The Mavs and Spurs have completely owned this division over the past decade, finishing 1st and 2nd in every year but one. This year provides no signs of a change in that phenomenon. Like the Spurs, the Mavs have aged but they have done solid job of infusing enough youth into the lineup to remain a contender. After finishing last season with the 2nd best record in the West, the Mavs once again improved their roster and should be the favorite to repeat as division champs.
Tyson Chandler – The Mavs successfully made use of Erik Dampier’s expiring contract after last season, parlaying it into a trade for Chandler and giving the team a major boost in athleticism in the post. Chandler, as evidenced in the FIBA World Championship and the pre-season, looks to be back in 2007 form when he was an unstoppable force running the pick and roll with Chris Paul in New Orleans. Paired with all-timer Jason Kidd this season, Chandler should make both an offensive and defensive impact for the Mavs this season.
Dominique Jones – The rookie 1st rounder out of South Florida will definitely be logging legitimate minutes on the wing for Dallas this season. After having a promising summer league in which he showcased the unstoppable driving ability that made him a college stud, Jones struggled in his first several preseason games. However, the rookie has averaged 16 points per in the last three preseason games and looks to be adapting to the NBA game. It’s doubtful that the Mavs call on him for more than 12-15 minutes a game this season at any point, but his aggressive offensive game could really help a team that, at times, seems content with nothing but 20 foot jump shots.
The Big, Young Frenchmen – Dallas was able to bolster its frontcourt depth in the off-season by acquiring 7-foot Frenchies Alexis Ajinca and 2005 1st-round pick Ian Mahinmi. Ajinca, 22, was included in the Chandler deal with Charlotte, and the Mavs signed the 23-year-old Mahinmi away from San Antonio. Given the presence of Chandler and Brenden Haywood, neither is likely to be counted on for major minutes, but the Mavs’ ability to platoon long and athletic defenders against teams like the Lakers could make a big difference when it matters down the road.
Losses from Last Season
Erik Dampier – While this is technically a loss, and in my opinion Dampier was consistently under-appreciated by most Dallas fans, letting go of Dampier is what allowed the Mavs to grab Chandler this off-season. And given the early returns, that will turn out being a major upgrade for the team on both sides of the ball.
It’s difficult to accurately project the starting lineup that the Mavs will go with most often because the last couple years under Rick Carlisle, Dallas has utilized a number of different looks and rotations based on their opponent and injuries. And they have a number of movable parts in Jason Kidd, JJ Barea, and Roddy Beaubois who can all run the point or play on the wing, Shawn Marion (SF/PF), and of course Dirk, who can shift to small forward when Carlisle wants a bigger lineup. I would expect some variation of the following 10-man rotation for the majority of the regular season:
- PG – Jason Kidd, JJ Barea
- SG – Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois, Dom Jones
- SF – Caron Butler, Shawn Mariion
- PF – Dirk
- C – Chandler, Haywood
Projected Record: 53-29
It’s hard to argue that the Mavericks did not get better from last season. The only player they lost was replaced by what looks to be a significant upgrade, and the team added young talented depth on the wing and down low. Last season Dallas won the Southwest division, and finished as runners-up in the Western Conference with a 55-27 record. They’ve won 50 games for an astounding 10 straight seasons. They may be getting closer to the end of that streak, but assuming they escape an injury to Dirk, they’ll continue the streak this season. The bigger question is whether they’ll be able to use their new additions and do what they’ve been unable to do since 2006 and represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. This team should be better than the 2009-2010 Dallas Mavericks, but the rival San Antonio Spurs, the young Oklahoma City Thunder, the revamped Utah Jazz, and of course the LA Lakers, will all be tough teams for the talented, but aging Mavs to overcome.
– Warzecha –