Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Dallas Mavericks Newcomer This Season
Now that the dust has settled somewhat, the Dallas Mavericks can take a step back and evaluate what they have. After a whirlwind of an offseason, the roster looks quite different than it did in June.
There are lots of new faces and some familiar ones. Between trades and free agency, the Mavs have somehow reinvented their roster yet kept the old guard at the same time.
One thing that can surely be agreed on, though, is that the roster is improved.
Two key positions were upgraded: Dallas got their first big free agent in swingman Chandler Parsons and traded for top-of-the-line big man Tyson Chandler. And despite all the turnover, the bench is still deep.
But of course, with a changing roster things won't be the same for the newcomers. They will have to adapt to the way the Mavs play, and because of that their styles will change.
It might be small changes for some and bigger changes for others. It all depends on what the team needs.
Using Dallas' official roster, we'll go through each new player and get into what to expect from them in the upcoming season. And considering that could be half the team, there's quite a lot to cover.
Greg Smith/Eric Griffin
From the additions of Greg Smith and Eric Griffin, it's obvious Dallas wants to get a bit younger and a lot more athletic.
Griffin put on a show in the summer league. He was extremely active, blocked shots, cut to the basket, had quick hands on defense and dunked his way onto the roster. He used his athleticism well, which translated onto the court.
The issue with Griffin is that he isn't much of a shooter and is definitely a tweener. Griffin's counting stats were great in summer league, but he shot 23 percent from three and 59 percent from the line. Given Dallas' emphasis on shooting, that's a tough issue to overcome. And at 6'8" with a wing's build, he can't hide his shooting by being a post guy.
But his energy and athleticism are two things this Mavericks team sorely lacked last season. So for a minimum deal and spot minutes throughout the season, he should be effective if that motor keeps up.
Greg Smith, on the other hand, is definitely a big man. At 6'10" and 250 pounds, he's got a great frame for working down low. And he's shown flashes of a nice post game, a rare skill in today's league.
Unfortunately, last season was basically a lost year for him, as he only played in 11 games thanks to a knee injury. But that issue should be resolved coming into this year, and Smith will be able to get back to his old ways.
Like Griffin, Smith is active and athletic. He finishes well around the rim, and for his career he averages 13.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. He'll be much more than just a bench energy guy, though he probably won't get too many minutes unless there's an injury in front of him.
Both Griffin and Smith will be 24 during next season, so between the two the Mavs did a nice job of getting younger and faster. Smith's game suits Dallas a bit more, as he's proven some of his skills at the NBA level before, but Griffin might just be the best athlete on the team.
It's likely that neither will play all that much at the start, but watch for their roles to increase as the year goes on.
If the Mavericks had picked up the Richard Jefferson of a year ago, his acquisition might not even be worthy of mention in this article.
But somehow, the 34-year-old and 13-year NBA veteran rejuvenated his career in Utah last season.
His minutes increased from 10 per game in Golden State to 27 in Utah, so that explains his seven-point scoring jump. But more importantly, he improved as a shooter. His field-goal percentage remained roughly the same, sitting at 45 percent, but his shooting from deep jumped nearly 10 points to almost 41 percent.
The Mavs love their veterans. They play smart basketball, share the ball and know what to do on a court. Jefferson can be one of those guys for Dallas. He's had a long, very effective career. And though he's no longer putting on dunking exhibitions in games, he's still got plenty to offer.
Though Vince Carter turned out to be much more than just a shooter, that's the role Jefferson and Peja Stojakovic before him played. Jefferson will be the savvy older wing who Carlisle knows won't be intimidated by anything on a basketball court.
And as long as that shooting percentage doesn't take a nosedive, Jefferson will be great.
He'll space the floor, hit his shoots and will take advantage of his size against smaller wings. And despite his advanced NBA age, he's still got some bounce in those legs.
His minutes will drop of from last year, but don't be surprised to see him play later in games. Carlisle will trust his older guys in those situations, and Jefferson is the kind of guy who will be just what the Mavs need in a bind.
Four years ago, Al-Farouq Aminu was a 19-year-old rookie out of Wake Forest with potential that had NBA personnel drooling. His athleticism, motor, intangibles, defense and rebounding were all major pluses, and at 6'9" with a 7'3" wingspan he could have been a great mismatch play at power forward.
In 2014, Aminu signed with the Mavericks for the minimum, so Dallas will be his third professional team.
A lot can change in four years, but almost all of the attributes Aminu had coming out of college are still there. His intangibles are still great, his athleticism hasn't been sapped by an injury, his motor is still revving and he rebounds like no other wing.
He just hasn't taken that leap people were hoping for when he was selected eighth overall.
What he is right now, though, is worth well above the minimum contract he signed. He's ferocious on the boards, and though he isn't much of a shooter he's a mismatch on bigger 4's thanks to his speed and quickness.
In his 20-rebound game against Dallas a year ago, he was simply relentless. Seven-footers like Chris Kaman and Dirk Nowitzki were flying off him when Aminu went in for rebounds, and he was quick to take advantage of fast-break and secondary break opportunities.
As with Greg Smith and Eric Griffin, Aminu is another addition who upgrades the Mavs in terms of youth and energy. Aminu gives Carlisle another set of skills to experiment with and a player who can create mismatches almost anywhere.
In all likelihood, Aminu's playing time will vary with the opponent. Against some teams he might not be as effective, and against others he might be Dirk's primary backup. So his minutes will probably be erratic.
