By Bryan Murphy
It was a long, eventful and just plain strange offseason for the Dallas Mavericks. It was one that saw the Mavs land and then quickly lose Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan after Jordan backed out of his verbal agreement with Dallas. After also losing high-scoring Monta Ellis to the Indiana Pacers and Tyson Chandler, again, but this time to the Phoenix Suns, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson were left with barely any options to choose from in free agency to fill out the roster.
Amid the failures that surrounded the Mavericks in the offseason, there were still some bright spots. One of those bright spots was the out-of-nowhere acquisition of DFW native Deron Williams from the Brooklyn Nets. Williams, who played his high school ball at The Colony, is no longer the premiere point guard in the league that once brought the debate of who was better between him and Chris Paul.
The 31-year-old Williams will be starting the season coming off of a strained calf and almost no preseason action. On the bright side, D-Will is a guy who can still shoot between 36-40 percent from deep and be an effective passer to the offensive weapons on this team. Not to mention, Williams statistically plays his best basketball in the confines of the American Airlines Center.
Other bright spots have been the signings of the veteran big man Zaza Pachulia, the high-flying former slam dunk champion Jeremy Evans, who has been getting the unrealistic comparisons to former Maverick Brandan Wright, the Shaqtin’ a Fool star JaVale McGee, John Jenkins, who was very impressive in the preseason, the first round draft pick Justin Anderson and the main bright spot being the snagging of shooting guard Wesley Matthews.
Matthews, who is coming off of a major Achilles injury, has grown into an established role player in the NBA and an all-around great guy to have in the locker room. Last season before the injury, Matthews was top five in the NBA in three point shooting percentage and an excellent perimeter defender. That’s a major upgrade from Monta Ellis in those areas. Matthews has been putting in the work this offseason to be able to be ready for the season opener in Phoenix and after playing 16 minutes in the preseason finale, it appears Matthews may be ready to go.
One player who won’t be ready for the season opener is Chandler Parsons who underwent knee surgery over the summer. This leaves the mystery of when he will come back and what in the world the starting lineup will look for the Mavs on opening night and until Parsons returns.
Another question that remains is how this team will even gel together once everyone is completely healthy. In the wild, wild Western Conference, Dallas won’t have much time to figure that out. Not having everyone at 100 percent until December or January can have this team barely fighting for even just the eighth seed.
Dirk Nowitzki will need more help this season than ever before. Nowitzki, who is 37, no longer has the capability to put his team on his back night in and night out. But, Dirk is still Dirk and he will most likely average between 16-18 PPG this season while dazzling us with his patented fade away. With some offensive fire power coming off of the bench with Devin Harris, J.J. Barea and Charlie Villanueva, it will be no surprise that the Mavs will be able to put up plenty of points this season.
What should be concerning is the amount of points that will be given up on the defensive end. Nowitzki and Pachulia could very well also be the worst defensive big men tandem in the league this season. Without Tyson Chandler to bail Dirk out defensively in the paint, expect the Mavs to have a tough time against teams like the Clippers and division rivals Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio and Houston.
A realistic prediction for Dallas is somewhere between 40-44 wins and finishing just outside of the playoff picture. Matthews struggles out of the gate and doesn’t hit full stride until mid-season with the same thing happening to Parsons. The ceiling of this squad really could all come down to how well Deron Williams pans out with his hometown team, though. Playing pick-and-roll basketball with Dirk could be dangerous at times but I don’t see that duo at ages 31 and 37, make this team a playoff team, much less a contender.
The Mavs finish in fifth place in the toughest division in the NBA in the Southwest. Mark Cuban and his Mavs find themselves in a shark tank this season and barely get edged out for the last playoff spot by a Phoenix or Sacramento.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
10/28 @Suns 9:00 pm
10/29 @Clippers 9:30 pm
11/1 @Lakers 8:30 pm