This article is part of our NBA Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
It's been three years since the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA championship, and they've been somewhat in a state of fluctuation ever since, entering each offseason with dreams of acquiring a superstar to pair alongside Dirk Nowitzki. While players like Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony have included Dallas on their short list in free agency, the Mavs have been unable to land their proverbial big fish. However, Mark Cuban and company have been successful in executing a solid contingency plans, signing quality players at a fraction of the cost while adding depth at each position every offseason. Last summer, the team brought in Monta Ellis, who blossomed under the tutelage of coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs gave the would-be champion Spurs a scare in the first round, pushing them to seven games. Even without landing Anthony, the Maves were able to reload this offseason. They traded for Tyson Chandler, a key piece of their roster when they won the 2011 title, and Nowitzki re-signed at a substantial discount, allowing the team to sign Chandler Parsons away from their rival Rockets. Veterans Jameer Nelson and Richard Jefferson joined the team, as well as former lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu. With a wide array of talent, Dallas appears poised to make another deep playoff run.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
The Mavs' backcourt is one of the deepest in the league with Carlisle facing a difficult decision about who to use in his point guard rotation. Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson, and Devin Harris have all served as established starters in the NBA and are capable of running the team. However, Nelson could be the front-runner to start with Felton facing a four-game suspension to start the season and Harris' previous success with the Mavs' second unit likely pigeonholing him into a backup role. Nelson should see 25 to 30 minutes of playing time with Harris serving as the first guard off the bench and receiving about 25 minutes, split between both guard positions. Gal Mekel remains the odd man out and should only see limited action behind the trio.
Monta Ellis is returning as the starting shooting guard and will get over 30 minutes per game. Without another reliable shooting guard on the roster, coach Carlisle will likely utilize a smaller lineup pairing two point guards together. That should open the door for more minutes for both Harris and Felton. Second-year guard Ricky Ledo should get spot minutes when he's not playing with the team's D-League affiliate.
Chandler Parsons will start at small forward, and he could see some time as a stretch power forward. He should play close to his career average of 35 minutes per game and may exceed that. Veteran Richard Jefferson and Al-Farouq Aminu will backup Parsons dependent on the matchup. Jefferson has a much more developed offensive game while Aminu is a defensive specialist. Together, they should split 15 to 20 minutes of playing time nightly. Jae Crowder will get any remaining minutes and could see some spot duty at the power forward position.
Dirk Nowitzki averaged 33 minutes last season, but coach Carlisle has already stated he would like to see that drop to keep the former MVP fresh. Brandan Wright and bruiser Greg Smith are capable of playing both power forward and center and will alternate roles on a nightly basis. Each player should see around 20 minutes per game, though, if you're looking for a deep-league play out of those two, Wright should get more consistent minutes than Smith.
Tyson Chandler will be the man in the middle and should average close to 30 minutes per game. He averaged 28 minutes per game in his previous stint with Dallas, but the depth behind him this go-round isn't as impressive. The aforementioned duo of Wright and Smith will back up Chandler with Bernard James available for any remaining minutes.
Tyson Chandler: After three years in New York, Tyson Chandler returns to Dallas, the team he helped lead to a championship just four seasons ago. His second stint with the Mavericks will be the 14th season of his career. Last year was a disappointment for the former Defensive Player of the Year as injuries, including a broken leg, limited him to just 55 games played. Chandler averaged 8.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 30 minutes per game. He shot 59 percent from the field on 5.9 attempts per game and 63 percent from the free-throw line on 2.8 attempts per game. Dallas acquired Chandler prior to draft day, surrendering starting point guard Jose Calderon in the process. The Mavs hope Chandler can man the middle and effectively lead what was a particularly porous defense. He won't be a focal point on offense, but Chandler should see plenty of lobs and second-chance opportunities with a plethora of Dallas shooters spreading the floor. Health remains the key to Chandler's value and Dallas' medical team will look to recreate the magic they discovered during the 2010-11 season when they kept him on the court for 74 games, the second highest total of his career.
