The Dallas Mavericks surprised everybody during the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs last year. Many predicted for the Mavericks to be swept out the playoffs but instead they gave the Spurs their toughest series they’d encounter on the way to winning their 5th championship title.
Coming off such an impressive playoff performance the Mavs were determined to make drastic improvement to their roster in the offseason.
They traded for center Tyson Chandler, who was part of the 2011 championship team, to be the big man presence they sorely lacked last couple seasons. They added a young potential All-Star in Chandler Parsons they hope takes his game to new heights. Former All-Star and NBA Finals participant Jameer Nelson replaces fan favorite Jose Calderon who was traded away in the Tyson Chandler move.
Young pieces such as Al-Farouq Aminu and Greg Smith were brought in to not only add depth but youth and athleticism to a team that was one of the oldest teams in the league last season. Veteran players like Richard Jefferson and Raymond Felton were signed to replace some of the veteran leadership lost from the departures of Vince Carter and Shawn Marion off the bench. And while it’s no guarantee, Charlie Villanueva has impressed the Mavericks during preseason so much that he may very well be given a roster spot to provide a legitimate stretch 4 behind Dirk Nowitzki.
All in all the Mavs had one of the most successful off-seasons of any team in the NBA. They added toughness, leadership, youth and athleticism all at the same time. They will be one of the deepest teams in the league and that may be where the strength of this team lies.
The Mavericks were one of the best offensive teams in the league last season and there’s little to believe that trend won’t continue. The key for this Mavs team to make a long run in the playoffs will be on the defensive end and in the health department.
Here on the top 5 keys to the Mavericks success this season:
1) Tyson Chandler will hold the key to how far this Mavs team goes. During the 2010-2011 season with the Mavs he was the missing piece that put the Mavs over the top, he brought a toughness and physical presence that year and he’ll have to do the same this upcoming season.
There’s question Chandler can be that same difference maker when healthy, and that’s the key, health. Tyson’s healthiest season was with the Mavs in 2010-2011 and if he can replicate that this Mavs team will be a title contender and finish in the top 4 in the Western Conference standings.
2) This Mavs team has a number of scoring options and will not have to rely on Dirk Nowitzki to score 20 or more points a game. The most important thing concerning Nowitzki is keeping his legs fresh enough for the playoffs. Nowitzki admitted during last year’s playoff runs that he was struggling a little bit with the added minutes he was asked to play against the Spurs and that may have taken a toll on his production. Nowitzki averaged 19.3 points a game and 8.0 rebounds during that playoff series in 37 minutes of action.
Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points in just under 33 minutes a game during the regular season, clear indication that his efficiency level dropped in the playoffs. If Nowitzki is leading this team in scoring again during the regular season there may be cause for concern. Second or third option is ideal for Nowitzki which will allow him to be vintage Dirk in the playoffs.
3) The Mavs ‘overpaid’ for Chandler Parsons in the offseason but for good reason. Parsons hasn’t even entered the prime of his career and has already shown a high ceiling in production he is capable of reaching. Also when your franchise player takes a pay-cut of less than his market value you can afford to ‘overpay’ for a potential All-Star in the making. Parson will not only be asked to should more of the scoring load but the defensive load as well.
With Shawn Marion no longer providing his defensive tenacity Parsons will be asked to guard the opponent’s best wing player on multiple occasions. Parsons has the length and athletic ability to be a premier defensive player but only time will tell.
4) Defense, defense, defense and more defense. The departure of Shawn Marion can’t be expressed enough for this team as Marion was one of the most versatile defenders in the league at guarding multiple position. Marion would be asked to guard every position from point guard all the way to power forward night in and night out.
Will Chandler Parsons be that guy or will someone like new comer Al-Farouq Aminu be the defensive stopper the Mavs desperately need. Jae Crowder is another player who has taken strides defensively over the years and may continue to improve this season. It may be a committee of players to stop players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant but someone will need to stand out when it comes to crunch time at the end of games.
5) Bench production may be the biggest advantage the Mavericks have over many of their opponents this year but replacing a sixth man of Vince Carter’s caliber is no small task. Who will lead the Mavericks scoring attack off the bench is still a bit of a mystery that will unravel over the course of the season. Two early candidates are point guard Devin Harris and wingman Richard Jefferson.
Both players have proven to be quality starters in their career and will now be asked to lead a perennial scoring attack with the second unit. Jefferson brings the leadership and shot making ability of a Vince Carter while Harris brings a quickness and improved jump shot that’ll make it difficult to guard. Best thing about this Mavs second unit is that it has a number of options and any given player can step up on any given night.
Now injuries are something that can plague any team and the Mavericks are no exception. However, it can be argued that this team is more than capable of sustaining an injury or two as the season goes on and still compete at a high level. What’s most important is that if this Mavs team is healthy going into the playoffs then they’ll have a good of shot as anyone to compete for a championship title.
Prediction for this Mavs team is to finish 56-26 at the end of the regular season and finish as the number 4 seed. This Mavs team has the veteran leadership mixed in with a good batch of young athletic players that’ll give them the potential to be a sleeper team this upcoming season out in the Western Conference.