STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Mavericks find themselves in unfamiliar territory just two years after winning their first championship in franchise history. After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, Mark Cuban entered the offseason with his sights set on grabbing a marquee free agent. However, Chris Paul re-upped with the Clippers, and Dwight Howard joined the in-state rival Rockets, forcing the Mavs to consider other alternatives.
Plan B included a complete overhaul of the backcourt, starting with the signings of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis. They added an injection of youth with the additions of Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel and Ricky Ledo and welcomed back former Maverick Devin Harris. Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair were then signed to bolster the frontline, replacing the departed Elton Brand and Chris Kaman.
With nine new faces on the roster, the team will lean heavily on franchise star Dirk Nowitzki, who is looking to bounce back from a season marred by injury. The Mavs will make a push for the playoffs if Nowitzki can stay healthy and coach Rick Carlisle can successfully integrate the new players into his rotation.
PLAYING TIME DISTRUBUTION
Jose Calderon will start at point in a totally revamped Dallas backcourt. The veteran should see 30 minutes of action per game, with a healthy Devin Harris serving as the first guard off the bench. Harris will receive about 25 minutes, split between both guard positions. Shane Larkin will see his share of minutes off the bench after he recovers from offseason ankle surgery. Gal Mekel will get early season minutes as Harris and Larkin recuperate, but don't expect more than 15 minutes a game.
Monta Ellis replaces O.J. Mayo at shooting guard and will get over 30 minutes a game for the seventh
straight season. Wayne Ellington will serve as the long-range weapon and defensive specialist that coach Rick Carlisle loves, but the role comes with limited minutes. Expect Ellington to see 10-to-12 minutes a game. Rookie Ricky Ledo would receive any remaining time when he's not with Dallas' D-League affiliate.
After playing all over the floor throughout his career, Shawn Marion will start at small forward for a fourth straight season. Marion's minutes have hovered around 30 during his time in Dallas, and that shouldn't change. Vince Carter will come off the bench and be the team's primary scoring option in the second unit. He's played 25 minutes a game during his time with the Mavericks, and those numbers should hold once again. Jae Crowder will fill in any remaining gaps and could see some spot minutes at the power forward position.
Dirk Nowitzki averaged his lowest minutes per game since his rookie season but still finished last season with over 30 minutes of playing time. That number should go up a bit if the former MVP stays injury-free. Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair have the ability to play both power forward and center and will alternate roles dependent on the matchup. Each player should see roughly 20 minutes a game.
For the fifth straight season, Dallas starts a new face at center with Samuel Dalembert anchoring the defense. Dalembert should receive a boost in playing time after a down year in Milwaukee and finish the year averaging 20-plus minutes. As previously mentioned, a two-headed monster of Wright and Blair will back up the frontcourt with second-year player Bernard James rounding out the rotation.
Samuel Dalembert: The 6-11 center comes to Dallas after a quiet season in Milwaukee. Last year he averaged the fewest minutes of his career and played in the fewest number of games since his rookie season. The lack of playing time resulted in a dip in productivity, but those numbers should improve as Dallas is counting on him to anchor their defense. He's been a reliable source of blocks and rebounds, but he won't be a focal part of the offense and can't be counted on for points.
DeJuan Blair: After falling out of favor with the Spurs, Blair came to Dallas on a one-year deal. He's undersized for a center but could spell Dirk Nowitzki at times at the power forward spot. He takes advantage of his offensive opportunities, shooting 53 percent from the field for his career. Blair has a knack for rebounding and could be in line for a bounce back season.
Bernard James: James enters his second year looking to build off a successful rookie season. He took advantage of limited minutes but managed to start 11 of his 46 games played. Still, he remains low on the depth chart and won't serve as much of a fantasy factor.
Dirk Nowitzki: Arthroscopic knee surgery and a groin strain cost Nowitzki 29 games last season, the most time he's missed in any season. He started slowly but bounced back after the All-Star break, averaging 18.9 points on 50 percent shooting and 7.7 rebounds a game. Despite his increasing age, Nowitzki should remain a top fantasy option with his efficient style of play. He may not be a first-round selection anymore, but he provides great value at his cost.
