Mavericks face a daunting task to return to the postseason next season

It’s been a rough off-season for the Dallas Mavericks starting with the whole DeAndre Jordan saga and having to scramble to fill out the roster. To make it worse other teams out West have become increasingly better than a year ago.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns have all made key acquisitions this summer to better their respective teams through free-agency. That’s not to mention Oklahoma City who becomes exponentially better with a healthy Kevin Durant returning and a New Orleans Pelicans team that’ll continue to get better as Anthony Davis develops. And of course there’s the Golden State Warriors who didn’t make any big moves but nonetheless they’re the defending champs and unquestionably one of the favorites again this year.

You also have the Utah Jazz who were one of the better teams the second half of last season and a force defensively that gave multiple teams problems down the stretch. They have one of the best young cores in the league and you can bet they’ll improve from a year ago. The Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers will also both be better next season, while they may not be playoff teams they won’t be pushovers much like they were last year.

Where the Mavericks got significantly worse is at the center position and as a result in rebounding and ability to defend the paint. Tyson Chandler was FIFTH in the league in rebounding as he averaged 11.5 rebounds per game and while he had some injury issues later in the year he was still one of the better defenders.

Tyson Chandler was the Mavericks primary plan B but he bolted for Phoenix and who can blame him with the Mavericks going all in for DeAndre. In the end the Mavericks wound up with Zaza Pachulia as their lone center on the roster and seemingly the starter for game 1 of the regular season. Pachulia is a nice player who can be somewhat of an enforcer but he is not Tyson Chandler as he doesn’t pose the same athletic ability, and that matters defensively against quick driving point guards. The Mavericks were ranked 23rd as far as team rebounding last season and that number will only get worse unless the Mavericks can somehow build some kind of depth at center.

Now that being said the Mavericks did so some nice things in free-agency, particularly in the back court. Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams are an upgrade at point guard and shooting guard because they fit better with one another than Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis did last season. Matthews is a very good defender and three-point shooter who has some nice post-up moves down low. Williams is a very good all-around point guard when motivated and healthy, health being the key for both players.

Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell will be good role players off the bench and bring a fresh air of youth and athleticism into this Dallas team much like Al-Farouq Aminu did last season. Chandler Parsons will have a bigger role and it could all be for the better as he is very versatile offensively and will be able to create along with D-Will.

Dirk Nowitzki is past his prime but he is still efficient offensively and can still light up from time to time.

The problem with this Mavericks team is that there will be so many question marks and uncertainty with this team heading into the regular season. Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons are both recovering from surgeries and even though the Mavericks have a great medical and training staff there’s no guarantee when both will be back to 100%. The same could be said of Deron Williams who has battled ankle injuries over the last few years. Dirk is a year older and can’t/shouldn’t be asked to carry a heavy load offensively as he tries to manage his minutes throughout the year. Justin Anderson will have to be ready to play 20 or minutes right away if Matthews isn’t ready by the season opener.

The biggest question of them all may be who’s going to rebound for this team? Everyone saw how badly the Mavs struggled with Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki in the front court and no depth at center. Now it’s Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki in the front court and no depth at center, oof.

Dallas really needs to find a solution at center and add some much-needed depth but the options out there are scarce right now and the Mavs don’t have many assets to trade to go out and acquire one via trade.

The Mavs need Zaza Pachulia to revert back to the 2005-2006 version of himself where he averaged 31 minutes per game, 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds, his best year of his career. That would be ideal but that season seems so long ago as the Mavericks made their first NBA Finals appearance about a decade ago so it’s been awhile since Pachulia has had that type of season. What Mavs fans may not really is while Pachulia may be able to bang bodies down low with other centers he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to contend against athletic driving guards such as Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Mike Conley.

I hope the Dallas Mavericks can find a solution at center because it’ll be tough going up against Tim Duncan, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, Rudy Gobert, DeMarcus Cousins and even Oklahoma City’s big men.

This Mavericks team will have to look a lot like Don Nelson’s old Mavs teams, a highly efficient offense with little defense and rebounding in the paint. Small ball will be a lot of what we see on a nightly basis and have to cross our fingers that health is not a major issue throughout the regular season.

In order to make the playoffs Dallas needs to win at least 45 games as no team since 2005-2006 has made the playoffs in the Western Conference with any less wins than 45. The lone exception to that was the lockout shortened season of 2011-2012.

Barring injury the top 7 teams in the West will more than likely be the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans, not neccessarily in that order. The Mavericks will most likely be battling it out for the eighth seed with the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and possibly even the Sacramento Kings, although the Kings look more like a bad soap opera.

Injuries can certainly change the fortunes of any team and the Mavericks are no exception, head trainer Casey Smith will be a VERY busy man this year, more so than others. Rick Carlisle is going to have to be on his toes every single game and may be the most important man in the organization as he tries to overcome the Mavs rebounding woes and health issues.

I’ll be at almost every home game cheering on our beloved Dallas Mavericks and Dirk as he continues to climb up the all-time scoring list, currently sits at 7. This team will still be fun to watch offensively as they’ll have Deron Williams leading the attack which I’m very excited to watch. But I’ll wince whenever a shot goes off the rim and it’s up in the air for grabs.

If the Mavericks are to make a playoff run next season they’ll have to do it with high efficient scoring led by Chandler Parsons who they need to take the next step. Parsons will be asked to be the number 1 option on a regular basis and he’ll need to raise his game to an All-Star level.

Wesley Matthews will have to make a speedy recovery and return to the same player he was prior to the Achilles injury. Deron Williams will have to remain healthy and revert back to the old D-Will. If that happens the Mavericks have a pretty good backcourt that’ll be tough for any opposing team to handle.

Dirk Nowitzki will be what he was last year and that is a borderline All-Star forward who opposing teams still have to gameplan for and that’s all the Mavericks can ask out of their future hall of famer.

As mentioned earlier Zaza Pachulia will have to perform above expectations and the Mavericks need to add one or two big men.

If that all happens the Mavericks will have a good shot at being a playoff team but if not it’ll be a long season after an offseason to forget.