5 Areas Dallas Mavericks Must Upgrade This Offseason
It would be hard to blame the Dallas Mavericks if they made minimal changes this offseason. They might not want to shake things up given that they made the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Which is quite an achievement given that the eighth seed won 49 games.
But this franchise is hungry for more.
According to Earl K. Snead of Mavs.com, the front office plans to be aggressive yet again this offseason. And that's very reassuring to hear, as though Dallas made the playoffs they were far from a perfect team. They had significant holes this past season, they were just very good at minimizing them.
But now is not the time to gloss over the weaknesses. This is the time of year where teams address their problems, and then reap the benefits come winter.
And since the Mavs have more than their fair share of issues, they might want to get started sooner rather than later.
The average age of that group is roughly 33, and only Ellis is younger than 30.
For this franchise to maintain success moving forward, it desperately needs to get younger.
But of course this is easier said than done. The Mavs don't have their first-round pick this year and even if they did it would have been 21st overall. That's a pretty tough spot to draft a young stud.
Now granted, they don't have to go after the next franchise guy just yet. Dirk Nowitzki's resurgence this year has thankfully bought the Mavs some time in their search for his replacement. It would be nice if Dallas could bring in someone with that kind of potential, but while the front office is good they're not miracle workers.
Eric Bledsoe is the only player on the market who might fit the successor role, but in an interview with ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Suns GM Ryan McDonough all but guaranteed Phoenix would match any offer Bledsoe would get as a restricted free agent.
So much for that pipe dream.
But maybe instead of getting younger stars, the Mavs can get younger rotation players. That's obviously a much more attainable goal.
For instance Patrick Patterson is a nice 25-year-old big with a smooth jumper. The restricted free agent might make for a nice Dirk backup. Or there’s another restricted free agent in Avery Bradley who would certainly solve some of the defensive issues from the guard position. Or maybe there's Spencer Hawes, who’s only 26 and would be a great rotation big.
Of course this is just pure speculation. But the point is that there are young potential contributors who the Mavs could pursue. Guys who could give a more youthful feel to this team.
And that would certainly be a step in the right direction.
This may be stating the obvious, but the Mavs are an awful rebounding team.
Dallas was 26th in the league in total rebounds per game and 23rd in defensive rebounds, as well as rebound differential.
There wasn’t a single Maverick who averaged more than seven boards, and they gave up 11.5 offensive rebounds per game.
We could go on for days with bad rebounding stats, but I think you get the picture.
And when you look at the roster the problem makes sense. Dirk was never a big-time rebounder, and now that his already less than optimal athleticism is diminishing, he struggles to effectively clean the glass.
Shawn Marion nearly led the team in rebounding as a small forward, and the two best rebounders on the team in Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair combined to play only 35.8 minutes per game due to their other limitations.
Combine that with poor rebounding guards like Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis, who get a combined six boards per game and it’s a recipe for rebounding disaster.
The Mavs need to bring in a big who can hold their own in the paint. Samuel Dalembert could do that at times, but he also couldn’t stay on the floor. So this big needs to also be more of a complete player who can thus play more minutes.
Okay, maybe that’s a tall order. No pun intended. But you get the point.
For Dallas to sustain this success they simply can’t get dominated like this in such a key aspect of the game.
And maybe some of that we leave to the wisdom of head coach Rick Carlisle. With so much roster turnover the last couple of years, maybe in an offseason with a relatively stable roster he can solve a glaring problem like this. He’s not one of the best coaches in the game for nothing.
It’s a tough problem to solve unless the Mavs decide to throw some money at a big, and who knows if that’ll happen.
Maybe a scheme tweak will work wonders. Maybe. That’s a pretty big maybe.
Similar to the rebounding problems, I don’t have to tell you that the Mavs don’t defend the perimeter well.
While Monta Ellis was on the floor, opponents scored 109 points per 100 possessions. That’s pretty bad but his backcourt mate Jose Calderon had an even worse impact, as his defensive rating was 112.
Ellis and Calderon placed 332nd and 435th in the NBA respectively in this category.
Of course this statistic does not tell the whole story. Obviously team defense plays into this rating as well and the Mavs were not a stellar defensive team. So Ellis and Calderon are not totally to blame for their abysmal ratings.
