STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Mavericks. The Mavs were already playoff contenders before the always-active Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson orchestrated a seven-player swap while hosting the All-Star Game in Dallas. The trade added Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to a veteran team that includes former MVP Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion. The trade provided Dallas with a boost as the team went on a 13-game winning streak and finished second in the West. However, the success was followed by another playoff disappointment as the rival Spurs ousted the Mavs in the first round.
The team took care of in-house business this past offseason, re-signing Nowitzki to a four-year deal and Haywood to a six-year contract. Veteran Erick Dampier was sent to Charlotte in exchange for Tyson Chandler, but the team failed to sign a top-tier free agent. However, the Mavs enter the season a talented bunch, armed with several attractive trade chips. Expect Cuban to continue to search for a true second superstar to play alongside Nowitzki while the team continues to pursue that elusive championship.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Dallas remains an extremely versatile team with several players capable of playing multiple positions. This flexibility will allow coach Rick Carlisle to mix-and-match based on the matchup. Last season Carlisle elected to start both Shawn Marion and Caron Butler together. However, early indications point toward Carlisle moving Butler back to his more natural small forward position with Marion headed to the bench. Butler will likely see 35 minutes of action regardless of position.
Sophomore sensation Rodrigue Beaubois is the most likely candidate to join the starting lineup at shooting guard. Beaubois will also see time at the backup point guard position and could be in line for 25-plus minutes of action. Jason Terry will continue to see starter minutes while bouncing between the backup point guard and shooting guard roles. Terry has averaged right at 30 minutes in his six seasons in Dallas, a trend that will likely continue this season. Jose Barea will lose minutes to Beaubois and should see less than 20 minutes of action, similar to last year. DeShawn Stevenson and rookie Dominique Jones will battle for any extra minutes.
Jason Kidd remains the only true point guard on the roster but Carlisle has already stated he wants to limit the veteranís minutes to keep him fresh. Expect him to see just over 30 minutes of playing time with a group of bench players assuming the remaining available time.
With no true backup on the roster Dirk Nowitzki will once again play his standard 35-plus minutes at power forward with the occasional spell at center. Marion could ease Nowitzkiís load, spending some time at power forward. However, he will get the majority of his 25-30 minutes backing up Butler at small forward.
Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler will platoon the center position with Haywood in the starting five. Both should see around 25 minutes with Ian Mahinmi picking up any spare minutes should either get in foul trouble.
Brendan Haywood: Haywood had a roller coaster season last year. He was a surprising bright spot on a struggling Wizards team, averaging 10.4 rebounds, 9.8 points and 2.1 blocks before being traded to Dallas. Once he donned a Mavericks jersey his production dropped, as he yo-yoed in and out of the starting lineup. However, Dallas remains confident in his abilities, signing him to a six-year, $55 million deal this offseason and promising him the starting role. He remains a solid option for rebounds and blocks and could see his point total rise with a steady dose of minutes.
Tyson Chandler: After several years of dealing with toe and foot injuries, Chandler appears to be in good health following a productive offseason as a member of the USA team that won gold in Turkey at the FIBA World Championships. While he wonít start, expect Chandler to bounce back from a disappointing season with Charlotte. He thrived alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans and should become a favorite alley-oop target of veteran point guard Jason Kidd. Select Chandler in the later rounds of your draft and expect decent contributions in the blocks and rebounds departments.
Ian Mahinmi: Mahinmi spent two unproductive seasons in San Antonio where he showed flashes of talent but failed to win the trust of coach Gregg Popovich. The Mavericks felt he was worth the risk and signed the Frenchman to a two-year deal. His minutes will be scarce playing behind Haywood and Chandler, and he is not a viable fantasy player.
Alexis Ajinca: Like Mahinmi, Ajinca has done little to impress in his two seasons in the NBA. He missed a large potion of last season with a thumb injury before being included in the trade that brought Chandler to Dallas. The Mavericks have reportedly been shopping Ajinca around and he remains a likely candidate to be traded or cut.
