May 3, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka (9) guards Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during game three in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Center. The Thunder defeated the Mavericks 95-79. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
[Editor’s note: Much like the player previews, I will be previewing every Western Conference team in preparation of the NBA season. They, too, will be in randomized order. Today we tackle the Dallas Mavericks.]
Behind a middling offensive attack, which finished 22nd in offensive efficiency last season, and a stout defense, the Dallas Mavericks won 36 games, earning the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. The Mavericks were still respectable but they couldn’t quite replace J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler, both of whom were instrumental in the victory over the Miami Heat in the 2011 Finals.
Overview: While the Mavericks’ roster was built with a careful eye on the future — especially with the looming free agency of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Andrew Bynum — they still expected to contend in the Western Conference. They took a couple steps back. Dirk Nowitzki, in his 14th campaign, produced below his career averages in true shooting percentage and Player Efficiency Rating. Nowtzki dealt with a sore right knee for the beginning of the season and it wasn’t until February where he regained his stride. The extended lockout didn’t do him any favors either; it prevented him from receiving team medical care during the offseason and reduced his recovery time between games. Whether he starts well, as he may require surgery on the same knee as it hasn’t fully healed, will be of utmost importance.
Additions: Delving into the bargain bin, the Mavericks acquired Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones from the Indiana Pacers for the foul-prone Ian Mahinmi. Collison can play either guard position well so his addition compensates for the loss of Jason Kidd. O.J. Mayo and Delonte West will fortify the backcourt which goes about seven deep. Dallas also took advantage of the amnesty process, plucking Elton Brand for an abbreviated cost of $2.1 million. Brand is an effective defensive rebounder and, most importantly, defends the post at an elite rate.
Departures: The notable departure, aside from Kidd, was 13-year veteran Jason Terry. The loss of the combo guard will likely hurt the team but their current backcourt doesn’t necessarily need or have available minutes for Terry. Brendan Haywood, who logged 54 starts last season, was waived via amnesty, eliminating three-years and $27 million from the salary ledger.
Outlook: The Mavericks should not be mistaken for a championship contender but they can slide into the 4-8 seeds with a bit of luck. Missing the playoffs is also a possibility but the combination of Nowitzki and a deep backcourt gives them an edge over other fringe teams.