Dallas Mavericks: Predicting the 2012-13 NBA Season Rotation
Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, two pivotal members from Dallas' 2011 title team, have landed in new locations. Mainstay Dirk Nowitzki remains, but there are a handful of new faces surrounding him, such as Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
The new-look Mavs undoubtedly have talent, but they must first figure out how to mesh with one another. This could take time.
This process begins by establishing a rotation that puts the Mavs in the best position for success. Here, we will predict who the Mavs' featured players will be, both starting and coming off the bench.
Starting Point Guard: Darren Collison
Darren Collison gives the Mavs a much different point guard than Jason Kidd. Collison is more adept at weaving his way into the lane and finding open teammates. His quickness and ability to penetrate are definite strengths to his game.
However, it is easy to wonder who the true Darren Collison is. This is worth speculating because of what he did as a rookie in 2009-10 with New Orleans. While Chris Paul, then a Hornet, was injured, Collison filled in remarkably well. In fact, he put up CP3-like numbers (21.6 points per game and 8.3 assists per game in January, 16.9 PPG and 9.1 APG in March).
After these eye-opening months as a rookie, Collison seemed on the fast track towards being an NBA All-Star.
But his game didn't surge to new levels for two seasons in Indiana (13.2 PPG and 5.1 APG in 2010-11, 10.3 PPG and 4.8 APG in 2011-12). Frankly, he didn't even come close to averaging what he did in those successful months in New Orleans.
Therefore, who is the true Darren Collison? Did Indiana not use him in the right manner? Or, were his lofty numbers as a rookie a fluke?
At any rate, Collison is the new floor general for the Mavs and he's certainly a wise addition. Even if he's more reminiscent of the Indiana-version of Collison, he's still a serviceable point guard who figures to get loads of minutes in the Dallas backcourt.
However, Mavs fans should hope for much, much more than "serviceable" from Collison. His potential as a playmaker is unquestionably there, and perhaps he will have a breakout season in 2012-13.
Starting Shooting Guard: O.J. Mayo
The performance and progression of O.J. Mayo holds heavy weight on how well Dallas fares this upcoming season.
Mayo, similar to Collison, performed incredibly well as a rookie but hasn't made much progression since. In fact, his scoring output (18.5 PPG as a rookie in 2008-09) was down at just 11.3 and 12.6 the past couple seasons.
In Dallas, Mayo should receive the bulk of the playing time at the two-guard spot. Therefore, he should certainly have the motivation to show his offensive versatility.
He's capable of becoming a legitimate No. 2 scoring option to Dirk Nowitzki.
Quite frankly, it's a reasonable to expect Mayo to pour in close to 20 PPG, and if this is the case, the Mavs will suddenly have a formidable backcourt-frontcourt tandem in Mayo and Nowitzki.
What Mavs fans should have concern over is the efficiency of Mayo. His field goal percentage the past couple seasons has hovered around 40 percent, which is suspect.
Therefore, Mayo must effectively learn how to score in an efficient manner. Unnecessary threes and early shot clock fadeaways are a bad idea, and if these continually appear, veteran Vince Carter (or Dahntay Jones) could be quickly waiting to check in at midcourt.
Starting Small Forward: Shawn Marion
Shawn Marion has found his niche in Big D and despite all his new-look teammates, his role doesn't figure to change.
He will continue to be their slashing forward who scores in a bevy of ways while also supplying top-notch defense.
His activity on both ends of the floor have always given him value. However, he is now 34-years-old and don't be surprised if some signs of wear and tear begin to show.
Further, if the Mavs aren't performing up to par, "The Matrix" could find himself in the center of trade rumors during the year. He's a veteran player with championship experience, and if the Mavs no longer want him, somebody will.
Starting Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
Talk about a no-brainer.
Dirk Nowitzki will continue to be the focal point of what the Mavs do on offense. Despite losing teammates Kidd and Terry, he actually now has more weapons around him (Collison, Mayo, Kaman).
