever had. Chris Kaman is not Tyson Chandler but he is competent defensively and with help from Elton Brand and Bernard James, I'm not seeing a lot of big holes inside.
On the outside, Delonte West is back and that's a plus. Dahntay Jones and Darren Collison are considered good defenders and the other rookies are at least known for hustling. O.J. Mayo is also capable of playing good defense and hopefully will be more consistent. Shawn Marion should continue to excel and that means, with a little luck, both the starting frontcourt and backcourt as well as the bench should do a better job defensively than we've seen in the past.
Offensively, the possibilities are equally as interesting if not more so. When I look at the new lineup, I think "Score!"
Kaman is perhaps the best offensive center the Mavs have ever had. Mayo is likely to have a resurgence with his return to the starting lineup and Collison should have no trouble outperforming Jason Kidd, whose scoring last year was in the most notable decline of his long and stellar career.
Vince Carter is more than capable of stepping into a Jason Terry-esque role and is a more potent inside threat. Elton Brand may be the best scoring big man off the bench since Roy Tarpley, and Brandan Wright appears to be coming into his own. All of the young guards seem to be willing and able to score.
Without a serious falloff from Dirk and Shawn Marion, this team looks to have significant offensive upside as well.
On the boards, Kaman, Brand, Marion and James all have excellent instincts and career numbers. There is no reason to think the Mavs won't do a decent job rebounding.
This team will have an interesting combination of youth and experience and enough depth to substitute players with different strengths and weaknesses when problematic matchups arise.
The key to the Mavericks' success historically has been having multiple scoring options behind Dirk. While Dirk has been the leading scorer on the team since early in his career, the Mavericks have traditionally been successful with Dirk scoring around 25 points a game and at least two other players chipping in 15 points or better.
Ironically, the championship season would appear to be the exception, except that's exactly how the stats looked until Caron Butler went down with an injury. In that situation, however, Peja Stojacovich and Shawn Marion took up the slack.
The 2011-2012 season would, however, be the actual exception to that rule: Dirk's scoring was down during the regular season but had recovered by the playoffs. Unfortunately, he didn't get a lot of help and the result was a record barely over .500 and a quick exit from the playoffs. With multiple scoring options on the court this coming season, the only logical thing to do is make use of them.
Kaman, Brand, Mayo, Marion and Carter all have a variety of offensive weapons in their arsenal if called upon to use them. Collison has the ability to create opportunities as well. The younger players all have the ability to score in different ways.
Rick Carlisle has said recently that for the Mavericks to continue to be a championship-caliber team, another star needs to be added so that Dirk can be the second-best player. After the original plans for free agency fell through, that became unlikely for this coming season but there's no reason the coaching staff can't "share the wealth" by design. It will take an exceptional defensive team to defend all the weapons the Mavs have in their arsenal even if they come in prepared.
If they keep the opponents guessing, the Mavericks may very well be the big surprise of 2013.