The Dallas Mavericks are one of those teams that are a little hard to project. They've had quite a bit of roster change and it isn't entirely clear how the pieces fit together. Realistically, you want to revisit them 10 or 15 games into the regular season to get some idea what you're really dealing with.
After their championship run, the Mavs started to take a long game approach to the coming luxury tax changes, which caused them to let center Tyson Chandler walk. Dirk Nowitzki was a bit of a slow starter and the strike-shortened season didn't quite live up to expectations. Notable departures following the '11-'12 season include starting point guard Jason Kidd, 6th man and second leading scorer Jason Terry, (addition by subtraction) Lamar Odum and starting center Brendan Haywood (waived for salary concerns among other things). That's three major pieces gone, and some hurt feelings, too. They also missed out on Dwight Howard and Deron Williams in the off-season.
Pending more player movement, the depth chart for the Mavericks will look something like this:
C: Chris Kaman > Elton Brand > Bernard James
PF: Dirk Nowitzki > Elton Brand > Brandon Wright > Tadija Dragicevic > Jae Crowder (?)
SF: Shawn Marion > Vince Carter (?) > Jae Crowder >Dahntay Jones
SG: OJ Majo / Vince Carter > Dahntay Jones > Delonte West >Dominique Jones > Jared Cunningham
PG: Darren Collison >Delonte West > Rodrigue Beaubois
The questions going into the season are the back-up rotations for the 4/5 and where exactly Vince Carter fits into the 2/3 rotation.
The center rotation will be a matter of whether rookie Bernard James can prove he can justify keeping Elton Brand over at the power forward slot. Pending training camp, I find it likely that there will be a three-headed monster at the 4/5 with Brand taking up most of the minutes when either Nowitzki or Kaman isn't on the floor. Brandon Wright is the seasoned back-up PF. Dragicevic is a rookie who's been playing in Europe. I've heard Crowder projected as an undersized 4, but I'd want to see that before I put too much stock in it.
The Vince Carter question looms over the wing positions. Carter was, shall we say, a bit inconsistent last year. I suspect OJ Mayo was brought in for what's effectively an audition for a long term deal (when the free agent market opens next summer, the Mavs will be shopping again and the team could have another drastic facelift), so they'll want to be giving him minutes. If Mayo starts at shooting guard, Carter will probably be backing up the 2 and the 3. Behind Carter at both positions are Dahntay Jones and some young talent jockeying for minutes.
The point guard is a bit more settled. Darren Collison is the obvious starter and it will be up to Roddy Buckets to finally live up to the initial hype if he's going to take minutes away from Delonte West.
Where does all this leave the Mavericks?
If everyone stays healthy, that's a solid front court rotation. Kaman is unfairly maligned. He's not first team All-NBA, but he's a better starting center than a lot of teams have and he's a legitimate scoring threat. Brand is the consummate professional and can still eat people on the blocks from time to time. If Nowitzki shows up ready to go, this will be an area of strength.
Darren Collison is almost a gift. Collison proved he was a quality starting point guard in New Orleans and Indiana, but got caught in a numbers game with the Pacers. Suddenly the point guard position has drastically de-aged. The question is with his ceiling. Now, if Collison gets hurt, this could be a problem position. Lots of combo guards on the roster (Mayo has been known to play a little point every now and then), Collison is the only pure point.
The wing positions really depend on whether we see the OJ Mayo from his first two years in the league, when he was shooting a little better and averaging 18 points/game, or the one who got a little lost in a numbers game in Memphis in the last two years. It also depends on what Father Time is doing to Shawn Marion (34) and Vince Carter (35). I have a bit more faith in Marion.
If everyone shows up ready to play and there aren't any serious injuries, the Mav's should be in contention for a playoff slot. Any serious injuries or the chemistry takes too long to set in, they could be a high lottery pick. With veteran players, you could have a high ceiling if things click.
If Vince Carter continues to slide, bench scoring could be an issue. Carter, Beaubois and the rookies are the wild cards for this team.
All-in-all, this is a real glass half-full/glass half-empty type of team on paper. We'll see what their record is, come December.754721