If Monta Ellis is going to keep creating open shots for Dirk Nowitzki, this Dallas team could surprise.
Offseason additions Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon have been found guilty of lazy, uninspired defending throughout their respective careers. Small forward Shawn Marion is the team's top defender, and he certainly is a good one. Then again, one player does not make up for Dallas' glaring weakness.
But forget defense, you guys.
This team gets buckets.
The trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon working the offensive side of the ball equates to the Mavericks being a team built to outscore its competition.
Last season, the Houston Rockets racked up the second-most points per game (106.0) in the league, while allowing the third-highest number (102.5) per outing. Yet Houston clinched a spot in the postseason.
And a high-powered-offense, little-defense, playoff-caliber team is exactly what Dallas will become this year.
Monta Ellis is Developing a More Complete Game
Barely into his first season with Dallas, Monta Ellis has already made a noticeable impact in various facets of the game.
During the Mavericks' season-opening win over the Atlanta Hawks, Ellis led the team, scoring 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field.
But Ellis is slowly becoming a more involved player—meaning he isn't trying to dominate the final column in the box score.
He also dished eight assists—something he did a career-high 24 times last season. If Ellis accounts for nearly 50 points in a single game multiple times throughout the year, suffice to say Dallas fans will not be complaining.
Leading by nine points and nearing just two minutes to go against Atlanta, Ellis assisted Dirk on two three-pointers and made one of his own on three successive possessions. The Mavs stretched their lead to 16, and the game was officially decided.
If Ellis continues to contribute both as a passer and scorer in key situations, Dallas will be a team to watch during the 2013-14 campaign.
Dirk Nowitzki Need Not Carry Dallas, and He'll Still Score Plenty
After returning from offseason knee surgery, Dirk Nowitzki was tasked with the responsibility of leading a strictly decent team into the 2012-13 playoffs.
He eventually came up four games short, but Dirk did well to keep Dallas at a respectable 41-41 final record.
Since-departed O.J. Mayo was a serviceable No. 2 option and dropped 40, 32 and 30 points without Nowitzki, but he lacked explosive games alongside Dirk. Mayo scored 20-plus points 22 times throughout the season, but he managed just six 20-point performances while sharing the court with Dirk for 53 games.
Through three contests in 2013-14, Ellis has notched 32 and 20 points in separate outings. He is well on his way to shattering what Nowitzki's sidekick accomplished last year.
When Ellis finds a rhythm, Dirk doesn't need to step in and take control of the offense because the hot streak will end. Ellis has netted at least 25 points in 27.6 percent of his career games, so he is no stranger to high-scoring games.
What's most important about this, however, is, as teams slowly concentrate on the streaky Ellis, Nowitzki will find a few more open shots. Since Ellis is no longer exclusively locked onto the basket, Dirk will get chances to take those high-percentage looks via Ellis' passes.
Last season, per Basketball-Reference, Nowitzki made 46.6 percent of shots attempted from 16 feet or farther.
And if Nowitzki faces a handful fewer contested shots each game, that already-impressive percentage will only increase.
Jose Calderon Aids in Wins Without Scoring Big
A career 40-percent three-point shooter, Jose Calderon has struggled to knock down long-distance attempts, draining just 4-of-15 behind the arc to begin the season, and has connected on 5-of-26 overall from the field.
Despite his cold streak, though, the Mavs started 2-1, and Calderon's 22 total assists were much more critical.
Behind Nowitzki and Ellis, Dallas still has veterans Vince Carter and Shawn Marion chipping in double digits practically on a nightly basis. Throw in big men Samuel Dalembert or DeJuan Blair occasionally making a noticeable scoring impact, and the Mavericks are prepared to score 100 points on any given night.
Of course, Dallas would appreciate Calderon snapping his early-season shooting funk, but that's exactly what it is and nothing more.
Calderon doesn't need to score 12-18 points every night, nor should that be expected. The Mavs' new point guard must be the guy who facilitates the offense, locating his teammates for open shots.
Powered by the consistency of Nowitzki, breakout potential of Ellis and passing ability of Calderon, there is only one thing Dallas will do this season.
And lots of them.