(Note: This article originally appeared on MavsFanatic.com)
Kick the tires and light the fire everybody, because the Dallas Mavericks 2015-16 Regular Season is finally here! With the commencement of the NBA season upon us tonight and the Mavs officially kicking things off tomorrow night in Phoenix against the Suns, here is everything you need to know to get ready for the upcoming season.
2014-15 Year in Review
Last season began with high hopes and promise after the Mavs shot out of the gate with the most potent offense in the NBA. Through the first quarter of the season, the Mavs offense led the NBA in scoring and were on pace to become one of the most efficient teams in league history. But, despite a successful campaign to start the season, the team had some glaring issues, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. After nearly getting run out of their own building in an early December against the eventual 2014-15 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, in a game that was supposed to prove the Mavs were amongst the NBA’s elite, Mark Cuban decided his team was good, but not good enough.
Despite the team’s 23-12 record, Cuban went swinging for the fences, sending starting point guard Jameer Nelson, reserves Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright and a pick to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Rajon Rondo and rookie Dwight Powell. Immediately following the trade, Sportsbook.com updated the Mavs championship odds, from 16-1 to 8-1. On paper, the Mavs looked like something built from a video game, logging one of the best starting lineups in the entire NBA. But man, were they wrong. Initially, Rondo struggled to fit into the Mavs offensive system and get things back on track. In fact, things became infinitely worse on the court and everything eventually spilled over into the bench and locker room. Head coach Rick Carlisle and Rondo butted heads and were never able to make their relationship work for the good of the team. The trade was officially a complete failure that later proved to be one of, if not the, worst decisions in the history of the Dallas Mavericks franchise.
(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)
While he barely ever showed up in the first place, Rondo eventually quit on his team, or as the Mavs called it “suffered a back injury,” in Game 2 of the NBA playoffs and lost out on his share of the playoff earnings. The Mavs would eventually go on to fall 4 games to 1 to the Houston Rockets, accentuated by a season-ending knee injury to Chandler Parsons that required offseason surgery
During the 2015 NBA Draft, the Mavs selected guard Justin Anderson out of the University of Virginia with the 21st overall pick, followed by center Satnam Singh, who became the first Indian-born player to ever be drafted into the NBA. Anderson didn’t take long to prove his worth with 17.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals during the NBA Summer League, showcasing an improved perimeter jumper on the offensive end and tenacity on the defensive end. Singh is seen as a projected center and expected to spend the season developing his game with the Texas Legends.
Key Offseason Additions: SG Wes Matthews, PG Deron Williams, C Zaza Pachulia, C JaVale McGee, SF Jeremy Evans
Key Offseason Losses: C DeAndre Jordan, C Tyson Chandler, SG Monta Ellis, PG Rajon Rondo, SF Al-Farouq Aminu, C/PF Greg Smith, C/PF Amar’e Stoudemire, C/PF Brandan Wright, SF Richard Jeffteron, C Bernard James
On July 1, free agency officially commenced and it was about all DeAndre Jordan. After an Entourage-style recruiting trip led by Chandler Parsons and Mark Cuban in Los Angeles led to a verbal agreement for Jordan to join the team, things suddenly backfired. Jordan eventually backed out, deciding he wanted to remain the third wheel in Los Angeles, rather than transitioning into a starting role with a young Mavericks team led by his good friend Chandler Parsons.
In the midst of that disaster, the Mavs were able to snag guard Wes Matthews (4-years, $70 million) although he came with a heavy question mark, coming off of a ruptured his left Achilles in March. This move, in theory, gave the Mavs a major upgrade over Monta Ellis after the “Have it All” Era came to an unceremonious end when the Mavs let the Indiana Pacers sign him away in free agency. Thinking Jordan was headed to Dallas, 2014-15 starting center Tyson Chandler was also allowed to walk away and sign with the Phoenix Suns, leaving the Mavs without their defensive anchor in the middle.
