STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
A championship hangover coupled with the compressed schedule from the lockout were a difficult combination for a veteran-filled Mavericks team. Even Dirk Nowitzki had a down year, needing time off in the middle of the season to improve his conditioning. Even so, the 2011 champs still managed to make the postseason before being ousted by the Thunder. Owner Mark Cuban entered the offseason armed with cap space and took aim at several marquee names, including Deron Williams.
Early on, things looked bleak when Williams elected to return to New Jersey and in-house free agents Jason Kidd and Jason Terry headed elsewhere. However, Cuban was able to salvage the summer by creatively adding veterans Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, and trading for point guard Darren Collison. OJ Mayo also joined the mix, signing a two-year deal in July. The new look Mavs will not enter the season as favorites but will have enough depth to remain in playoff contention.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Coach Rick Carlisle is known for his creativity and will have plenty of versatility with the teamís eight new additions. He has a stable full of guards, many capable of playing both backcourt positions. Darren Collison is expected to start at point and should see 30 minutes of action per night, with Delonte West assuming Jason Terryís old role as the first guard off the bench. Expect West to receive about 25 minutes of action, split between both guard positions. Rodrigue Beaubois will get some minutes at point but heís more of a scoring guard than point guard. Third year guard Dominique Jones and rookie Jared Cunningham will divvy up any remaining minutes.
OJ Mayo will start at shooting guard and could easily be the best two-guard to start for Dallas in over a decade. After coming off the bench in Memphis, Mayo is in line for increased playing time and should average over 30 minutes for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. Dahntay Jones will be employed as a defensive specialist capable of spreading the floor, but West and Beaubois could steal some minutes so donít expect Jones to average more than 10.
The always versatile Shawn Marion will start at small forward but can be used at almost any spot on the floor. Heís averaged 30 minutes a year during his three seasons in Dallas, playing both forward positions and occasionally center depending on the scheme. Vince Carter will help ease some of the load, but his minutes will likely continue to decline after he averaged a career-low 25.3 minutes a game last season. Rookie Jae Crowder has impressed early on, giving him a chance to steal playing time from Carter.
Dirk Nowitzki remains the focal point for Dallas and will play his normal 30+ minutes. However, the acquisition of Elton Brand means Nowitzki has a legitimate backup for the first time in his career and wonít be forced to see much time at center. Brand will split time between center and power forward, playing 20-25 minutes. Brandan Wright played predominantly center last year but his thin frame makes him better suited to man the four. Heíll get any remaining available minutes behind Brand.
Chris Kaman will become the fourth starting center in four years for Dallas, taking over a spot generally reserved for defensive-minded players. His game should mesh well with Nowitzki and garner him considerable playing time. Look for him to play just under 30 minutes. Bernard James will pick up any leftover minutes but looks like the odd man out.
Chris Kaman: Kaman could arguably be the best offensive center Dallas has had in the Nowitzki era. The veteran played alongside Nowitzki in the Beijing Olympics and played well in New Orleans when given the opportunity, averaging 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds as a starter. Kaman could be a nice fantasy option at center as long as he remains healthy, something heís struggled to do in recent years.
Elton Brand: After Philadelphia utilized their amnesty-waiver on the former number one pick, the Mavs signed Brand to a one-year deal. After starting for 830 of his 860 career games, Brand will have to adjust to coming off the bench and as a result his productivity should take an unsurprising hit. He will remain a good source of blocks, however, and ought to put forth fairly efficient offensive numbers.
Bernard James: James begins his NBA career as a 27-year old rookie after serving six years in the Air Force. He spent two seasons at Florida State before the Mavs selected him in the second round of the draft. The Mavs like Jamesí character and defense-focused game but he remains buried on the depth chart.
Dirk Nowitzki: After leading the Mavs to the 2011 title and putting together one of the most remarkable playoff runs in recent memory, Nowitzki came back down to Earth a bit during the 2012 season. A creature of habit, the unusual offseason altered Nowitzkiís normal summer routine. He reported to camp fatigued and needed some time off to get his knee and conditioning up to speed. Still, he managed to make his 11th All-Star team and finish as a top 10 fantasy option, despite averaging his lowest point total in the past nine years. His scoring should improve after spending the offseason back on schedule, and he remains an elite fantasy option worthy of first-round consideration.