Brandan Wright:Brandan Wright is entering his seventh season in the NBA and fourth in Dallas. Wright had a career year during the 2013-14 campaign, setting career-bests in points, rebounds, minutes, and field goal percentage. He finished the season averaging 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 19 minutes per game. He played in 58 games after missing the start of the season recovering from a fractured shoulder. Wright continued to be efficient with the ball as he shot 68 percent from the field on 5.7 attempts per game and 73 percent from the free-throw line on 1.8 attempts per game. His 23.6 PER (player efficiency rating) placed him 13th in the league as he maximized his time on the court. The addition of Tyson Chandler will keep Wright in the second unit, but he's versatile enough to serve as a potential backup for Chandler or Dirk Nowitzki. Wright is a surprisingly weak rebounder given his athletic ability and height, but he could improve on those numbers with an increase in minutes. He runs the floor well and will benefit from playing alongside players like Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, and Chandler Parsons. Wright will never be the primary option on offense, but he'll have a chance to score off of lobs and rebounds.
Bernard James:Bernard James is entering his third season in the NBA. He took a step back during his sophomore campaign, as he averaged 0.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.1 steals, and 0.3 blocks in five minutes per game. James played in just 30 games for the Mavs and finished the year shooting 48 percent from the field on 0.8 attempts per game and 55 percent from the free-throw line on 0.4 attempts per game. He was the low man on the depth chart last season in a crowded Dallas frontcourt that included Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, and Brandan Wright. Dalembert and Blair are gone, but the Mavs filled their spots with Tyson Chandler and Greg Smith. As a result, James will find himself once again fighting for minutes, barring an injury. At 29 years old, the former Air Force staff sergeant is a bit older than his experience suggests, but he remains an energetic player. He performed admirably in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, he's had trouble translating success in the summer league and D-League over to the NBA, and he remains an end of the rotation player.
Dirk Nowitzki:Dirk Nowitzki returns for his 17th season in Dallas. During the 2013-14 season, Nowitzki rebounded from a somewhat down year to finish with 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 33 minutes per game through 80 games played. He flirted with the second 50-40-90 season of his illustrious career, falling just short. His shooting numbers remained impressive, as he finished the year shooting 49 percent from the field on 7.9 attempts per game, 40 percent from three-point range, and 90 percent from the free-throw line on 4.2 attempts per game. He was a free agent in the offseason but made it clear he wasn't leaving the only franchise he has ever known. The former MVP instead opted to leave a considerable amount of money on the table to allow Dallas to make several offseason acquisitions, including signing Chandler Parsons. Parsons should help spread the floor for Nowitzki on offense, and the return of Tyson Chandler helps hide Nowitzki's weaknesses on the defensive end. He may not be the player he was during his prime, but Nowitzki remains one of the most efficient offensive weapons and fantasy friendly players in the league.
Chandler Parsons:Chandler Parsons is entering his fourth season in the NBA. In his third and final season with the Rockets, Parsons continued to improve, averaging 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 38 minutes per game through 74 games played. He shot 47 percent from the field on 13.3 attempts per game and 74 percent from the free-throw line on 3.0 attempts per game. In one of the more peculiar decisions in free agency, the Rockets elected to make Parsons a restricted free agent. Dallas jumped at the chance, signing the forward to a lucrative three-year deal that Houston failed to match. After spending most of the summer with Team USA, Parsons will get a chance to play a bigger role in Dallas, joining teammates Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis to lead the offensive attack. The trio perfectly compliments one another, opening up opportunities all over the court. Coach Rick Carlisle wants to run an up-tempo offense, and Parsons, 17th in the league in fast break points last season, will be in the perfect position to continue his upward growth.
Greg Smith:Greg Smith is entering his fourth season in the NBA. He split time between Houston and Chicago last season but played just 11 games after suffering a knee injury that ultimately required surgery. Smith never suited up for the Bulls before being traded to the Mavs during the offseason. In his limited playing time, Smith averaged 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.1 steals, and 0.2 blocks in nine minutes per game. He finished the year shooting 64 percent from the field on 2.5 attempts per game and 40 percent from the free-throw line on 0.5 attempts per game. Smith is a hard-nosed player able to play both the power forward and center positions. He's a solid rebounder who makes his presence felt on the defensive end. Smith can finish around the rim but won't be asked to do much else on the offensive end. He will partner with Brandan Wright to backup Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki and will be employed based on the matchups implemented by coach Rick Carlisle.
