There's fifteen players on the Mavericks roster, and five games in, we've seen a little bit of everything. Rick Carlisle has been playing with a very open rotation, mixing veterans with rookies and giving everybody a little bit of playing time here and there, and very few people have disappointed. Here's my attempted ranking of each player's performance so far.
I'm going to leave Dirk out of this, since he has yet to play a game. Everyone else is fair game.
A rough preseason gave us no indication of this coming from Collison so far this year, but he's the Mavericks best player through five games. His ability to push the tempo is something that hasn't been seen in Dallas since Devin Harris, and Harris wasn't nearly as controlled as Collison is. He's shown great vision in this system, runs the pick and roll well, and has a knack for scoring right when the Mavericks desperately need a bucket. Just a fantastic start.
2. O.J. Mayo
The other free agent guard signing for the Mavericks has been a little bit more up-and-down, but already erased some concerns. His shooting numbers, 50% from the floor and 64% from deep, will inevitable drop, as will his 22 points a game. However, he's shown he's better driving to the rim and hitting mid-range shots than many expected. Most impressively, Mayo really looks comfortable with as a playmaker, finding open players and adjusting out of double-teams.
3. Chris Kaman
This is the best offensive center a Dallas Mavericks team have ever had. Name another Mavericks center who knocked down face-up mid-range jumpers, hook shots from his off-hand, and put the ball on the floor for a bucket. Kaman admits his cardio and defense will need to improve coming back from the injury, but he's everything the Mavericks ever hoped for on the offensive side of the ball.
People called 2011-12 Wright's "breakout year". If that's true, then this season is "The Breakout, Part 2". The offensive touch he's developed around the basket is absolutely fascinating, because most players with his height and ups would try to dunk the ball on every single possession. The only complaint is his rebounding, which he needs to improve on.
5. Shawn Marion
His injury was very unfortunate, because so far, Shawn Marion was doing his usual thing. Eight points a game on 52% shooting, nine rebounds a game, and as usual, fantastic defense. What more can you ask for?
6. Jae Crowder
Carlisle doesn't run a lot of plays designed around him, expect him to handle the ball, or match him up against superstars. But he trusts Jae Crowder, using him in his closing lineup against Toronto, and for a rookie, that's impressive.
7. Vince Carter
His rushed shots and sloppy turnovers are much more infrequent these days, and he's really accepted the role of volume shooter. Without Kidd and Terry, some has to take a lot of the three pointers that used to fall to the Jasons, and Carter has stepped into that role nicely. Also, he's still a good finisher in the lane so it'd be lovely to see a few more drives from him during the season.
8. Elton Brand
Brand has struggled with his shot, but there's no reason to think he won't find his groove in the weeks to come. His defensive effort is already top notch, and he's also one of the better defensive rebounders.
Dojo barely stayed on the roster, but with the Beaubois injury, he was thrust into the backup point guard role and has impressed. He still can't shoot or finish, but his point guard skills look great. The tempo is good and his drive and kick game opens up some good looks for teammates.
His fluke injury was sad, because Beaubois had played very good games back-to-back. Hopefully he'll return in the next few games, and show that his game really has improved this year and he's capable of running this team behind Collison, but right now, his situation is pretty uncertain.
11. Bernard James
He was never really billed as a rebounder, but getting the chance to play against Toronto, grabbed nine in 18 minutes to go with his six points. Could take the role of energy bench player when the Mavericks need a spark of effort.
12. Dahntay Jones
What's funny is that DaJones would easily be a rotation member on at least half of the teams in the NBA. With the team and success of the young kids, though, Jones has barely played.
13. Troy Murphy
He's ranked just 13th for now, but his combination of rebounding, long range shooting, and veteran-ism could vault him up the list.
14. Jared Cunningham
He's a project, but he sure looks a lot more advanced than some of the other prospects who have rolled through town. I'm very interested to see his development this year and next.