Still, even with these new weapons, Nowitzki will remain the main weapon. Dallas would be foolish to not give him as many touches as what he's received in years past.
The bottom line is this: when Dirk has the ball, good things happen. And while he is now 34-years-old, we haven't witnessed any major signs of regression from his highly savvy game.
Starting Center: Chris Kaman
Chris Kaman has been an underrated big man for years, and perhaps this is the season when people finally realize what a difference-maker he is.
Kaman's offensive skill set is incredibly valuable. His back-to-the-basket moves and ability to finish with either hand make him a constant force to be reckoned with down low.
What will be interesting is how Kaman complements Nowitzki. With Nowitzki commanding so much attention, Kaman could benefit in the low post by receiving plenty of one-on-one matchups.
Don't expect Kaman to put up career numbers, but do expect him to contribute a highly efficient 10-plus points a game.
Further, while he may not be a defensive enforcer like Tyson Chandler was a couple years ago, Kaman did block 1.6 shots per game last season. Thus, he at least knows how to protect the basket on defense.
Kaman was a solid acquisition and could prove to be a perfect frontcourt mate to Dirk. If so, the Mavs could find themselves near the top of the Western Conference standings.
6th Man: Elton Brand
Elton Brand will most likely shift to a bench role with his new team.
But he will still be a major contributor. There will very likely be games when Brand actually tallies more minutes than Kaman at the center position.
Coach Rick Carlisle has the privilege of getting creative with his big men this upcoming season. With Kaman, Brand and Brandan Wright on the roster, foul trouble amongst these three shouldn't be a concern. If Kaman picks up an early two personals, Brand can be promptly inserted and they shouldn't lose a step.
Further, with this flexibility, Brand can come in and play with extra aggression, particularly on defense. He's an underrated defender who averaged 1.6 BPG last season.
No matter what, Brand will be used frequently during the 2012-13 season. A player of his caliber beckons to be a sixth man if he's not starting.
7th Man: Delonte West
The Mavs re-signed Delonte West and he should receive spot minutes off the bench, mainly spelling Collison.
West will have to outshine 24-year-old guard Rodrigue Beaubois, and this isn't a given. These two will be battling for playing time and this could continue throughout the season.
Expect West to begin with the bulk of the minutes coming off the bench, but both West and Beaubois struggle with consistency, so this spot in the rotation could change on a whim.
West must exclaim his value by displaying a steady three-point shot as well as demonstrating the ability to run the offense in a prudent manner. These two things should solidify his role in the Dallas backcourt.
8th Man: Vince Carter
Vince Carter is aging and his role should slowly begin to fade.
Still, he will be in the rotation and could become a spark plug off the bench. He has always had the capability to score in bunches and he will be looked to provide this as a reserve this season.
If he performs well and shows consistency, he could find himself playing more than 25 minutes a game, spelling both Marion and Mayo.
However, the likelihood is that he will be closer to 15-20 minutes an outing, as his 35-year-old legs aren't capable of producing like "Vinsanity" once did.
9th Man: Brandan Wright
Brandan Wright has never fully reached his potential (eighth overall pick in 2007), but he did show value on the defensive end last season. He averaged 1.3 BPG in just 16.1 minutes per outing.
Even with the Mavs landing Kaman and Brand, Wright should still see minutes off the bench next season. However, it could only be around 10 minutes a night.
The reality is that Nowitzki, Kaman and Brand will command the majority of the frontcourt playing time, but Wright can bring energy off the bench in spurts. He must get comfortable in this role, because it's highly unlikely that he'll surpass Brand on the depth chart.
10th Man: Dahntay Jones
Dahntay Jones came over in the same trade that sent Collison to Big D, and he could prove to be an extra bonus in that deal.
Jones' primary value is found on the defensive end, where he's capable of guarding elite wings. This could be particularly important when playing the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder, when he can pester Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
Offensively, Jones is average at best. He can score in transition and is a decent three-point threat (42.9 percent last season), but he's always been known for his defensive energy.
This will be his role and he should help give the Mavs a jolt of life whenever needed.