Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Dallas Mavericks with Tim Cato, Kirk Henderson and Craig Berlin of Mavs Moneyball. (Yesterday's preview: Phoenix Suns)
Dallas Mavericks 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 49-33, No. 4 in Southwest Division, No. 8 in Western Conference
Roster additions: Al-Farouq Aminu, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Eric Griffin, Richard Jefferson, Ivan Johnson, Doron Lamb, Jameer Nelson, Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith, Charlie Villanueva
Roster subtractions: DeJuan Blair, Jose Calderon, Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, Shawn Marion
SB Nation affiliate: Mavs Moneyball
Blazer's Edge: From an outsider's perspective, it looks like coach Rick Carlisle has a bit of a logjam in the backcourt...how does that rotation work itself out?
Tim Cato: How much you consider the Mavs' point guard rotation a logjam directly hinges on how much you consider Raymond Felton to be a useable NBA player. I think he'll have a much better season, but his minutes will come situationally or in a three-guard lineup. For now, Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris are clearly the two point guards who will be counted on during the regular season.
Kirk Henderson: I think Monta Ellis, Jameer Nelson, and Devin Harris get all of the guard minutes. I'm sure Raymond Felton attempts to make some noise, but his track record the last few years is one of poor performances. He's played because his teams haven't had a lot of options. Of course, while the aforementioned three guards provide solid offense, none of them are particularly great at defense. I assume Carlisle will tinker with a lot of line ups in the first thirty games, trying to patch the holes the back court springs. Eventually, I assume he settles on these three though, if only because they're the most talented guards on the roster.
Craig Berlin: I love seeing a player make a comeback (Vince Carter, hello and good-bye) but Felton was never great to begin with and you can only imagine how badly Cuban wanted Tyson back to send both Calderon and Shane Larkin and take back Felton and his contract. Last year, Monta led the team in assists and that was partly due to Calderon's excellent spacing and shooting but clearly he can run the point, certainly for short periods. Then you have Jameer, who is a proven solid shooter and distributor as well as Devin Harris and an inexpensive backup In Gal Mekel. Where does that leave Felton? I don't see he has anything to offer that isn't already covered. Unless his playing is extraordinary, I cannot see him hanging around. My guess is they either stretch his contract or trade him to someone desperate for a backup PG with a ton of cap space.
At the second guard spot, I see Devin Harris and Jae Crowder taking the backup minutes there. Devin has been working on his jump shot and is a solid defender. Crowder is still a work in progress but is showing his defensive chops; he just needs to be more consistent on the offensive end. I can seem him in the game more with Parsons than with Aminu.
BE: Piggy-backing on the first question...what do you expect out of Raymond Felton? A couple days ago, we talked with some staff members from Posting and Toasting who cover the Knicks and regret not heeding warnings from Blazers fans about Felton and his character. At this point in his career, he must be on pretty thin ice, right?
TC: I wrote the above answer before I read this question, so I guess you know I'm serious. The Mavericks have put themselves in a situation where they don't have to rely on Felton, which helps alleviate the potential harm of him having another crash and burn season.
KH: He's dead weight and was the price for getting Tyson Chandler. Now, if anyone can get something out of Felton, it's Rick Carlisle. And the Mavericks have a solid track record of turning former Tarheels into functional role players (Brandan Wright, Brendan Haywood, Vince Carter). Still, though, Felton's problem is that he thinks he's better than he is. I think this ends in a bad way, with Felton causing problems in an organization that doesn't tolerate the sort of crap he's become famous for.
BE: How does the center rotation work for the Mavericks this season? Tyson Chandler looks like the only really experienced player at that position on Dallas' roster.
TC: While Brandan Wright's frame might fit the power forward position a little better, he's been used pretty exclusively at center during his time with the Mavericks and does a very underrated job. He can get bullied around on defense, but his insane offensive efficiency makes him an incredibly valuable rotation player. If Tyson Chandler were to get hurt, however, then yes, the Mavericks would have serious problems.
