2013-14 Dallas Mavericks Preview

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Updated: 10/16/2013 1:04 pm

Last year, Deron Williams spurned the Mavs in favor of staying with the Brooklyn Nets. This summer, Dwight Howard headed to Texas alright, but signed with the Houston Rockets.

To be clear, the Mavs made plenty of moves. They just didn't land the big fish.

Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis represent the new backcourt, replacing O.J. Mayo and a revolving door of underachieving, or declining veterans. Instead of Howard, Dallas brought in Samuel Dalembert, a decent shot-blocker and rebounder.

The bench was revitalized with the returning Devin Harris, the inconsistent Wayne Ellington, a slew of draft picks and some flyers on some youngsters with potential.

"I really like some of the guys we've brought in and now it's time to go to work," star Dirk Nowitzki said on media day.

Nowitzki is still a huge piece of Dallas' puzzle. He was injured to start last season, but he's as healthy as a 35-year-old future Hall of Famer can be.

But the backcourt turnover is what the Mavs focused on when Howard went south to Houston.

Ellis is an accomplished scorer in this league and his assist numbers are decent for a shoot-first combo guard. He won't need to post big totals in that department with Calderon in Big D. The Spaniard has averaged over 7.0 apg five times in the last six seasons.

"Playing with these guys is going to be great. I'm real excited," said Calderon.

2012-13 Results: 41-41, 4th in Southwest; Missed playoffs

ADDITIONS: G Monta Ellis, G Jose Calderon, G Devin Harris, G Wayne Ellington, C Samuel Dalembert, G Shane Larkin, G Ricky Ledo, C/F DeJuan Blair, C Fab Melo, G Gal Mekel

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Jose Calderon SG- Monta Ellis SF- Shawn Marion PF- Dirk Nowitzki C- Samuel Dalembert

KEY RESERVES: G/F Vince Carter, G Wayne Ellington, G Devin Harris, G Shane Larkin, G Ricky Ledo, C/F DeJuan Blair, C Bernard James, F Jae Crowder, F Brandon Wright, C Fab Melo, G Gal Mekel

FRONTCOURT: Nowitzki's knee injury last season sent the Mavericks in a downward spiral from the beginning. His 17.3 ppg was the lowest season average since his second in the league back in 1999-2000. The 7-footer is still a lethal force on the floor with his range and proficiency. A bounce-back season is in store for Nowitzki, but his days as a one-man championship contender are over.

Marion, much like Nowitzki, is no longer the player he once was. However, the Matrix still has life in his sneakers. He averaged 12.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg and shot 51 percent from the field last season, which are solid numbers for a 35-year- old. Plus, Marion is still a plus-defender.

Dalembert is polarizing. He only played 47 games for the Milwaukee Bucks in part because of Larry Sanders' emergence. But Dalembert also fell out of favor with the Bucks. He's temperamental, but has career averages of 8.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 1.8 bpg.

BACKCOURT: Ellis has averaged at least 19.0 ppg every season for the last six. He's also posted marks of 5.0 apg or better over the past four. Ellis can be maddening at times, but his shot selection and distribution skills have improved since he left Golden State. Ellis only received a three-year deal from Dallas, and not for gigantic money, so he may feel like he has something to prove.

Calderon is a very steady lead guard. You can pencil him in for 11.0 ppg, 7.5 apg and shoot over 90 percent from the foul line, 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three-point line. A four-year, $29 million contract seemed way too high, but Dallas has a steady point guard to teach Larkin the ropes.

BENCH: Last season's Sixth Man of the Year voting was screwy to say the least. Luke Babbit of the Portland Trail Blazers got a third-place vote averaging less than 4.0 ppg.

Carter also only got a single third-place vote. He averaged a respectable 13.4 ppg and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc. Perhaps he didn't garner votes because the Mavs missed the playoffs, but Carter has found a late-career niche.

Ellington and Harris are both great backup backcourt mates. Both could start in a pinch, but the second unit is where both belong.

Wright and Crowder showed glimpses last season. Blair learned under Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan in San Antonio and might earn more minutes than anyone at the center spot.

The rest of the Dallas bench is young and intriguing. Larkin led Miami U to big things, but a broken ankle derailed the start of his rookie campaign. It's possible we may not see much of Larkin with Calderon and Harris ahead of him on the depth chart.

Ledo is a tantalizing prospect without playing college ball. He was ruled academically ineligible at Providence and was taken in the second round.

Melo fizzled in one season with the Boston Celtics. A mid first-round pick just two years into his career, Melo is worth a look.

Mekel is a two-time Israeli League MVP.

COACHING: Carlisle is one of the game's best coaches, but he was clearly flustered by last season's team. He had trouble getting through to Mayo and never figured out the point guard spot.

A healthy Nowitzki all season will make life easier on Carlisle, although Dalembert can become a taxing chore. Ellis has ruffled some feathers in the past, but Carlisle has them buying already.

Carlisle is taking the approach that no one believes the Mavericks have any chance of meaningful success this season.

"We're going to prove a lot of people wrong," Ellis said at media day. "And we're going to get back to the Dallas Mavericks making some noise in the playoffs."

OUTLOOK: The Mavericks missed the playoffs last season, but gave it a valiant effort.

This season should bring much of the same. Dallas will be on the fringe of the postseason through much of the campaign. If everything goes well, Dallas could punch one of the last two tickets to the playoffs in the Western Conference.

If things don't, and some of these personalities clash, it's lottery city for Dallas.

But, Carlisle, Nowitzki and the Mavericks have one clear goal in mind.

"Our mission this year is to get back to winning in the playoffs," the coach said during media day. "That's our mission. You know, the goal is always going to be win a championship, but getting to the playoffs and winning puts you in the top eight and then anything can happen there, so that's what our mission is.

"And we know that there aren't a lot of people that think we're capable of doing that, so our self belief has got to be there. I've got to point these guys in a direction that they understand what the path is going to be, how we can get there and what there particular job is going to be in that structure, and it's going to come down to how we defend and how we perform in close games."

Hunch is that Dallas comes up a little short of the postseason. The Mavs are a decent squad, but there too many teams that are just simply better in the Western Conference.

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