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Dallas Mavericks 2015-16 Preview

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Can Deron Williams resurrect his status as a high-impact player and help the new-look Mavericks get back into the mix in the Western Conference?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 IN REVIEW
4th in Southwest Division
7th in Western Conference

Last year's Dallas Mavericks began the season operating as one of the most cohesive units the NBA has to offer, kicking off the 2014-15 season winning 19 of their first 27 games and running one of the most efficient offenses in the league. The team was clicking, but management felt that it was a worthwhile risk to shake things up in mid-December and go after a high-profile performer to help bolster their squad.

On December 18, Rajon Rondo was acquired with the hopes that his championship and All-Star pedigree would uplift the team to another level of contention. Things started off positively, as Dallas won 11 of their first 16 games with Rondo running the show, but their style of play was forced to change with a brand new ball-dominant point guard whose shaky jump shot didn't space the floor very well. Rondo had his bright spots, highlighted by his magnificent 29-point homecoming performance in Boston just seven games into his tenure with the Mavericks, but the honeymoon phase ended quicker than everyone would have hoped.

Newcomer Chandler Parsons had a bit of an up-and-down inaugural season as a Maverick, as well. While he dealt with the transition of a playing for another organization, Parsons shot just 40.9% from the field throughout his first 20 games in Dallas and it took him some time to get comfortable in his new surroundings. He hit his stride in December, where he averaged over 18 points per game while shooting just under 52% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc, but ankle and knee injuries would ultimately slow him down for the remainder of the season. Parsons missed 16 regular season games before he was ruled out for the rest of the postseason after appearing in just one playoff game.

With that said, Dallas still found a way to win games, going 31-22 to close out the season after the Rondo trade and accumulating 50 wins as the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. Dirk Nowitzki was still Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler had successfully re-assumed his role as the team's defensive anchor and walking double-double, while Monta Ellis kept trucking along as one of the best players in the NBA that has never been named to an All-Star roster. Although the second unit was inconsistent, they got some good things out of a number of guys as Al-Farouq Aminu made plays with his length and activity, J.J. Barea provided an energy spark and mid-season acquisition Amare Stoudemire made a big time offensive impact off the bench, averaging 10.8 points per game on 58% shooting throughout 23 regular season games in blue and white.

In the first round, Dallas squared off with the red hot Houston Rockets as James Harden's MVP candidacy propelled them to the number two spot in the conference. Coming into the series, it looked like there was a chance that it could be interesting but not a whole lot went well for the Mavericks from the jump.

As previously mentioned, Chandler Parsons was only physically able to play in Game 1 of the series against his former teammates and 10 minutes into Rajon Rondo's outing in Game 2, all hell broke loose. Coach Carlisle and Rondo had some words, resulting in a shouting match that not only parked Rondo on the bench for the rest of the game, but the team decided it was best he was not around the team for the remainder of the series.

With Rondo sent home and Parsons in recovery with back-to-back double-digit losses to open up the series, Dallas' resilience was tested. Aminu and Barea held their own in increased roles and Monta Ellis put together a loud 34-point, nine-assist Game 3 performance, but Houston held on to win the video game-like offensive war with a 130-128 victory that put them up 3-0.

Ellis came back with 31 in Game 4, helping propel double-double outputs from Barea and Aminu on their way to their first W of the series, but they didn't have enough to turn the series around. The series shifted back to Houston for Game 5, and it was over. Dallas shot just 38% from the floor, they still couldn't stop Josh Smith from looking like an NBA 2K MyPlayer simulation and say what you want about Dwight Howard, he is still a force and he showed it with 18 points, 19 boards, four blocks and four steals to help his Rockets close the series in five.

The Rondo experiment may have been worth the risk, but it ended up hurting the team more than anything and while their demise was far from his fault single-handedly, it could have turned out a lot better than it did. The veteran-lead Mavs had a formidable group, but their inconsistent execution, lack of spacing with Rondo on the floor and their inability to stop the opposition from attacking them north-south ultimately sent them home earlier than they would have liked.


Key Additions - Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, Samuel Dalembert
Key Losses - Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo, Amare Stoudemire, Al-Farouq Aminu

Entering the summer of 2015, the Mavericks were considered one of the frontrunners to lure Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge out of Portland to return home. Instead, the four-time All-Star big decided to join forces with the Spurs down the street in San Antonio, while Mavs free agent Monta Ellis decided to move on to Indiana. Rajon Rondo was clearly never going to return to Dallas, and he inked a deal with Sacramento while defensive anchor Tyson Chandler felt it was the right decision to take his talents to the up-and-coming Phoenix Suns.

Even key role players Amare Stoudemire and Al-Farouq Aminu skipped town, leaving Mark Cuban and the Mavericks in a tough position as they worked tirelessly to reload their roster with a competitive group.

As always, Dallas was aggressive in the free agent market and sometimes taking a risk is the best opportunity you have to improve your situation. Deron Williams had his contract bought out by the Nets on July 11, in need of a change of scenery as much as any veteran in the league. For a chance at redeeming his career, Williams needed a fresh start and a shot to the jaw in terms of motivation. Not only is the three-time NBA All-Star back home in Texas, he has a chance to resurrect his offensive prowess with Dirk Nowitzki, a veteran supporting cast and a war-proven head coach in Rick Carlisle.

