The Dallas Mavericks of NBA's Western Conference Southwest Division have one of the most talented group of veterans in the league. They're also one of the older and most experienced teams.
Not long ago, I had said these guys didn't have any upside. It was just an attempt to make a case for some talented young guys.
But every one of these players has the ability and more important, a reason to improve. They're shooting for the stars this year. They can see they are close to their goal and they're going to work to get there.
"For that for the sake of which a thing is, is its principle, and the becoming is for the sake of the end; and the actuality is the end, and it is for the sake of this that the potentiality is acquired. For animals do not see in order that they may have sight, but they have sight that they may see." Aristotle, Metaphysics IX 1050a 5–10
I'll start on the players with Jason Kidd because he is the one that would appear to have the least upside of the bunch.
Kidd has always been one of the most competitive players in all of sports. Never the best athlete on the court, he has still found a way to get the job done.
This is a guy with a heart the size of Texas and an undisputed will to win.
Often labeled as the ultimate team player, he has always been unselfish and made his teammates better. He is a five-time All-NBA First Teamer and 10-time NBA All-Star, as recently as 2010. So there is no denying his past accomplishments.
But many feel the 37-year-old point guard doesn't have much left to offer. I disagree.
Here is a guy that has defied the odds and even recently has found a way to improve his game.
Since joining the Mavs at the trade deadline of the 2007-08 season as a career .334 3-point shooter, Kidd has shot .421 from the arc. Last year, he hit a career-high .425 from the three point line. And Kidd still comes up with timely steals and hustle plays at critical times in the game.
Jason's newfound ability alone is enough to make a case that the entire team has room to improve. But I won't stop there.
While there's no denying Jason Kidd has lost a step, this recent new ability will enable him to evolve into a shooting guard this year and next. This is where he still has the size and speed to be productive.
And as a shooting guard is where he will show his untapped potential. The upside to Kidd as a shooting guard goes beyond his ability as a player.
This is where he will be able to act as a coach on the floor for youngster Rodrigue Beaubois in his transition to become the lead point guard.
Jason Terry is also a player who many feel is on the downside of his career. But his regular season numbers do not necessarily reflect this.
And it wasn't that long ago that Terry was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year in the 2008-09 season.
But he'll be 33 years old when the season starts and Jason will probably lose his sixth man status on the roster.
The team is committed to developing Rodrigue Beaubois, who will likey get minutes at both guards spots. And rookie guard Dominique Jones is also determined to steal minutes from JET.
So where's the upside in that?
Every team in the league is looking for what Jason Terry can become. It's true that Terry has lost some explosiveness over the years, but he still shot .365 from the arc last year.
With practice, he could improve that to over .400 as in years past. And as a situational three point specialist is where JET has the potential to be a big contributor on the Mavericks, maybe for years to come.
Shawn Marion is the 32 year old small forward for the Mavericks. Nicknamed "The Matrix" because of his unusual athleticism in his younger days.
Many think it would be hard for the former All-Star to improve upon his performance from last year.
He was a lock down defender on the best small forwards in the NBA. And he pulled down 6.4 boards and 12 points on over 50 percent shooting in his limited offensive role. Not spectacular numbers, but solid.
But I believe that Marion can improve this year. He played all last season with a strained right calf. And with time to heal over the summer, he could recover some of his former explosiveness.
Another way the Matrix could improve the team is by helping the younger players with their integration into the line up.
Look for Shawn to be his reliable self again, with maybe a few more highlights this year.
In his nine-year NBA career, Brendan Haywood has been a solid contributor at center.
He's a solid rebounder and defender of the paint, and a capable scorer when left open in the low post.
In 2009-10, he had his best season to date. He averaged 9.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game.
I believe the 30 year old pivot still has some room to improve his game.
But the knock on Haywood hasn't been his numbers. Instead, it has been his attitude and effort, often having conflicts with coaches.
He appears to be trying to put that in his past.
With the Mavericks, Brendan has a chance to be a part of something bigger than his 7' 263 lb self.
It's by embracing the team concept that Brendan Haywood has the potential to be the best that he can be. And his great hands and defensive presence won't hurt either.
Tyson Chandler is the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks. The 7'1" 235 lb center's career peaked in the 2007-08 season when he averaged 11.8 rebounds and 11.8 points while shooting .623 from the floor.
But the 27-year-old athletic front man has been injured for the better part of the past two years. And that's why he's been included with these older guys.
Now he's playing with Team USA and appears to be completely healthy.
Expect for Chandler to bounce back and have a big year splitting minutes with Haywood.
Caron Butler is a 30 year old, 6'7" wing, who was an NBA All-Star in 2007 and 2008.
Butler came to the Mavericks in a mid-season trade along with Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. He's a natural small forward that was asked to accept a role as the starting shooting guard, a role that he did not always embrace.
But Caron did an admirable job there. He showed to be capable of playing solid defense against the best shooting guards in the league. And although playing a new position, he was still able to put up good numbers.
This year he will probably be asked to start at shooting guard and back up Marion at small forward. This is due to the overabundance of talent at the guard positions.
Caron Butler has more upside than any of the Mavs veterans. It has been reported that he has been getting in better shape over the summer.
With a big season, Butler has the very real potential to regain his All-Star status. As well as help carry the Mavs deep in the playoffs, which I'm sure is his goal.
Nine time All-Star and former MVP Dirk Nowitzki plays power forward for the Mavs.
The seven-footer had a career year in the 2009-10 season, averaging 25 points and 7.7 rebounds. But that's nothing new. Every year is a career year for a superstar like Dirk.
He's a solid but underrated defender. And he handles the ball and shoots like a guard.
So you say where's the upside? How can this guy improve?
Nowitzki is on a mission. He knows he has the best pieces in place around him that he's ever had.
Nobody in the world wants to win worse than Dirk. And not just in the regular season. This guy will not quit 'til he gets a ring.
Expect Dirk Nowitzki to come into this season with a renewed intensity on offense and defense.
On a team of veteran stars and aspiring talent, Coach Rick Carlisle is the X-factor.
In the past, Carlisle has overachieved in taking some teams deep in the playoffs. But that is not what we saw this past year, it was quite the opposite.
It has been a regular occurrence for him to have difficulties handling the different personalities on his teams. We did see that last year.
So it comes as no surprise that Carlisle has had his share of knocks against him. I have probably been as guilty as anyone of seeing only the bad and not the good.
In my quest to point out his downside, maybe I have overlooked his upside and potential for growth as a teacher and a leader.
That potential for growth as a teacher and a leader has already begun to take shape. Carlisle has spent countless hours this summer working with young guards Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones.
He has done this in an attempt to give them a chance at playing an actual role this season with the Mavericks
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with being a stern leader. But communication with players is the key..
From what I have seen, Rick is making a very real effort to change himself. This change will enable him to be a part of the team, rather than a dictator over it: to attain the synergy necessary to be a champion.
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." - Aristotle