Over the past two off-seasons the Dallas Mavericks went all in trying to find a superstar to bring onto the roster to go along with Dirk Nowitzki, specifically Dwight Howard. After losing out in the sweepstakes through trade with Howard going to the Lakers, they tried to clear as much cap space as possible for this off-season in order to lure him and possibly another star caliber player like Chris Paul or Josh Smith through free agency, but they all wound up finding another place to play. With their top priorities choosing other cities, Dallas had to fill out their depth chart and they went heavy on the perimeter. Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and Ricky Ledo were brought in either through free agency or the draft to go along with DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert as the only post players signed. The perimeter options owner Mark Cuban and the rest of the front office found will help carry the scoring load, but without a complement in the post next to an aging Nowitzki, there could be trouble going forward. If the organization hopes to keep the best player in their history when he becomes a free agent this coming summer, they better hope that these moves work and help them return to the playoffs.
Monta Ellis was the biggest addition to the Mavs’ team during the off-season. He is a very good scoring guard and can get points in a variety of ways. Off the dribble he can be explosive getting to the rim for dunks and layups. He is a not a very good three point shooter, shooting just 27.8% last season and 31% for his career. Even with those bad percentages, he insists on taking a high volume of threes, something that needs to be cut down. Ellis is a better shooter from the field mostly due to his finishing ability. If he is going to be a reliable and efficient second scoring option behind Nowitzki, he has to focus on getting into the paint and finishing or dumping the ball off to the open man, an aspect of the game he has improved upon over his career but could definitely do more of. Though he has become a better distributor, he is still turnover prone averaging 3 per game. It is not in the best interest of the team for Ellis to be the lead guard this season, which leads to why Jose Calderon was brought in. Averaging 7.2 assists per game over his career and just 1.7 turnovers, Calderon is the option for the Mavericks at the point and an upgrade over Darren Collison, the main point guard in Dallas last year. He is not going to score a ton, at just over 10 points per game for his career, but he is a very good overall shooter at 48% from the field, 40% from three, and 87% from the free throw line. These numbers show that he can be relied upon to bail the top options out when they get stuck. Harris is lightning quick with the ball in his hands, but his turnover problems at just over 2 per game make him a better option off the bench than as a starter. He has had good stretches as a scorer during his NBA career but he is not a player that will come in and lead a team in scoring. Wayne Ellington is another decent shooter and scorer off the bench. With the departure of OJ Mayo, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, and Darren Collison the Mavericks will need to replace their point production and the combination of the aforementioned players could help do that. Larkin and Ledo are two rookies that will most likely not see much time this season due to the log jam in the back-court and Larkin’s ankle injury.
In the front-court, the additions of Blair and Dalembert do not address the hole in the paint the Mavs have when it comes to scoring. Besides Nowitzki, there is not a proven post scorer, and even he is not primarily a post option, as he likes to play on the perimeter as well. Blair is a very good rebounder and effort player, but is undersized for his position. His offensive game is limited right now to put-backs and a few jumpers here and there; he is not a player that guards can throw the ball to on the block and have him go to work. Dalembert is another primarily defensive player, as a shot blocker and rebounder. Although bigger than Blair, he also will not be an option on the block. The pivot position in Dallas is essentially non-existent when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.
The perimeter heavy offense in Dallas leaves a big hole when it comes to the offensive side of the game. Without a counter to the guards either shooting jumpers or getting into the paint, they will have a tough time getting the shot they want. Dirk Nowitzki may be the best Maverick ever, but even he cannot carry this team by himself when it comes to post scoring. They could be an improved defensive team with Blair and Dalembert coming into the mix, and if players like Shawn Marion, Jae Crowder, and Vince Carter pick up their game they have a chance to be much better than the 27th ranked team in point per game allowed. Overall, going heavy on one or two positions like they did this off-season neglects a need the Mavericks had and is something that will hinder their potential when it comes to getting into the playoffs or even out of the lottery.
This team looks to be among the bottom in the Western Conference this season. Nowitzki, Carter, and Marion are all aging and on the downside of their careers. Monta Ellis is a player that likes to control the ball too much given the high amount of turnovers, and there is not a true post option to speak of. If Rick Carlisle is able to get 35 wins out of this group it will be a surprise. Going all in on the potential of getting a big name free agent appears to have hurt this franchise and forced them into signing a name like Monta Ellis just to get some buzz for the fans. This was not the best move for the organization to make as they should have moved on from the Dwight Howard sweepstakes much earlier and found a more reliable, complete player to build around. It may sound harsh but this looks like a team that will be in the mix for a lottery pick, which is something that may not be a bad outcome given the potential strength of the 2014 draft class.