Richard Jefferson:Richard Jefferson is entering his 14th season in the NBA. Jefferson spent last season with the Jazz, where he averaged 10.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.2 blocks in 27 minutes per game. He played in all 82 games for the third time in his career and shot 45 percent from the field on 8.0 attempts per game and 74 percent from the free-throw line on 2.0 attempts per game. Jefferson signed a league-minimum deal with Dallas in the offseason to fill the role vacated by former teammate Vince Carter. Like Carter, Jefferson is a former All-Star looking to finish his career in a reduced role. He's another shooter (38 percent from behind the arc for his career) in a Dallas arsenal that includes Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons. He may not see the same number of minutes he was allocated in Utah, but he should be a nice addition to a second unit that may include Devin Harris, Brandan Wright, and Al-Farouq Aminu. However, a reduction in minutes would mean that sustaining last season's surprising uptick in minutes unlikely. With his career winding down, Jefferson simply isn't the fantasy weapon he was during his prime.
Al-Farouq Aminu:Al-Farouq Aminu is entering his fifth season in the NBA after signing with Dallas in the offseason. He averaged 7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 27 minutes per game last season with the Pelicans. Aminu played in 80 games during his third and final season with New Orleans while shooting 47 percent from the field on 6.2 attempts per game and 66 percent from the free-throw line on 1.7 attempts per game. He has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him when the Clippers selected him with the eighth-overall pick. However, he's made a name for himself as a versatile defender with a knack for rebounding. Coach Rick Carlisle likes to have a defensive specialist on hand and could turn to Aminu frequently in the competitive Western Conference. He's never been a great shooter, but he won't be asked to carry much weight on offense for a deep Dallas team. At 23 years old, Aminu is still young enough to carve out a niche for himself in the league, but his game doesn't necessarily translate over to the fantasy realm well.
Jae Crowder:Jae Crowder is entering his third season in the NBA. He suffered a bit of a sophomore slump last year as he averaged 4.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 16 minutes per game. Crowder played in 78 games and finished the year shooting 44 percent from the field on 3.8 attempts per game and 75 percent from the free-throw line on 0.8 attempts per game. He impressed in the D-League last season posting back-to-back triple doubles. Unfortunately, he hasn't displayed the same playmaking ability in the NBA. He's earned a reputation as a solid defender, but he's been a streaky shooter on the opposite end of the floor. The addition of Chandler Parsons will keep Crowder out of the starting lineup, and he will have to compete with new teammates Al-Farouq Aminu and Richard Jefferson for playing time. Consistency will be key if Crowder wants to be a regular member of the rotation, but he's fighting an uphill battle on a crowded Dallas depth chart.
Jameer Nelson:Jameer Nelson joins the Mavericks for his 11th season in the NBA after spending the first 10 years of his career in Orlando. Last year, Nelson averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 32 minutes per game. Multiple injuries, including a nagging left knee injury, limited him to just 68 games. He shot 39 percent from the field on 11.0 attempts per game and 86 percent from the free-throw line on 1.6 attempts per game. Orlando elected to waive the veteran point guard in the offseason as their youth movement continues. Nelson signed a deal with Dallas where he won't be asked to carry quite the same load. He could be in a prime position to earn the starting point guard job with Raymond Felton suspended for the first four games of the season and Devin Harris thriving as a leader of the second unit last season. Nelson's up-tempo style of play should fit right in with Dallas' offense, and his assist totals could improve with Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, and Tyson Chandler on the receiving end of his passes. An increase in three-point opportunities should be available with defenses honing in on Nowitzki, Parsons, and Monta Ellis.
Monta Ellis:Monta Ellis returns for his second season with the Mavericks and his 11th in the league. During his first year in Dallas, Ellis averaged 19.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 37 minutes per game. Ellis played in all 82 games and surprised his critics by considerably improving his shooting numbers. After shooting 42 percent on 17.5 attempts per game during the 2012-13 season, he improved that number to 45 percent from the field on 15.6 attempts per game last season. He also saw a bump in his free-throw percentage (79 percent) with an increase in attempts (5.2 per game). Playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki allowed Ellis to attack the basket, and he finished the season with more drives to the basket than any other player. His high turnover rate (3.2 per game) remains a glaring weakness, and unfortunately, that number could go up with Jose Calderon now playing in New York. However, opportunities to get to the rim will still exist with Nowitzki and new teammates Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler joining in on the attack. Dallas' offense was one of the league's best last season, and Ellis will look to remain the motor that keeps it running.