KH: It should be fine. Chandler should play 24-28 minutes per game, which leaves 15 or so for Brandan Wright and scraps for Greg Smith and Sarge. Though Wright is more of a power forward in the classic sense, the way Dallas spreads the floor offensively allows them to steal minutes with Wright as the big man down low. He's pretty dang effective too.
Greg Smith is the puzzle. People from Chicago and Houston think he could be pretty good if he just gets some time on the floor. Brian Schroeder (@Cosmis) of Hardwood Paroxysm has a joke that if his name was "Gerg Smit" and hailed from Europe, he'd be a hot commodity. Instead, he keeps getting passed along by teams with frontcourt log jams. If he can give Dallas anything it's a bonus.
CB: Brandan Wright has been in the league six years now, so he has some experience, but the hope is that Greg Smith will be the new backup banger and finisher and Wright will get more time at the 4. Hopefully, Smith won't amass 3 fouls every 2 minutes as he did Tuesday night. Of course, I was in foul trouble Tuesday night and I'm not even on the team...hahahaha!!
Wright's efficiency is off the charts and his midrange jumper has improved. His major weakness as a 5 is guarding bigger, bulkier centers but he's not a complete slouch because of his athleticism. Smith is capable but needs to stay out of foul trouble; otherwise Wright will see most of the backup minutes there. With Tyson, Smith and a healthy Wright as well as Bernard James, the rotation is dramatically better than it was last year.
BE: In 2013-14, Monta Ellis had one of his best seasons as a pro. What do you attribute that success to and can he replicate it or build on it this year?
TC: The Mavericks have an offensive system (read: Dirk) that nearly anyone can fit into, and Monta's offensive strengths were highlighted by the players around him and the way he was used by Rick Carlisle. It wasn't Ellis changing as a player as much as it was the offense being tailored to fit him.
KH: His success stems from the fact that Carlisle put him in situations where he did what he was best at. Monta played his best basketball early in his career in Golden State where he wasn't the best guy on the floor. Last season, he was good in Dallas because he wasn't expected to do everything. This year, I suspect he'll do much of the same, only with better assist numbers. Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons are much better offensive options than Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert.
CB: Monta came in not being expected to carry the entire load and was able to work with two top-flight offensive players with completely different skill sets (Dirk & Calderon) plus an elite coach. This year he will not have the luxury of Calderon's spacing but he will have the freedom of defenders being more worried about Chandler Parsons. He can continue to exploit the pick-and-roll with Dirk and hopefully Jameer will provide enough of an outside threat to keep the spacing close to what it was last year.
BE: Chandler Parsons looks like he'll be the third option on offense...how do you feel about the Mavericks maxing him out? What would make his contract justifiable this season?
TC: With the upcoming TV money about to flood the market and Dirk's huge discount (not to mention Ellis already on a discounting contract this season), paying Parsons near-max money was a necessary and totally justifiable decision to steal him from Houston. Him being a good third option is fine -- as long as there's no regression, I don't see the Mavericks having any regret for what they ended up paying him.
KH: On it's own, it's a kind of crazy contract. When paired with Dirk's three year, $25 milllion deal, it's gold. They are paying a little over $23 million per season for a pretty amazing offensive combination. Even if Parsons doesn't fulfill the expectations set by his contract (I don't think he can), it's still a value deal when seen in this light. Also, if the salary cap continues to rise, I think all of these deals signed this summer look good in retrospect.
CB: It was really an investment. A lot of players are being overpaid but Parsons was designated a third option in Houston whereas he won't be here. He may DEFAULT to that for now but he won't be forever. Dirk can't play indefinitely and whereas Parsons was in the shadow of Dwight and Harden in Houston, here he will be expected to grow into the second or first option.
Special thanks to Tim Cato, Kirk Henderson and Craig Berlin of Mavs Moneyball for taking the time to discuss the Dallas Mavericks' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Tim can be found on twitter @tim_cato, Kirk @KirkSeriousFace and Craig @AustinMFFL. Mavs Moneyball has you covered for Mavericks news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | Twitter