But both guards have reputations for being subpar on the defensive end. And that’s putting it nicely.
When Devin Harris is thought of as the team’s best defensive guard, there’s a problem. Not to say that Harris is a bad defender, but he’s not close to being a great one either.
This problem reared its ugly head in the Spurs series. Tony Parker was able to almost freely get into the paint and thus able to manipulate the defense in anyway he saw fit.
And Dallas threw everything they had at him. They tried Devin Harris, Shawn Marion even Jae Crowder at times. Nothing quite seemed to work.
Some of this is simply the Spurs’ offense, which seems to give every team fits.
But it really exposed a problem the Mavericks tried very hard to mask during the regular season.
And of course this is another problem that’s going to be tough to fix. As bad as Ellis and Calderon were on defense, they were equally if not more impressive on offense. They probably aren’t going anywhere, and the Mavs would be dumb to let Harris walk given how valuable he was.
That doesn’t leave too many minutes in the rotation for another guard. Although perimeter defense doesn’t have to be bolstered from the guard position. Someone like Luol Deng, who ESPN.com’s Tim McMahon says the Mavs want, is a great wing defender who could cover a guard in a pinch.
No matter who Dallas brings in this offseason, you can almost guarantee they have a reputation for defending well.
If we’re going down the list of things a contender needs, a third scorer is pretty high on that list. The fact that the Mavs made the playoffs and pushed the Spurs to seven games without one is pretty impressive.
But not something that should continue.
Having that third player who can consistently put pressure on a defense does wonders for the primary scorers, as the defense can’t focus in on them.
For the Mavs, more often than not that player ended up being Vince Carter. He was the team’s third leading scorer and averaged 11.9 points per game. Considering Carter is 37 years old, that’s nothing to scoff at.
Then again, he also shouldn’t be a team’s third option at his age. He’s a good shooter from distance at 39.4 percent and has shown an ability to post up smaller guards. But creating off the dribble is a skill that he doesn’t really have any more.
For Dallas to squeeze everything they can out of the last few years of Dirk, they need to find ways to alleviate some of the offensive load that he carries game in and game out.
And a 37-year-old Vince Carter isn’t the way to do that.
This isn’t supposed to be a Vinsanity bashing. Carter just isn’t the dynamic offensive player he once was.
And of course some nights Devin Harris was the third option. And in other games it was Jose Calderon. So again, it’s not all Carter.
But the point is that the Mavs could never rely on one guy for those points every night. And opposing defenses didn’t have to game-plan for another threat on a regular basis.
Though it’s not a necessity as proven by the successes this past season, a third scorer would be a prudent investment if the team wants to get back to the playoffs.
I can’t be the only one who desperately misses Tyson Chandler, right?
Ever since Chandler left, it seems the Mavs are in search of a good big man. One who can defend the paint, rebound and hold their own on offense.
Samuel Dalembert was able to do some of that this year. He certainly had stretches where he looked Chandler-like while defending the rim, but his game wasn’t consistent. One night he’d look like a bona fide starter, and the next he’d be fumbling easy passes out of bounds.
Then there’s Brandan Wright, who somehow placed 13th in the NBA in John Hollinger’s PER stat. And just like Dalembert, he’d have nights where he’d look great. But he’s also listed at 210 pounds, and that holds him back.
And the last part of the big man rotation outside of Dirk is DeJuan Blair. He’s a great monkey wrench for Carlisle to throw at an opposing defense, but his listed height of 6’7” limits his ability to stay on the court for long stretches.
Each has proven valuable in different ways, but unfortunately each one has also shown glaring deficiencies as well. Hence the relatively equal split at playing time amongst them.
If only the Mavs could bring Tyson Chandler back.
Well, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Mavericks seems to be very interested in bringing the 31-year-old back to Big D.
This could only happen as part of a trade, and at this point Chandler’s return is just rumored, nothing more.
But man is it fun to think about.
He would do wonders to shore up the center spot, and Chandler would provide the defensive presence next to Dirk that the Mavs really need.
Even if it isn’t Chandler, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where the big man rotation remains the same. There were things to like about the versatility of the group, but starting Samuel Dalembert again doesn’t sound too appealing.
Starting Tyson Chandler has a much better ring to it.