Despite the DeAndre Disaster, the Mavs were able to somewhat recover by trading for Zaza Pachulia without giving up any assets of value and bringing back fan favorite JJ Barea (4-years, $16 million). The Mavs 2015 Playoffs MVP Al Farouq-Aminu got (over) paid when he took a deal with the Portland Trailblazers for four years and $30 million. To replace Rondo, the Mavs added Dallas-area native Deron Williams to a two-year contract with a player after the remainder of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets was bought out.
When the Mavs decided to let Monta Ellis walk in free agency this offseason, their best player of the past two seasons went with him, leaving the long-toothed Dirk Nowitzki with an unstable supporting cast of players. With Parsons likely out to start the season, Dirk will once again be asked to shoulder the load. He’s still capable of putting up 18 points a night, but as the seasons goes on, that number will dwindle when the grind of a long season starts to take a toll on his aging 37-year-old body. At this point in his career, Dirk will probably see his points dip down below 16 per game, and he’ll be lucky to average in the neighborhood of 5 rebounds.
Chandler Parsons’ Team
It’s officially Chandler Parsons’ team. The transition has been made and the passing of the torch from Dirk has been finalized. Parsons is now the go-to guy in the Mavs offense. The unfortunate news is that CP is coming off a serious knee injury. It’s going to take him some time to get adjusted into his enhanced role in the offense, not to mention getting into basketball shape, as the Mavericks will struggle to stay afloat until they can get their complement of players back and healthy. Parsons will need to get healthy and playing well relatively quick if the Mavs want to have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs in a packed Western Conference.
Filling the Void of Tyson Chandler
The Mavs will attempt to roll a three-headed monster at center with Zaza Pachulia, Salah Merji (Sah-lah MEZ-re) and JaVale McGee in order to help replace the void of Tyson Chandler. The most consistent starter of the bunch is Pachulia. While his role is more suited as a reserve, he is capable of holding his own amongst the league’s most elite big men. At a stout 6-11, 275 pounds, Zaza started for the Milwaukee Bucks last season and tied for team’s best net rating on the court. He has the ability to post up and provide the Mavs with above average rebounding.
The 29 year-old Mejri, who played with Real Madrid of the Spanish League last season, has shown glimpses of promise during the preseason. Utilizing his superior length and athleticism, despite his wiry 7-2, 245-pound frame, Mejri could be an effective presence for the Mavs on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, he lacks any sense of a post-up game and his strength would be a major concern over a grueling 82-game season. However, he’s the type of above the rim big man that the Mavs sorely need, especially with JaVale McGee still rehabbing from a stress fracture that ended his 2014 campaign. Despite his mental aloofness, JaVale possesses the most upside of any of the Mavs available big men and appears on track to be back on the court in a couple of weeks, according to Rick Carlisle.
Who Will Step Up?
This year’s edition of the Mavs will have to be creative in order to find ways to score points to replace the departed Monta Ellis. One potential option is rookie guard Justin Anderson. After being projected as high as the early teens in the 2015 draft, Anderson fell to the Mavericks with 21st overall pick. After shooting just 29.8 percent from 3-point range during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Anderson improved mightily connecting on 45.2 percent of his 104 attempts as a junior, but struggled to find that same magic during the preseason shooting 34.8 percent from the floor including 16 percent from downtown after a strong Summer League. With Matthews and Parsons out, Anderson was expected to be able to immediately come in play major minutes; but as the preseason showed, it may be awhile before he’s ready to be trusted as a go-to player in the Mavs offense.
Another option could be third-year veteran shooting guard John Jenkins, who ended up being one of the biggest surprises during the preseason, leading the team in scoring with 19.7 points per contest on 48 percent shooting from the field. Jenkins, a former first-round pick, shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range last season with the Atlanta Hawks, seeing limited time on floor as a one-dimensional player. If he wants any chance at breaking into Carlisle’s rotation, he’ll have to show he can be just as effective on the defensive end of the floor as he is on the offensive end.