Shawn Marion: Despite starting just 27 games in 2010-2011, Marion started all 63 games he played in last season. His ability to guard point guards and forwards alike forced him into difficult defensive assignments and his offensive production suffered accordingly. He averaged 10.6 points per game, which was his lowest total since his rookie season. Still, he led Dallas in rebounding and averaged 1.1 steals per game. Once a fantasy darling, heís now become a serviceable role player whose game doesnít always translate to fantasy points.
Brandan Wright: The former lottery pick made a nice resurgence last season playing in a career-best 49 games. He took advantage of the opportunity, primarily on defense where he blocked 1.3 shots per game despite averaging just 16 minutes. Unfortunately, he provides little else and the additions of Kaman and Brand could make minutes hard to come by.
Jae Crowder: Of the three rookies on the Dallas roster, Crowder is the most likely to see meaningful minutes. His energetic style of play earned him an All-Star nod in Summer League, where he averaged 16.6 points per game. Coach Rick Carlisle has been known to keep rookies on a short leash, however, so heíll have to earn his playing time.
Darren Collison: Collison has big shoes to fill after the departure of Jason Kidd. Dallas has high hopes that he can quarterback the team while also serving as an offensive threat, particularly with penetration to the basket. Dallas will look to utilize him in a similar fashion to the way New Orleans employed him during his rookie campaign. Filling in for an injured Chris Paul, Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists as a starter, and a return to this style of play should boost his productivity. Donít expect the scoring to be quite that high, but Collison could be a nice source of assists.
OJ Mayo: Mayo will return to a starting role after two years of coming off the bench in Memphis. Heís the teamís second best offensive weapon behind Nowitzki and he could be in line to reproduce a stat line similar to his first season, in which he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. Playing alongside Nowitzki should help his efficiency, especially if Dallas elects to utilize the two-man game that helped make Jason Terry such an offensive threat.
Delonte West: West was in the middle of a bounce-back year before a gruesome hand injury cost him six weeks. He averaged 9.6 points and 2.3 assists in limited minutes and will be asked to serve as a leader of the second unit. He finished the season strong and could be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues.
Vince Carter: Carter is no longer the player he was when he entered the league but his professionalism has earned him the respect of his teammates. He yo-yoed in and out of the starting lineup and finished the year with a career low in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game. There is a small silver lining in those numbers, however. Carter averaged more points as a sub than a starter, and with OJ Mayo aboard expect VC to join the second unit on a more permanent basis.
Dahntay Jones: Jones will be asked to spell Shawn Marion and likely draw a tough defensive assignment. His style of play allows him to do so but it doesnít always translate well in fantasy circles. When Dallas is at full strength, there are just too many other options to make Jones a fantasy contributor.
Rodrigue Beaubois: For the first time since his rookie season, Beaubois enters training camp healthy and ready to contribute. Injuries have stunted the potential he flashed early on, but coach Rick Carlisle is confident the fourth-year pro will put it all together this season. However, itís hard to imagine Roddy B. being highly effective with Darren Collison and OJ Mayo now in Dallas.
Dominique Jones: Despite another solid performance in the Vegas Summer League, Jones remains buried on the depth chart behind more proven veterans. Barring an injury, itís hard to envision him playing many minutes.
Jared Cunningham: A hamstring injury forced him to miss summer league action and a crowded group of guards will only further delay Cunninghamís arrival. He has a good shot at a D-League assignment and should be relegated to mop up duties for the majority of the season.
Darren Collison: Collison has something to prove after losing his starting job in Indiana. Dallas will look to utilize his strengths, primarily his passing skills and speed, to help motor an offense that appeared stagnant at times. If he can develop a nice rapport with Nowitzki, Collison could easily see his numbers resemble the stat line of 18.8 points and 9.1 assists that he averaged while a focal point of the New Orleans offense.
Elton Brand: Itís not that Brand wonít find a niche in Dallas, but the new role will not be what we are accustomed to seeing from a player with his resumť. Playing behind Nowitzki and Kaman will obviously cut into his minutes and Dallasí second unit is primarily guard-driven, meaning his scoring numbers should continue to slide. Someone will reach on Brand based on his name alone but expect his fantasy contributions to be one-dimensional.