Devin Harris:Devin Harris is entering his 11th season in the NBA. Harris started his second stint in Dallas last year, where he averaged 7.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.1 blocks in 20 minutes per game. He played in just 40 games because preseason toe surgery cost him the first half of the season. He shot 38 percent from the field on 6.4 attempts per game and 80 percent from the free-throw line on 2.9 attempts per game. Harris never established a rhythm after returning to the lineup, as his shooting percentage was a career-low, and his points per game finished as his lowest total since his rookie campaign. However, he did show flashes during the postseason, averaging 11.4 points on 47 percent shooting in seven games against the Spurs. Harris had a quiet offseason and should be remarkably healthier entering the season. Dallas added veterans Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton in the offseason, but the starting job remains up for grabs. Harris may be the most logical option, but coach Rick Carlisle has previously stated he likes the speedy guard leading the second unit. Even if he ends up coming off the bench, the minutes will still be there, and Harris should be in line for a bounce-back season.
Raymond Felton:Raymond Felton is entering his 10th season in the NBA. During the 2013-14 campaign, Felton averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.4 blocks in 31 minutes per game. Injuries to his hip and leg limited the much-maligned point guard to just 65 games played. He shot 40 percent from the field on 9.4 attempts per game and 72 percent from the free-throw line on 1.9 attempts per game. Felton joined Dallas as part of a six-player trade that included Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks will be Felton's fifth team in five years, as questions about his motivation and work ethic have followed him from city to city. Dallas has had previous success with players with similar track records, including Nick Van Exel, Jerry Stackhouse, and even Monta Ellis last season. However, the team will have to wait to begin their latest reclamation project, as Felton will miss the first four games of the season due to a league-imposed suspension for gun charges. Felton will battle with Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris for minutes, and improving on his career-worst scoring numbers from last year may prove difficult.
Gal Mekel:Gal Mekel is entering his second season in the NBA. He played just 31 games for the Mavericks after suffering a torn meniscus that required surgery. When he did play, Mekel averaged 2.4 points, 0.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.1 steals, and 0.0 blocks in nine minutes per game. He finished the year shooting 35 percent from the field on 2.8 attempts per game and 67 percent from the free-throw line on 0.6 attempts per game. Mekel was a regular member of the Dallas rotation to start last season, but his knee injury and inconsistent play forced him out the lineup. The former Israeli Super League MVP never found his shooting touch during his rookie year, as he shot just 25 percent from behind the arc. He showed a bit of confidence in Las Vegas leading the Mavericks' summer league team and gained more experience playing for the Israeli national team. However, it's hard to envision him making much of an impact this season with Dallas resigning veteran point guard Devin Harris and adding both Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson.
Ricky Ledo:Ricky Ledo is entering his second season in the NBA. He played just 11 games for the Mavericks and spent the majority of his time with the team's D-League affiliate. In his limited playing time, Ledo averaged 1.7 points, 0.2 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.1 steals, and 0.0 blocks in three minutes per game. He finished the year shooting 35 percent from the field on 1.5 attempts per game and 100 percent from the free-throw line on 0.4 attempts per game. Ledo remains a project in Dallas despite being one of the only true shooting guards on the roster. He averaged 15.4 points for Dallas' summer league team but shot 32 percent from the field in the process. Ledo flashed some playing making ability, averaging 4.4 assists per game in Vegas. However, he's likely one more year away from being a regular participant in the Dallas rotation and appears poised for another season honing his skills in the D-League.
Jameer Nelson: Nelson's up-tempo style of play and ability to hit from long-range could put him in the driver seat to be Dallas' starting point guard. His solid assist numbers have a chance to increase in Dallas' flow-style offense, and his assist-percentage has been one of the best in the league over his career. If Nelson can win the starting spot, he could be in for a big year.
Richard Jefferson: The former All-Star could garner some attention from fantasy owners looking for Jefferson to reestablish himself the way Vince Carter was able to during his stint with Dallas. However, the makeup of the Mavericks' roster is different now, and Jefferson won't be the offensive focal point of the second unit the same way Carter was. Jefferson played well last season, but he won't see nearly as many minutes in Dallas as he did in Utah.