One of the biggest issues with Carlisle's offense last season was the inability to accomodate Rondo's strengths if the floor was not properly spaced, an issue that he couldn't physically help improve. The offense operated better and more efficiently when the ball was moving, not sticking to a particular playmaker, and Rondo's weaknesses disrupted the flow. Deron Williams, on the other hand, is a threat shooting the rock and he can create at a high level when motivated to, as well.

It will be interesting to see how effective D-Will can be in his new situation.

To make another splash with the idea of replacing Monta Ellis on the wing, the Mavericks courted "glue guy" extraordinaire Wesley Matthews and lured him away from Portland with a four-year, $70 million contract. Matthews is coming off of a tough injury to recover from, as a tore his achilles tendon in January, but he would help any basketball team in the world when healthy. Sporting a complete skill-set, Matthews positively impacts the game on both ends of the floor as well as emotionally and in terms of leadership. As long as he can return to full physical strength, there is no question that his all-around ability will help the Mavs get better.

Any time you lose a defensive force like Tyson Chandler, however, you've got your back against the wall to try and fill that void at the center position. Management was unable to replace him with a similar talent, but they certainly worked hard to bring in three different kinds of veterans that could potentially help the team in different ways. In early July, Dallas shipped a future second round pick to Milwaukee in exchange for Zaza Pachulia, who put up approximately eight points and seven rebounds per game as a part-time starter for the Bucks last season.

For additional depth up front, the Mavs brought Samuel Dalembert back to town. The 34-year-old vet appeared in 80 games for Dallas during the 2013-14 season, but was severely limited due to injury for the New York Knicks last year. When healthy, Dalembert is an active body in the paint that can help protect the rim and disrupt the game with his length.

In the event that Dalembert does not work out or is not healthy enough to make a difference, however, maybe JaVale McGee will. After Denver let the injury-riddled enigma go this summer, Dallas jumped at the opportunity to give him a chance at resurrection. McGee is well-known for his questionable on-the-spot reactions and Shaqtin' a Fool dominance, but the fact of the matter is that he is a long, active athlete that is young enough to turn his career around.

Only time will tell how this new-look roster shakes out, but in the best-case scenario, they certainly have a chance to make some noise.

- Zaza Pachulia / Samuel Dalembert / JaVale McGee
PF - Dirk Nowitzki / Charlie Villanueva / Dwight Powell
SF - Chandler Parsons / Jeremy Evans
SG - Wesley Matthews / Devin Harris / John Jenkins
PG - Deron Williams / J.J. Barea / Raymond Felton

It remains to be seen who will seperate themselves in training camp, and beyond, as the team's number one center on the depth chart. Zaza Pachulia is certainly coming off of a much more productive year than the unhealthy 2014-15 campaigns of Samuel Dalembert and JaVale McGee, but you never know what can happen. If Dalembert and McGee are both healthy and physically capable of helping the team win, coach Carlisle may have some tough decisions to make with his rotation all year.

X-FACTOR - Deron Williams
Even though he has averaged just around 13 points and six assists per game over the last two years, Deron Williams may be the second most capable offensive weapon the Mavericks have this season. Rajon Rondo's defficiencies hurt the Dallas offense last season, but Williams has a completely different game and could potentially serve as a much more formidable fit.

It is highly unlikely that Williams will return to the same kind of explosive All-Star form he showed us back in his prime years as a member of the Utah Jazz, but the man is just 31 years old and not all hope is lost for him to make a big time impact. If Deron Williams can give us a little bit more of that "D-Will" flavor, the Mavs may have a chance to maintain their threat as a 50-win club.

As long as the Mavericks are healthy, there is no question that they should heavily compete for a playoff spot in 2016. It is much tougher to maintain that level of play when you reconstruct your roster and realize you have to compete in the tight-knit Western Conference, but Mark Cuban's gang has put together a veteran-lead team that contains all of the elements necessary to move forward as a winning program.

Things have to go well in order for Dallas to compete. Key players have to stay healthy, new faces have to buy in and play their roles, the shaky-looking second unit (on paper) is going to have to perform at a high level and team defense is going to have to be both emphasized and executed on a more consistent basis than last season.

Dallas has lost a lot of key components to their team this summer, but they are still a capable bunch. They've got it in them to stay relevant, but they're going to have to fight for their position at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture.

4th in Southwest Division
8th in Western Conference

Additional Mavs Previews:

With new additions, the Mavericks have given themselves a chance in the West - Mavs Moneyball

What are the goals for this team? Make the playoffs, pure and simple, and anything after that is gravy. Despite Mark Cuban's comments that the team would have considered tanking if they hadn't been able to field a competitive roster, this Mavs team does have enough pieces to compete...IF things fall just right. And there are a lot of "Ifs"

The Mavericks struck out again this summer. Can they find a way to win anyway? -

So the Mavericks objectively had a bad offseason thanks to the DeAndre Jordan imbroglio. And unlike the Blazers, Dallas didn't even manage to get considerably younger: they added Wesley Matthews on a massive contract and grabbed a bought-out Deron Williams. They sure do seem to be betting on a combination of career rejuvenations and quick injury recoveries, don't they? And given their tenuous position in the West playoff picture, plus the improvements made by teams behind them, it sure looks like the empire is falling.