Better Know: Dallas Mavericks

Jose Calderon

Today’s installment of Better Know An Opponent focuses on the Dallas Mavericks. Let’s take a look.

Projected Starting 5

Jose Calderon Dallas Mavericks

Jose Calderon (Stats)

Monta Ellis Dallas Mavericks

Monta Ellis (Stats)

Samuel Dalembert Dallas Mavericks

Samuel Dalembert (Stats)

Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki (Stats)

Shawn Marion Dallas Mavericks

Shawn Marion (Stats)

Key bench players: Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Vince Carter, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, DeJuan Blair

2012-13 Dallas Mavericks By The Numbers:

Dallas Mavericks LogoW-L: 41-41
Playoffs: DNP
Offense: 103.6 points per 100 possessions (11th)
Defense: 104.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (20th)
Net: -.4 points per 100 possessions (16th)
Pace: 96.25 possessions per game (8th)

Games vs. the Brooklyn Nets:
January 24th — Dallas Mavericks @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)
March 23rd — Brooklyn Nets @ Dallas Mavericks

Key Additions: Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert

Key Subtractions: Anthony Morrow, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Rodrigue Beaubois

Strengths: They’ll score. Dirk Nowitzki is still one of the league’s premier offensive threats, and Monta Ellis is always good for 20 shots per night. Dalembert’s a solid defender inside, so with him in the game they’ll protect the rim. Calderon is a great pass-first point guard, meaning there will be no battle for touches on the perimeter. They’ve got all the tools to be a perennially average team.

Weaknesses: They’re not particularly great at anything, and outside of the decent Dalembert, they have no solid defensive players. Ellis is a one-dimensional scorer who can be fun to watch but through his career has hurt more teams than he’s helped. Nowitzki is the only player in their starting five who can create an efficient shot often. Dalembert’s expected to start but hasn’t played more than 26 minutes per game since 2008 and only played 47 games last season. Again: they’ve got all the tools to be a perennially average team.

Why you should watch: Off the court: Because Mark Cuban is ALWAYS salty about Deron Williams. It’s hilarious at this point. First, Cuban openly coveted Williams, who was born and raised in the area. Then he doesn’t even attend Williams’s meeting with Dallas because of Shark Tank (this is not a joke). Then he spouts off about how the Mavericks are better off without Williams. Then Williams activates the Mark Cuban Struggle Face:

Also, for the classic New Jersey Nets fans: Dallas’s backup backcourt is Devin Harris & Vince Carter. #RememberTheTimes

On the court: The matchup between Garnett vs. Nowitzki is primed to be a good one. The two have gone head-to-head 35 times in the regular season, and even though Nowitzki has the better team record (19-16), Garnett has a slightly better performance record: Dirk vs. KG averages 23.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists with a .509 effective field goal percentage (which is weighted for the importance of three-pointers), while KG clocks in at 22.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game with a .517 eFG.

Brooklyn’s backcourt has all the tools to dominate the inferior Calderon and Ellis, but the backcourt was Brooklyn’s inconsistent thorn last season. Lopez frequently dominates Dallas’s front line — he scored 57 points in two games on 64% shooting against Dallas last year — but Dalembert may hold him back a bit.

Asking The Other Side: Dallas Mavericks blogger Ian Levy of ESPN TrueHoop blog Dallas Mavericks blog The Two Man Game. Also find his NBA work over at Hickory High.

Most important move: Signing Jose Calderon. They inked him to a four-year deal which they’ll almost certainly regret by the time it’s run its course. But point guard last season was an abject disaster for the Mavericks, and Calderon is a huge upgrade almost any way you slice it. His shooting provides floor spacing that wasn’t always there last season and his steady decision-making and distribution will go a long way towards helping all the pieces fit together on offense. Defense is going to be a season-long struggle, so pushing the edges of their offensive efficiency is their path to the playoffs. In that context they couldn’t have hoped for a better point guard to plug in than Calderon.

Expectations? 38-42, which is way more depressing than it sounds. Watching Dirk Nowitzki’s prime continue to ebb away on teams who need to catch multiple breaks just to make the playoffs is the pain of a thousand tiny cuts.

What’s the team system? A lot of action for Dirk around the elbows. Marion, Dalembert and Wright are all fantastic off-ball cutters and Ellis’ ability to attack defenses that have already been bent by Nowitzki is a powerful weapon. Calderon is also such a smooth decision-maker in the pick-and-roll that running pick-and-rolls on the side with Nowitzki and out high with Wright will be a much more productive offensive avenue than they were last year with Mike James or Darren Collison manning the point. If things are working well there will be plenty of movement, by players and the ball, and a healthy balance between Nowitzki scoring around the basket and outside shots for falling for the back court.

Matching up with Brooklyn: The Nets will be a really tough matchup for Dallas. The Mavericks should still be able to create some quality offensive looks, especially with their back court. But having Garnett on the back line gives the Nets a smothering defender to throw at Nowitzki, and a binding element to control the paint and take the edge off the Mavericks’ efficiency. At the other end of the floor the Nets have a huge advantage, as most teams will with the Mavericks. Setting aside wherever Rick Carlisle throws Shawn Marion there’s not a single matchup where Dallas has an advantage. With all the underwhelming individual defenders, there is also the real potential for the Mavericks’ defense to be less than the sum of its parts. I would expect a pair of high-scoring games and a split as the best (realistic) outcome for Dallas.

The Dallas Mavericks in under 100 words:

Say hello to the new plan, same as the old plan.