The Dallas Mavericks will officially resume basketball activities when training camp opens on October 1 at the American Airlines Center.
For the first time in 12 years, the Mavericks missed the playoffs, and Dirk Nowitzki's early-season absence certainly did not help Dallas' playoff hopes.
During the offseason, the Mavericks underwent a major roster overhaul, bringing more than a handful of new faces to the team. The trick, however, will be to see if Dallas' transactions will make the team competitive enough to survive, or even thrive, in an absolutely loaded Western Conference.
Mavericks 2012-13 Results
- 41-41 record (.500)
- 4th in Southwest Division
- 10th in Western Conference
- Missed playoffs
Key Stats: One Good, One Not-So-Good
As a team, the Mavericks were rather effective from behind the three-point line last season. Their 37.2 percent mark was sixth-best in the league, and Dallas was not overly reliant on long-distance shots, only attempting 19.9 per game.
The latter number will likely increase during 2013-14, but with a certain-shooter-to-be-discussed-later now on the roster, the percentage is just as likely to decrease.
To even have an opportunity for second-chance points, a team must snag offensive rebounds. Throughout the 2012-13 campaign, the Mavs pulled down just 9.4 per game—the fifth-worst number in the NBA.
But with Nowitzki poised to play an entire season and more experience coming to Dallas via free agency, the struggle for offensive rebounds should not continue.
Biggest Storylines Entering Training Camp
Last season, as Mavs.com's Earl K. Sneed notes, Dallas failed to click as an offensive unit, so it is crucial the Mavericks use training camp to get acclimated with each other. Nowitzki is quite obviously the team's superstar, but it will be interesting to watch how quickly the fresh faces on Dallas' roster can adapt to the system.
The Mavericks revamped nearly their entire backcourt rotation as not one guard returns from last season. One of the guards, Monta Ellis, is a feast or famine type of player, so corralling a sporadic and streaky player will be of the utmost concern.
As of now, Dallas possesses a potentially potent offense, but the tradeoff is the chance of an embarrassing defense.
The signing of Samuel Dalembert will certainly improve the Mavericks' interior defense as Nowitzki already stays in the post, but the backcourt defense does not look near as promising—and that's putting it lightly.
Key Additions and Losses
Key Additions: Jose Calderon, PG (Four years, $29 million remaining); Monta Ellis, SG (Three years, $25 million remaining); Samuel Dalembert, C (Two years, $7.5 million remaining)
Key Losses: Darren Collison, PG (Two years, $3.9 million with LAC); O.J. Mayo, SG (Three years, $24 million with MIL); Elton Brand, PF (One year, $4 million with ATL); Chris Kaman, C (One year, $3.2 million with LAL)
Biggest Addition: Jose Calderon
Point guard Jose Calderon and shooting guard Monta Ellis each have valid arguments to be chosen here, but the distributor gets a slight edge.
Not only has Calderon tallied 7.2 assists per game during his eight-year career, he has nailed 39.9 percent of his three-point attempts. In 2012-13, Calderon led the league with a 46.1 percent mark from behind the arc.
He is a fantastic upgrade over Darren Collison because of his facilitating prowess, but one issue with Calderon is his defensive ability—or lack thereof. With that being said, his offensive contributions will prove essential to the Mavericks throughout the season and could certainly outweigh his rough defense.
Biggest Loss: O.J. Mayo
Is O.J. Mayo replaceable? Sure. But he was easily one of Dallas' biggest contributors last season.
Overall, Mayo was a bright spot for the Mavericks in an otherwise down season, but in July, he signed a deal to join the Milwaukee Bucks.
Mayo started every game, netted 15.3 points on 44.9 percent shooting and dished 4.4 assists per contest. He also connected on 40.7 percent of his attempts from distance while knocking down a respectable 82.0 percent from the free-throw line.
Training Camp Battle to Watch: Jae Crowder vs. Devin Ebanks
As a rookie in 2012-13, Jae Crowder appeared in 78 games and even earned 16 starts. His stats were somewhat underwhelming at 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.8 steals per game, but Crowder played solid defense throughout his 17.3 minutes.
Devin Ebanks was recently signed to a one-year contract, and he rounds out a deep small forward position.
The wild card thrown into the game, however, is that Vince Carter will likely return to sixth-man duty as a small forward behind Shawn Marion. Since Dallas signed Ellis and Wayne Ellington and drafted Ricky Ledo, the Mavericks would be even more stacked depth-wise at guard, so the moves facilitated Carter's expected switch.
Crowder played more games and more minutes last season than Ebanks compiled during his three-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, so Crowder certainly holds the edge in this battle.
Battling For A Roster Spot: Fab Melo vs. Bernard James
Last season, Bernard James played a limited role off the bench, garnering 9.9 minutes, 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per appearance.
Dallas signed the much-maligned Fab Melo shortly after being released by the Memphis Grizzlies, and expectations for the second-year forward are relatively nonexistent. "The Other Melo," as he is commonly referred to as of a few words ago, is a low-risk, modest-reward signing for the Mavericks.
James is more likely to hold onto one of the final roster spots, but the potential for Fab Melo still remains until proven otherwise.
Biggest X-Factor: Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis has scored 19.4 points per game for his career, but according to Basketball-Reference, he also has a defensive rating of 110. Ellis often attempts to shoot the lights out, and he is very effective when not forcing bad three-pointers.
But Ellis needs to realize how much higher his 45.6 percent career field-goal percentage would be if he stopped launching triples—a shot that has plagued him throughout eight NBA seasons. Ellis has shot above 31.0 percent just three times.
Defensively, Ellis can be remarkably lazy at times and seems more focused on how to avoid any "confrontation"—meaning actually guarding someone.
According to SportsDayDFW.com, Ellis is anxious to "make this work and prove everybody wrong."
Ultimately, the ninth-year pro can help the Mavericks in a big way, but he could also be responsible for chronic poor shot selection and horrid defense.
Mavericks' Best-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Nowitzki shows no lingering effects from this past season's knee injury, while Calderon and Ellis are the offensive weapons they are expected to be, but the duo also figures out how not to be defensive liabilities.
The three veterans—Marion, Dalembert and Harris—support Dallas' key players, and the Mavericks win 52 games, good enough for fifth in the Western Conference.
Mavericks' Worst-Case Scenario in 2013-14
Ellis fights Nowitzki for shots, Calderon has a subpar season passing the ball, and an eclectic bench of signees fail to mesh as a reserve unit.
Dallas battles its way to a disappointing 38-win campaign, one that ends with Nowitzki seriously considering retirement as his contract expires.
Aided by a manageable late-season schedule, the Mavericks will return to postseason play following a one-year hiatus.
The combination of Nowitzki, Calderon, Marion and Ellis provide enough offense to overshadow the team's defensive struggles. Dalembert proves to be a stellar free-agent signing as he guards the league's top post players, freeing up Nowitzki on the defensive end.
Dallas wins 47 games and earns a No. 7 seed in the playoffs before bowing out to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has experienced a roster shakeup similar to what he is dealing with now, so Dallas is in good hands. Plus, Nowitzki is a seasoned superstar, and he will be at full strength.
But as training camp is just days away and the regular season rapidly approaches, the incumbent and new Mavericks alike must find their collective identity to prepare for a fiercely competitive Western Conference.