Dirk Nowitzki: Nowitzki continues to be an elite fantasy option with his consistent and efficient offensive contributions. While his rebounding numbers were the lowest they have been since his sophomore season way back in 2000, Nowitzki shows no real signs of slowing down. He finished second in the league in free-throw percentage and joined Kevin Durant as the only two players to finish in top ten in scoring and in free-throw percentage. Nowitzki opted not to play for the German national team for the second straight offseason and should once again be fresh entering the year. He'll be a top-five pick in many leagues and should be drafted with confidence.
Shawn Marion: It wasnít long ago that the Matrix was a first-round pick in the majority of drafts. However, he hasnít been able to recapture that magic since leaving Phoenix, and his first season in Dallas was no different. His 12.0 points per game were his lowest total since his rookie season and he connected on just three 3-pointers the entire year. A move to the bench will only further hinder those numbers and he should only be considered in the later rounds.
Caron Butler: The Mavericks traded for Butler hoping he would help Dirk Nowitzki carry some of the offensive load. Instead, his scoring numbers decreased and he was even benched during a playoff game in favor of Jose Barea. However, a shift back to his more natural small forward position should help Butler get closer to his All-Star form. He will be playing for a new contract, which should provide extra motivation entering the season. He spent the offseason shedding some extra weight and could be a mid-round steal if he slips in drafts.
Jason Kidd: The ageless wonder put up one of his best fantasy seasons last year at age 36. He finished third in the league in made three-pointers while once again finishing in the top ten in assists and steals. After 16 years in the league, fantasy owners know what to expect from Kidd: limited scoring and blocks with significant contributions in all other categories.
Rodrigue Beaubois: A relative unknown going into last season, Beaubois exploded onto the scene last year, capped by a 40-point effort against the Warriors in which he hit nine three-pointers. Despite that impressive performance, coach Rick Carlisle failed to provide him with consistent minutes, limiting his potential. Carlisle seems to have changed course and has Roddy B. penciled in as the starting shooting guard once he returns from a broken foot that required surgery. Beaubois is expected back in late October and could provide opportunistic owners with a much-needed boost in points and threes.
Jose Barea: Barea has thrived in Dallas, serving as an offensive spark since getting regular minutes two years ago. However, he experienced a drop-off last season as erratic play and the emergence of Beaubois limited his playing time and negatively affected his production. Barea attributes last seasonís struggles to offseason shoulder surgery that failed to completely heal. While he remains dangerous in spurts, his play is too inconsistent to help fantasy owners.
Jason Terry: Terry followed up his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with a relatively quiet year when compared to recent seasons, shooting his lowest field-goal and three-point percentages since joining Dallas. He missed time with a facial fracture and wore a facemask that appeared to bother him. He has already stated he wants to reclaim the Sixth Man trophy and remains a respectable offensive fantasy weapon.
DeShawn Stevenson: Stevenson was considered a throw-in in the blockbuster deal with the Wizards but ended up starting five games for Dallas. However, when the team is healthy, Stevenson is too far down in the pecking order to be considered a suitable fantasy option.
Dominique Jones: Despite a surprisingly good showing in the Vegas Summer League, it is hard to imagine a rookie like Jones getting a considerable amount of playing time on a veteran roster like Dallas'. However, Jones possesses an NBA-ready body and could step in if an injury occurs.
Rodrigue Beaubois: The Mavericks have high hopes for the second-year player. He is a dynamic guard that can penetrate and score in bunches. While an offseason foot injury may slow him out of the gate, look for Beaubois to make a significant leap in his sophomore season.
Shawn Marion: Marion clearly misses the "seven seconds or less" offensive system of Phoenix. While he remains a stout defender, Marionís skills do not translate well into the fantasy world anymore. He no longer shoots three-pointers and his rebounding numbers have declined in each of the last three seasons. It is also too early to tell how a possible move to the bench will affect his attitude and production.