Shawn Marion: Marion joins Nowitzki as the only remaining members of the Mavericks title team. He's no longer the elite fantasy weapon he was in his prime, but he's led the team in rebounds for two consecutive seasons. His numbers have been consistent during his time in Dallas, and he remains a low-end option that can produce across the board. He's entering the final year of his contract and could make a push to secure one final deal for his career.
Vince Carter: The veteran swingman was Dallas' major scoring threat off the bench and would have garnered more attention for Sixth Man honors had the team put together a better record. He upped his scoring average from his first season in Dallas; primarily by averaging 2.0 made three-pointers a game. Carter may not attack the rim as ferociously as in the past, but he's improved his outside shot, finishing with his best three-point percentage since 2001.
Brandan Wright: Once considered a lottery bust, Wright resurrected his career with two productive seasons in Dallas. After exploring his options, he re-signed with the Mavericks and will bolster their bench once again. He will see time at forward and center, and although he's efficient with his shot selection, he's never averaged more than 8.5 points for a season. Still, he's a good source for blocks and has plenty of upside if his role in Dallas continues to expand.
Jae Crowder: Crowder earned playing time during his rookie season with a hard-nosed style of play. However, hustle and energy don't always carry over into fantasy. Crowder has to improve on his shooting numbers from last year when he shot 38 percent from the field.
Jose Calderon: The Spaniard will bring his veteran presence to a position that was a glaring weakness for Dallas last season. He should have plenty of room to shoot from the outside where he shot a league-best 46 percent last year. Calderon has finished in the top 10 in assists in four of the last six seasons and will have a good chance to finish there once again, leading Dallas' flow-based offense.
Monta Ellis: His ability to score and an opportunistic knack for steals has made Ellis a valuable fantasy option even though he's never made an All-Star team. His sporadic shooting has always been his biggest weakness, but playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki should create spacing for those numbers to improve. If Ellis can become the second scoring option Dallas has been craving, he could produce an extremely fantasy friendly statline.
Devin Harris: Harris returns to Dallas after being traded from the team in 2008. His role will change during his second stint, as the team will bring him off the bench at both guard spots. He underwent surgery in the offseason on a troublesome toe and could miss up to the first two months of the season. Harris has been in a steady decline since his All-Star campaign in 2009 and will be hard-pressed to return to those levels.
Wayne Ellington: Known for his defense, Ellington will be something of a specialist for Dallas. Coach Rick Carlisle has had success using other players in a similar role, particularly DeShawn Stevenson, but Ellington will have to earn minutes in a suddenly crowded backcourt. He does have more experience than the crop of rookies, but it doesn't guarantee productivity.
Shane Larkin: The son of MLB Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin, the speedster is hoping to establish a name for himself on the basketball court. The Mavs selected him in the first round and planned on him playing heavy minutes off the bench. Unfortunately, a broken ankle suffered in the offseason has slowed those plans. He's hoping to be back for the start of training camp.
Gal Mekel: The Israel-born Mekel spent the last five years playing professionally overseas, collecting two Israeli League MVPs. He made an impression in summer league, averaging 9.7 points and 5.0 assists. Injuries to Devin Harris and Shane Larkin could provide early season minutes, but he remains an extremely raw prospect.
Ricky Ledo: The Mavericks selected Ledo in the second round of the draft even though he never played a single minute of college ball due to academic ineligibility. He's a known scorer but will likely collect more minutes in the D-League than with the Mavs.
Jose Calderon: In a point guard driven league, Calderon isn't the first name that often comes to mind. However, he does a good job managing an offense and collecting assists in the process. He protects the ball, trailing only Chris Paul for the top assist-to-turnover percentage in the league last season and is efficient with his shot selection. Playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki should only enhance Calderon's capabilities.
Vince Carter: Carter's reputation will spark interest in fantasy circles but his numbers have decreased as his career has progressed. He's found a new role in Dallas off the bench but he remains somewhat of a streaky shooter and should lose minutes to the recently acquired Monta Ellis.