By Jeff Stotts
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
It's hard to believe the Dallas Mavericks are only two seasons removed from a Finals appearance and one year removed from a 67-win season. Despite notching the franchise's eighth-straight season of 50 wins or more, the Mavs have fallen from perennial title contender to a team without an identity battling for a playoff spot. Last season's trade for Jason Kidd
was seen as a panic move by some, but owner Mark Cuban and his front office believed their team had grown stale and needed an injection of new life. Their thoughts were echoed by the team's star, Dirk Nowitzki
, when he admitted the team needed a change after losing 12 of its last 15 playoff games.
The Mavs were quick to make that change, firing coach Avery Johnson
less than 24 hours after Dallas was ousted from the playoffs by New Orleans. Rick Carlisle was hired to replace the Little General and has promised to bring in a more up-tempo offensive style better suited to Kidd. While the coaching staff is new, the players remain largely the same. Cuban and the Mavs were surprisingly quiet this offseason re-signing Devean George
and bringing back a familiar face in DeSagana Diop
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Despite busy summers spent playing in the Olympics, Jason Kidd
and Dirk Nowitzki
will get the bulk of the minutes at their respective positions. Both should get about 35 minutes each with the depth behind them lacking. Josh Howard
appears locked in for the same amount of minutes as the team's small forward while Erick Dampier
and DeSagana Diop
should platoon at center again and receive about 25 minutes of court time each.
The shooting guard position remains an issue for the Mavericks. Since Adrian Griffin
filled the spot en route to the Finals, a hodge-podge of guards have attempted to fill the hole. If Coach Rick Carlisle remains set on keeping Jason Terry
as the team's sixth man, newly signed Gerald Green
could slide into the starting role, but Antoine Wright
could get a shot as well. Terry should be the first player off the bench and still average his usual 30 minutes. If Jerry Stackhouse
can remain healthy, he could also be a key bench guy and get 20-plus minutes backing up Howard and the starting 2-guard.
The point guard pool is shallow, and Terry should see the majority of minutes as the backup there while J.J. Barea will see spot duty. Brandon Bass
will see an expanded role as Nowitzki's primary backup and may even see some time at both the small forward and center positions. Look for Bass to put up career highs in minutes with over 20 per game. The remainder of the bench remains filled with role players that should see limited time. James Singleton
and Devean George
appear to be defensive specialists, and Eddie Jones
appears to close to the end of a solid career.
While he might never live up to his $70 million contract, Dampier remains a solid big man. He grabs boards, blocks shots, and is a physical presence around the basket. His offensive numbers improved with Jason Kidd
at the point, and Damp could potentially average near double figures for the first time in Dallas. His free-throw percentage remains a concern, but Dampier is a serviceable fantasy center.
After being shipped off to New Jersey in the Jason Kidd
trade, Diop returns to Dallas after signing a five-year deal. Diop remains a strong source of blocks but offers little else in terms of fantasy value. If his hands can improve, Jason Kidd
might be able to increase Diop's scoring, but it's not likely for a guy who has scored in double-digits in only four games in his seven year career.
Nowitzki put together another impressive fantasy season last year before leading the German national team in the Olympics this summer. But after another early playoff exit he's come out and said an NBA title is now his primary focus. Nowitzki benefited from playing alongside Jason Kidd
as his points per game, field-goal and free-throw percentages and number of three-pointers made all improved after the point guard was acquired in late February. Look for Nowitzki to put up similar numbers with a full season next to Kidd and remain an automatic first-round selection.
Howard was a hot fantasy commodity for the first half of last season. Before the All-Star break he put up impressive numbers across the board averaging a little over 20 points and seven rebounds a game. Yet Howard surprisingly struggled when Kidd joined the Mavs, and his numbers dipped, none more than his field-goal shooting that dropped from 47.1 to 42.5 percent. Furthermore, Howard finished the season on a low note as his off-court antics and admitted marijuana use have people questioning his commitment to the game. Still he finished with career highs in points, rebounds and assists and could be a good value if others have soured on him.
Bass had a breakout season last year and is poised to improve on those numbers. He's a monster around the rim and provides the physical presence the Mavericks have so desperately needed. Bass could be worth a late round pick as his game should mesh well with new coach Rick Carlisle's motion sets.
Singleton spent two years with the Clippers prior to spending last year overseas. His tenacious play in summer league netted the 6-8 forward a one-year deal with Dallas. While he adds depth in the frontcourt, his minutes will likely be limited.
Devean George: G
eorge made headlines last season as he vetoed the initial Jason Kidd
trade. Apparently Mark Cuban didn't hold a grudge as he re-signed the veteran to a two-year deal. G
eorge provides versatility and solid defense on the court but is too inconsistent to be a contributor on a fantasy team.
While many are ready to call it a career for the 36 year-old, the Mavs believe it was coach Avery Johnson
's demanding control that held Kidd back. Kidd meshed well with Nowitzki and actually saw his shooting percentages improve. Kidd should remain a solid fantasy point guard especially if coach Carlisle unleashes him and allows Kidd to control the offense.
Jason Terry: The JET
continues to be an offensive weapon having hit over 100 three pointers for eight straight seasons, but the Mavericks have insisted that Terry will remain the sixth man, giving them scoring off the bench. Terry is a highly efficient fantasy player, with good shooting percentages and a low turnover rate.
Jose Juan Barea:
After re-signing in the offseason, the third year point guard from Puerto Rico managed only 4.3 points per game when given the opportunity last season, and at 6-0 remains undersized.
Mcleod was given an unguaranteed contract this offseason and based on his disappointing play in the summer league isn't likely to be on the final roster.
Considered a throw-in in the Kidd trade, Wright may make a push for the starting shooting guard job. Wright showed flashes last year as he averaged 11.1 points for the first month of last season while receiving 33 minutes per game. Keep in mind that even if Wright were to win the job, he'd be the fourth option at best.
The former dunk champion was brought in to give the team athleticism and youth and could end up playing heavy minutes if his basketball IQ can improve. G
reen looked impressive in the Rocky Mountain Revue averaging 17.7 points en route to earning All-Revue honors. After having stumbled in Boston, Minnesota and Houston, this may be Green's last shot at proving he's an NBA-caliber player.
The 14-year veteran remains on the roster after a disappointing season last year. His points per game and percentages were career lows, and with an expiring contract, Jones is a likely candidate to be traded.
Brandon Bass: Once an outcast in New Orleans, Bass burst onto the scene last season averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds. These numbers improved in the playoffs as Bass averaged 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. He shoots 80 percent from the free-throw line and had three double-doubles last season. With the size and strength to bang inside, and a steady midrange jumper, Bass could prove to be a valuable fantasy asset especially in roto-style leagues.
Jerry Stackhouse: While Stackhouse once led the league in scoring with Detroit and has been the top sixth man for the Mavericks, his production last season plummeted as injuries and inconsistency led to his worst season in the pros. Stackhouse missed 24 games last year and managed to average only 10.7 points. With a variety of swingmen aboard, the Mavs may look to give their young guns more playing time further diminishing Stackhouse's fantasy impact.
Article first appeared on 9/11/08