The Dallas Mavericks' 2013 offseason has gone...well...not exactly as planned.
After striking out on Dwight Howard and missing out on several of their other targets, the Mavs now are forced to go into next year questioning whether they've even improved from last year's 41-41 team.
Still, the 2013-14 Mavs roster is going to look much different from a season ago. Dallas has added several players (most of them guards), and with the season just a few months away, it's time to look at how the Mavericks stack up against each other at this point in the offseason.
Shane Larkin was the only Mavericks first-round draft pick from this season, and the former Miami (Florida) standout looked like he was heading into a prominent role with the Mavs in the near future.
Unfortunately, that possibility took a significant step back when Larkin broke his ankle in a Summer League practice, forcing him to be out for the next few months.
Because of his injury, it's hard to place Larkin on the board at this point when ranking Mavericks players. Once Larkin does return, we will have a much better sense of how his game translates to the NBA level.
The Mavericks' other draft pick from this year turned out to be Ricky Ledo, who was selected 43rd overall and traded to Dallas on draft day.
Ledo hasn't played organized basketball in over a year after sitting out his only season at Providence, so he is a bit of an enigma to NBA executives at this point. The only real sample set we have to go on with Ledo is his three Summer League games this week.
Ledo is averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He seems to be a ways away from being ready for the NBA.
However, it's clear that Ledo has potential with his natural scoring ability, size and quickness. Although he isn't ready yet, Ledo is certainly a player Mavs fans will be keeping an eye on for the remainder of the offseason.
The good news for Bernard James right now: He is the only center that is currently on the Mavericks roster for the 2013-14 season. Granted, that probably won't last with the Mavericks being interested in Samuel Dalembert and Greg Oden, but still, Sarge is the only one guaranteed to be a Mav next year.
The bad news is that James is currently out with an injury in Summer League and scored two points in his only game this summer against the Sacramento Kings.
James continues to be a solid defensive player and rebounder, but his lack of offensive skill may make it difficult for him to find minutes in the Mavericks rotation next year.
However, if James can stay healthy (and those in front of him don't...looking at you, Oden), then James may be a valuable backup for the Mavericks this year.
The final Mavericks rookie this season is former Isreali League standout Gal Mekel, who signed with the Mavs for three years this offseason.
Mekel's pathway to the Mavericks rotation seems to have opened up with Shane Larkin's injury and the Mavericks opting not to sign Devin Harris after all (at least for now), leaving Dallas in need of a backup to Jose Calderon.
Thus far, Mekel has been decent in the Summer League in three games, averaging 10.7 PPG and 5.7 APG.
Mekel has shown the ability to score and get his teammates involved, but he isn't exactly tearing it up against Summer League competition. If Mekel does get the job, it will be interesting to see if he will be an upgrade over Rodrigue Beaubois and Mike James.
The former UNC standout really picked up his game when he was moved to Cleveland, where he started 17 games and averaged over 10 points, showing he is a capable scoring guard.
Ellington looks at this point like the Mavericks' third-string shooting guard. Monta Ellis will almost assuredly start, and Vince Carter seems primed for a sixth man role. Rick Carlisle will likely give some minutes for Ellington, but even though he is a good defender, he is a bit undersized to play the 3 and isn't a strong enough ball-handler to play the point.
Because of that, Ellington's role may be smaller than he expected.
During his rookie season, Jae Crowder ended up playing a significant role in the Mavericks' rotation despite only being a second-round draft pick.
This year, Crowder's role is expected to increase. He has another year of experience under his belt and has come into the Summer League having lost a significant amount of weight.
Crowder is second on the Mavericks' Summer League roster in points thus far at 15.3. He has shot nearly 50 percent from the floor. With Shawn Marion another year older, Crowder may be stealing some of his minutes so that Marion can rest more often.
Crowder's defensive capabilities as well as his overall hustle make him a valuable member of the team, and if he can refine his offensive game, he could have a much-improved sophomore season.
Vince Carter is still going strong at age 36.
Carter scored 13.4 PPG last season while accepting a sixth man role with the Mavs, something that many former superstars would not have been willing to do. In a season filled with disappointments for the Mavericks, Carter was a bright spot. He significantly upped his production from his first season in Dallas.
But Carter is getting older and may need to take on fewer minutes. The Mavs have helped him out by signing Monta Ellis to play in front of him, which should keep him fresh coming off the bench.
If Carter can stay healthy this upcoming season, he should continue to be one of the league's best sixth men and play a pivotal role in the 2013-14 season.
After missing out on Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Andre Igoudala and other potential star players in free agency, the Dallas Mavericks made waves when they decided to sign former Warriors and Bucks standout Monta Ellis to a three-year deal worth between $25 and $30 million.
Without a doubt, Ellis is one of the elite scoring guards in the NBA. But Ellis doesn't seem to be a fit with the Mavs.
Although they are looking for a player that can be the No. 1 option to complement Dirk Nowitzki, Ellis hasn't won anything during his NBA career. He had a bad season for his standards last year, scoring under 20 PPG and shooting just 41.6 percent from the floor with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ellis is a volume shooter and not a great defender, so it remains to be seen if he will make a significant impact on the Mavericks' win-loss record.
Still, there is no doubt that Ellis has talent and will put up big numbers. At the very least he seems to be an improvement over O.J. Mayo, and he should be able to score in the 20-22 PPG range for Dallas.
His overall game drops him to fourth overall on the Mavs, but Ellis' scoring ability will be tops in Dallas next year.
Along with Monta Ellis, the biggest offseason signing the Mavericks made was Spanish point guard Jose Calderon.
Last season, Calderon averaged 11.3 PPG and 7.1 APG while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three-point range.
After a disappointing performance from Darren Collison last season, Calderon should be a significant upgrade for Dallas at the starting point guard spot.
With two dynamic scorers on board in Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki, Calderon should have plenty of options in setting up his teammates next season, as well as knocking down open jumpers himself.
Shawn Marion's stat line may not jump out at casual NBA fans as the second-best player on the Mavericks, but for those who have watched him over the last few seasons, it is clear that he is one of the more underrated players in the league.
Marion doesn't have the explosive scoring abilities he had when he was playing in Phoenix a decade ago, but he is so crafty around the rim that he still managed to put up over 12 points per game last season.
However, it is not his scoring alone that makes him valuable. Marion continues to be one of the elite defenders in the NBA.
Routinely, Marion is the one guarding the opposition's top player, and without him the Mavs would have been even worse defensively than they already were.
In addition to using his length and quickness to excel on defense, Marion is an elite rebounder. Not just an elite rebounder for a small forward, but an elite rebounder in general.
At 7.8 RPG, Marion led the Mavs last season in that category, beating out three 7-footers. Had he played enough games to qualify (Marion barely missed the mark at 67) he would have ranked in the NBA's top 30, with only Josh Smith, LeBron James and Kevin Durant beating him out at the small forward spot.
Although he is 35, Marion is still an essential part of the Mavericks' core. He will have to play well for the Mavs to contend in 2013-14.
Many Mavericks fans were likely hoping Dirk Nowitzki would actually be No. 2 on the list.
Instead, another offseason has nearly passed and Dirk remains the top dog in Dallas.
Thirty-five-year-old Nowitzki could have benefited playing next to another (younger) superstar, but if healthy, he is still fully capable of leading the Mavericks. Once Dirk returned from injury, he was never totally right in 2013. But with an entire offseason to heal, expect Nowitzki to play some of his best basketball in the upcoming season.
After all, anything less than that from the team's star player could spell doom for a Mavericks team trying to avoid back-to-back playoff-less seasons.