Dallas Mavericks Season Preview: Dirk Nowitzki and a Retooled Supporting Cast

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Dallas Mavericks Season Preview: Dirk Nowitzki and a Retooled Supporting Cast
Glenn James/Getty Images
Dirk Nowitzki with some of his new Mavericks teammates (L to R: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert)

Well, the Dallas Mavericks lost at the Dwight Howard carnival over the summer.  Bummer, Mavs fans.

Right?

Not so much.

Instead, the Mavs will enter the NBA's 2013-14 regular season with a slew of new faces on the roster. Only five players—Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Brandan Wright and Jae Crowderremain from last year's squad.  Nowitzki, even at 35, is still very much the heart and soul of the team.  

Thanks to Dallas' resilient front office, a deep supporting cast will surround Nowitzki. Headlining the newcomers are dynamic scoring threat Monta Ellis and well-respected floor general Jose Calderon.  

The brass also brought in DeJuan Blair, Samuel Dalembert, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, 2013 first and second-round draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, respectively, and Israeli-born guard Gal Mekel. 

Put it this way: With the cash that Mark Cuban saved from not overpaying Howard, he was able to build a full roster for a cheaper price. These were nice additions to the team, and the sum of the parts will add up to more than Howard alone.

In his league-wide season preview on Grantland.com, Zach Lowe said that the Mavs will be a formidable squad—at least on one side of the court. 

Jose Calderon will work as a killer pick and roll partner for Nowitzki, and Monta Ellis should have his best season since 2007-08 working with the greatest shooting big man in history. Defense will be a bugaboo, but it was last year too.  Still, Dallas will score enough to stay in the race.

Danny Bollinger/Getty Images
Monta Ellis in the Mavs' first preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans
Nowitzki once again has a true secondary scoring threat on the wing.  With a career average of 19.4 points per game, Ellis can create his own space and shot.  He can also force a defense to collapse while driving. This will open up the perimeter for Nowitzki and sharpshooters Ellington, Carter and Calderon.  

Dallas' last complete secondary scoring threat was Michael Finley, who played for the Mavs nearly 10 years ago.

Via ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, Ellis said he's concerned with more than just filling up the stat sheet.

I'm not even worried about stats.  I'm worried about wins - W's and L's.  The biggest thing for me is to come and try to get a good feel for my teammates, get a feel for the system and the surroundings, play hard and bring energy, and the offense will come.

The major concern surrounding Ellis is his efficiency.  He has shot 45 percent from the field only once in the last four seasons.  He is a volume shooter, and in order to maximize his potential, Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle will need to allow him to get his shots.  

If Ellis can average 18-plus points per game with decent efficiency, the Mavs will have enough offensive weapons inside and out to be a dangerous team.  With the additions of crafty DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert and Brandon Wright seemingly primed for a breakout season, Dallas should shoot a high percentage in the post.  

When all of these pieces are in place, this will be a complete and balanced offense.  

Like what you're reading, Mavs fans?

Brace yourselves, because the defense is next.

Last season, Dallas ranked 27th in the league in points allowed per game at 101.7. Newsflash: None of the players whom Cuban brought in this offseason are particularly good defenders.

Glenn James/Getty Images
Mavs' new center Samuel Dalembert
Except for Dalembert, defense is a weakness of this team.  Calderon and Ellis will struggle to stay in front of most opposing backcourts.  Blair will add blue-collar toughness inside but isn't known as a strong defender.

Brandan Wright is 6'10" and weighs 210 pounds. Enough said there.

At 35 years old, Marion is still this team's best perimeter defender, and that could be a huge problem. Versatile second-year swingman Crowder has promising defensive potential but has only shown it in flashes. Vince Carter is an average defender, but is far more offensively-focused.  Ellis is typically among the league leaders in stealshe averaged 2.1 per game last seasonbut he is a notorious gambler on defense. 

Even with a defensive-minded coach in Carlisle, the Mavs will be painful to watch on this half of the court. When they have the ball though, enjoy the fireworks.  This season will be a two-faced one for Dallas.  

 

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