It certainly has been an interesting last two weeks for the Mavericks since NBA free agency officially started, a period which has seen them appear as if they’re ready to challenge for a top four seed in the rugged Western Conference.
After losing to San Antonio the Mavericks talked of continuity and stability, after a few years of constant roster churning behind Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. But as that noted philosopher Mike Tyson so eloquently stated, “Everybody has a plan until they’re hit in the face.” There was always going to be some change. There is no such thing as stand pat in the NBA, but the Mavericks have gone far beyond that. Seven players out (Carter, Calderon, Dalembert, Blair, Ellington, Larkin and unless a major change of events takes place, Marion). Six players in (Chandler, Parsons, Felton, Lewis, Jefferson, Smith). A seventh player could very well be added with a $2.7 million room exception, and the Mavericks are trying to figure out who that player might be. Indeed, despite the availability of the likes of Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson and Ray Allen, Mavs owner Mark Cuban said on Tuesday that the team might be willing to keep that space available for someone who comes free during the season. It was under those conditions in 2011 that the Mavericks were able to sign Corey Brewer, once he was bought out of his deal by New York.
Obviously, the addition of Tyson Chandler is a big one. In an era where guarding on the perimeter is next to impossible, you need to have someone to patrol the lane and protect the rim. While Chandler has never been a great shot blocker, he is a shot CHANGER. Mavericks opponents shot .505 on 2 pt shots last season, the highest percentage allowed since allowing .512 in 1996. That number figures to go down with better defense around the rim. The addition of Chandler Parsons allows the Mavericks to have a young versatile forward, the likes of which they’ve not had since Josh Howard was emerging a decade ago. A year ago, Parsons was one of only four players (LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love) to average 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and shoot better than 45 percent from the floor. Both Rashard Lewis and Richard Jefferson will provide floor spacing from their positions, and Raymond Felton, similar to Monta Ellis last year, is in a “prove it” year, with not many but Rick Carlisle believing he can play at high level. If he plays as he did in New York back in 2011 when he averaged 17 points and nine assists before being dealt to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade, then Dallas might have a find on their hands.
But as much excitement as there is over the Mavericks changes, nothing in the West is guaranteed. Until further notice San Antonio is the team to beat. They didn’t add much, and outside of rookie Kyle Anderson, they didn’t need to add much. OKC remains loaded and the addition of Anthony Morrow as another spacer should really help. Morrow played poorly with the Mavericks in 2013 as he was recovering from back surgery, but he had a bounce back season in New Orleans last season shooting .451 from three point range. The Clippers still have all their important pieces in place. Those are the top three to beat. Houston still has Dwight Howard and James Harden, but losing Parsons, along with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in an ill-fated attempt to clear cap space for Chris Bosh, looks to have them slipping a bit. While Portland still has two great players in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, depth is still an issue that seems hardly resolved despite the additions of Chris Kaman and Steve Blake. The Mavericks, Memphis (after stealing Vince Carter from the Mavs, a full season of Marc Gasol, and a returning Quincy Pondexter) and Golden State (how will new first time coach Steve Kerr fare?), all figure to be fighting for that fourth seed and home court in the first round of the playoffs.
These are heady times for the Mavericks as their momentum continues to build from the end of the regular season through the playoffs to now. But the fact remains that we need to get to the end of October before we start truly assessing what the Mavericks have done. But it’s OK if you take a little summer daydream and wonder what might be.