Hold Your Horses

28 Jul 2014 by Winston Zhang, No Comments »

NBA-Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks - Denver Nuggets

It’s been a helluva offseason for the Mavericks. We struck early, bringing in Tyson Chandler before anyone else had done anything. Then we finally scored a solid player in free agency, prying Chandler Parsons away from the Rockets. Then followed the low-cost, low-risk/high-reward moves of bringing in Richard Jefferson, Eric Griffin, Greg Smith, Jameer Nelson (who I made the case for myself over here) and Al-Farouq Aminu to fill out the roster.

The starting five is stronger and more balanced now than it was last season, and the bench, while losing an important piece in Vince Carter, is probably one of the best benches in the league right now. Think of it this way: Aminu, Jefferson and Felton were all starters last season.

But, do we really deserve 4th place in the preseason power rankings, per NBA.com?

My concerns about this new Mavericks team largely centers around the pieces we lost in the Tyson trade and in free agency. After all, to build the team we have now, we had to give up some important pieces. It’s not like we just added and added without losing anyone.

I think we’ll miss Caldy quite a bit. For the sake of a backcourt which could actually function on both ends of the court, moving Jose made lots of sense. But I don’t think it can ever be sufficiently stated how secure I felt every single time he brought the ball down the court. He averaged 1.3 turnovers per game! And that went down to just 1.0 in the playoffs! Granted, some of that may be due to Monta handling the ball more and more as the season went on, but that’s still a good mark.

Additionally, his three-point shooting is right up there with the best, at 45% last season. He may have only averaged 11 points, but having an all-time great shooter spotting up on the perimeter does wonders for your team’s spacing. And with the primary offensive option being Monta-Dirk pick-and-pops, spacing is tantamount.

Jameer will help, being a decent shooter himself, but he’s not an all-timer like Jose. Hopefully it’ll be enough.

Of course, you may say that Parsons is a good shooter himself and will help in that department. But consider who he’s replacing: defensive Swiss Army knife Shawn Marion. Which brings us to the second problem: is our defense really all that much better than last season’s?

Replacing Jose with JameerĀ maybe improves the defense at that position, if only marginally because Jameer isn’t exactly a stopper and is pretty short at 6 feet flat. But that little bit of gain will probably be negated by the loss of defense at the starting small forward position. For all he will bring to the offense, Parsons is undeniably worse than Marion on defense.

“We’ve still got Tyson!”, some may say. But this isn’t the Tyson of 2011. He’s three years older, and he hasn’t played more than 66 games in a season since leaving the Mavs. That’s… not great, especially when the effectiveness of his whole game, both on offense (getting on the end of alley-oops) and defense is so heavily dependent on athleticism. The hope here is that he was unmotivated the past couple years, and being back in a real winning environment and alongside Dirk again will get him focused and ready to go to war. Well, I hope that happens too, but for now the facts aren’t particularly encouraging.

So it could be argued that our starting lineup’s defense might actually be worse than last season’s much-maligned group, which is saying a lot. That said, having the option of introducing the likes of Devin Harris and Aminu will help, and I trust fully in coach Carlisle’s ability to mix and match players to put the overall most effective team on the floor.

All things considered, this Mavs team should be better than last year’s. It’s gotten significantly younger (I read somewhere the average age of the squad dropped by three whole years) and more athletic. This was the most exciting offseason I’ve been a part of since I started following the Mavs, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the product on the floor. I just don’t want to get carried away in the euphoria of free agency and start counting my chickens before they hatch.

Let’s see how it all plays out.

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