And don’t sleep on Charlie Villanueva this season, who came into the training camp looking like the ’08-09 Charlie that averaged a career-high 16.2 points for the Milwaukee Bucks. Last season, Villanueva played the role of Mr. Offense for the Mavs, seemingly making the most his opportunities as the spark plug off the bench and showed this preseason that he’s much more than just a three-point shooting big man. Going into his second season with the Mavs, look for Villanueva to have a more pivotal and defined role in the team’s offense. The Queens-native is one of the high character guys on this team that leads by example and that’s especially important for young team in the Mavs looking to build a bright future.
Lastly, we can’t forget the guy known as the “throw in” as part of the Rajon Rondo trade last season, Dwight Powell, turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in disguise, despite a disastrous end to the Rondo Era. Powell, a second year forward/center out of Stanford, garnered the heavy praises of head coach Rick Carlisle during Mavs training. He spent countless hours during the offseason working on every aspect of his game in hopes of becoming a pivotal part of the Mavs future and his hard work has certainly shown. After strong summer performance, Powell earned All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors after posting 18.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a game on 42.9 percent shooting from the field.
(Photo: USA Today Sports)
Truth be told, the Mavs added a ton of talent with potential this season; but the injury concerns are very real. Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews are coming off major injuries and the success of this team is directly correlated to how fast they can get healthy and playing well. JaVale McGee has the potential to provide the Mavs with the same type of output that the team saw in DeAndre Jordan; however it’s been a couplef years since he’s played anywhere close to that level. The Mavs new starting point guard Deron Williams has had a laundry list of injuries that ultimately led to his demise as a player in his stint with the Brooklyn Nets. Not to mention, a calf injury that kept him out of all but one game during preseason with the Mavs, proving his injury bug isn’t quite behind him. This team has a ton of potential if and when they can get healthy, but that’s a big if. Otherwise, the Mavs may be on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around.
The Mavs are battling to the 8th and final playoff spot. We all know the Western Conference was jam packed last season, and it’s not like any of them (aside from the Trailblazers) got any worse during the offseason. In the ultra-competitive West, this team will struggle to compete. It’s a quality team, but the competition out qualifies them. Realistically, the Mavericks best case scenario has them making the playoffs. After that, they are almost a surefire first round knockout.
Mavs 2015-16 Opening Night Roster
|8||Deron Williams||PG||31||6-1||200||Illinois||13.0 PPG/6.6 APG/3.5 REB|
|34||Devin Harris||PG||32||6-3||192||Wisconsin||8.8 PPG/3.1APG/1.8 REB|
|5||J.J. Barea||PG||31||6-0||185||Northeastern||7.5 PPG/3.4 APG/1.7 REB|
|2||Raymond Felton||PG||31||6-1||205||North Carolina||3.7 PPG/1.4 APG/0.9 REB|
|23||Wesley Matthews||SG||29||6-5||220||Marquette||15.9 PPG/2.3 APG/3.7 REB|
|12||John Jenkins||SG||24||6-4||215||Vanderbilt||5.6 PPG/0.5 APG/1.6 REB|
|1||Justin Anderson||SG||21||6-6||225||Virginia||12.2 ppg/1.7 APG/4.0 REB*|
|25||Chandler Parsons||SF||26||6-9||227||Florida||15.7 PPG/2.4 APG/4.9 REB|
|21||Jeremy Evans||SF||27||6-9||200||Western Kentucky||2.4 PPG/0.3 APG/1.9 REB|
|41||Dirk Nowitzki||PF||37||7-0||245||Germany||17.3 PPG/5.9 REB/0.4 BLKS|
|7||Dwight Powell||PF||24||6-11||240||Stanford||3.1 PPG/1.7 REB/0.2 BLKS|
|3||Charlie Villanueva||PF||31||6-11||232||Connecticut||6.3 PPG/2.3 REB/0.3 BLKS|
|50||Salah Merji||C||29||7-2||245||Tunasia||4.8 PPG/2.3 REB/0.8 BLKS|
|27||Zaza Pachulia||C||31||6-11||270||Georgia||8.8 PPG/6.8 REB/0.3 BLKS|
|11||JaVale McGee||C||27||7-0||270||Nevada||4.6 PPG/ 2.7 REB/0.9 BLKS|