But given his youth at only 23 years old and his 6.2 rebounds per game, there's a chance he becomes a mainstay in the rotation.
He'll be a very interesting Maverick to watch as the season goes on and could be a huge contributor once he gets comfortable with the team and the system.
There's a lot of things to like about what Jameer Nelson brings to the table.
He can score in a variety of ways, hitting from mid-range and attacking the basket, and he's got a great stroke from three. Nelson passes the ball very well and has a vet's grasp of the game, and though he's undersized he's a decent defender.
The issue with Nelson is that his skills have declined of late.
That multifaceted scoring ability took a hit the past two years as his scoring average dropped off and he shot less than 40 percent from the field for two straight seasons. He's 32, so that quickness that made him so deadly on offense has slipped a bit. And since his physical traits are in decline, his defense has suffered as well.
The good news for the Mavs is that the things he's still doing well are the things they will rely on.
Shooting? Still there, as he shot 35 percent from deep last season and over 85 percent from the line. Passing? Definitely still a skill: He averaged nearly eight assists per 36 minutes last year. Basketball IQ? Nelson is known as being a leader and a floor general, so yes he still has his smarts in spades.
And those are the things Dallas will want from him. His shooting will probably improve given how many tough shots he was forced to take with Orlando last season. Nelson's effective field-goal percentage on catch-and-shoot threes was 50 percent, and he'll be getting many more of those. Look for his shooting to look more like the old Jameer Nelson.
He won't be blowing anybody out of the water, but he'll look better as a Mav than he did as a member of the Magic.
Between him and Raymond Felton, Dallas essentially has two starting point guards. Neither will end up playing starters' minutes, but that might help Nelson stay fresh over the long run.
A year ago, Raymond Felton was a serious player.
He got in the lane easily and used his size to just bowl through smaller guards. He hit 36 percent from three, averaged 5.5 assists and was a complete offensive point guard.
Now Felton's something of a punch line.
It looked like he put on some weight, to say it nicely, and his play deteriorated. His scoring dropped by four points, his field-goal shooting took a dive and even his free-throw shooting took a hit. The guy couldn't do anything right.
Dallas loves their "fallen angels," and Raymond Felton certainly fits the bill. The 2012-2013 version of Felton was dynamic. The version of Felton that played last season was on his way out of the league.
If the Mavericks can work their magic, Felton will be a great starting point guard. He ran a deadly pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler in New York, so running the same action with Dirk will only make it even more dangerous. And in playing with Carmelo, he's shown an ability to take a back seat, which he'll have to do with Monta Ellis and Dirk running the show.
And unlike Jose Calderon, Felton can finish at the rim. Calderon would rarely take it in among the trees, whereas Felton's got some floaters and hard-driving layups that will come in handy when he gets a lane to the bucket.
If Felton is his old self, he'll be the clear starter. If he's whatever we saw last year, he might not even be in the rotation. He has the biggest range of possibly outcomes on this team, so it'll be a waiting game until we see if Dallas can turn around yet another player in decline.
Well, Tyson Chandler is finally back in Dallas. Now which version of him will the Mavericks get?
Will it be the one who from 2010-13 was one of the best defensive centers in the league? The guy who was the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13?
Or will it be the injury-plagued 7-footer who played a total of 96 out of 164 games from 2008-2010 and then only played 55 games last year?
Just like with Raymond Felton, the Mavs are hoping they can coax out the good version of Chandler.
Chandler's last season with the Knicks was a mess. His injuries slowed him down, but he also just didn't look himself. He didn't play with the same fire, and the back-line commander of the New York defense just wasn't the same.
Maybe that Knicks situation was more messed up than we know, and maybe simply playing in Dallas will greatly help both Felton and Chandler. Tyson has had success in Dallas before, and the fans will welcome him with open arms. He'll be adored from day one, and that kind of support can do a lot for a player's psyche.
But then again, no amount of support can prevent him from getting injured.
Dallas needs Chandler to be their rock in the middle, the big center who makes up for the defensive deficiencies of the rest of the team. If they have that, Chandler might be the second most important Maverick on the roster.
And if he's that defensive stalwart again, the Mavericks will be finishing much better than the eighth seed this year.
As a $46 million man, Chandler Parsons will be asked to do more than he ever has. In Houston he was the clear third option, and on some nights he wasn't even that. He was a key starter but sometimes was relegated to glorified role player.
In Dallas, he will be a primary offensive cog.
The Mavs will want him to do a lot of things. He'll be asked to create for others as well as himself. In other words, he will be one of the first options, something that didn't happen consistently in Houston.
In addition to his increased offensive responsibilities, Parsons will have to be Dallas' primary wing defender. Though this isn't his strong suit, he has the physical characteristics to do well with the task. And he's really Dallas' only option there too, as there isn't much of a backup plan.
What this all boils down to is that Parsons is taking a step up the NBA food chain. No longer will he be a supporting cast member. Now he's part of the main act.
And he has the skills to do very well there. His shooting-percentage line of 47/37/74 is good, he averaged nearly four assists per game and he's young enough at 25 that he can still take the next step. As an athletic 6'9" wing with only three years of NBA experience, he's still clearly making strides in the NBA.
And with Dirk on the decline, Parsons is coming in at the right time. He'll need to pick up any slack that Dirk's age and decreased minutes create.
All signs point towards Parsons being ready to take another step in his NBA career, and this Mavericks team is counting on that improvement.