5) What's one of the biggest factors for this season to be successful?
Ian (@SmitheeMMB): Getting everyone healthy and keeping them that way. Dallas has depth and they're going to need it to win consistently, because in terms of star power they are a good deal down the totem pole in the West. Keeping Dirk healthy all year for the first time in a half-decade would be really, really nice.
Andrew (@andytobo): Health is the big thing. The Mavs had it for so long fans don't really think of it as a factor but Calderon always misses some games, Dalembert probably will, Harris always does (whenever he gets back), Wright had the reputation for being injury prone before he became a Maverick and if Dirk misses significant time, obviously there's trouble.
Josh (@Boweman55): The Calderon-Ellis quandary is very well known so I'll go with the success of the front-court. We all believe Dirk will have his bounce back year, but can Shawn Marion handle guarding the best offensive player every night, rebound and give the team some scoring? That's a lot to ask for. Can Dalembert stay on the court? When is Wright going to be healthy? Is Dejuan Blair really our backup center? Blair is an interesting case, a player who had very, very nice advanced statistics, but feel out of favor with the Spurs. When the Spurs give up on a player, usually that's a ref-flag to the rest of the league. Blair still has one great skill (rebounding) and can be an effective finisher. But will he be able to play team-defense and keep the Mavs afloat while Wright is hurt? We'll see.
Doyle (@TheKobeBeef): This is going to sound like a chiche cop-out (feel free to rake me over the coals), but team chemistry is going to be important. This is another completely new roster and starting five (aside from Dirk and Marion). Getting all the new additions on the same page will be challenging. It never quite happened last year. Hopefully, this year, the team will click at some point. It will not happen over night.
Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace): Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon have to figure out how to play with each other. The pre-season returns are... unsettling, but the two key free agent signings must learn how to bring out the best in one another if Dallas is going to win ball games. Each is a smart and talented player, but in vastly different ways. One would think that they'll learn to gel over time, but as we learned last season, every game matters. They have around 10-15 regular season games to figure things out before alarms start to go off in Dallas.
Tim (@tim_cato): The combination of Dalembert, Dirk, Blair and (when he returns) Wright absolutely must figure out a way to scrap and scrape through each game without giving up TOO much to the opposing team.
Rebecca (@beccaaftersix): Chemistry. Last season's team was such a mishmash of guys not knowing how to play together; guys not knowing how to play, period; bringing in a new guy every couple weeks; and Mike James as the starting point guard. This training camp and preseason, the Mavs have most of their core healthy and working together and not one year (or even one month) rentals. We've seen the Dirk-Monta combination that works, Calderon working his way in, we've seen Mekel get important minutes. This team is already learning to play together, and this season, they won't be trying to do so as their superstar comes back midseason.
6) How long will it take this team full of newcomers to figure out how to play together?
Ian: I think Monta's adjustment period may be a few weeks, but really, the rest should fall into place fairly quickly. Dirk, Marion, Carter, Wright know each other. Calderon and Dalembert are pro's who have been around the block a few times; they know their roles. Dallas is fortunate because they have a coach, a star and a owner who have helped build a culture here, and even with all the new names, the essence of the team is going to be the same. Sharing the ball, rotating on defense, climbing on Dirk's back in crunch time: these are constants for Maverick teams.
Andy: It always, always, always takes longer than people think. People get impatient after a week or two because of what Tjarks has taught me is the fundamental attribution error. We just assume things are somebody's fault and can be fixed and if they're not it's DEFINITELY somebody's fault. But it will take two months, or maybe a whole season. Remember how bad ‘Trix was the first year he was here? That's why I think of this as a two year plan.
Josh: Hopefully no more than a month. When Jose Calderon returned, Rick Carlisle rightfully played his core guys a good amount of minutes till the preseason was over. It was also nice to see that typically, Carlisle played at least four or five of his starters every night, just to help this ground come together as quickly as possible. Luckily, the Mavs aren't asking the new guys to change who they are, so hopefully these veterans will be able to just do their job and make the transition as seamless as possible.
Doyle: Well, that was a great lead-in, wasn't it? (/pats self on the back) It would be a guess, and only a guess, but this team should be able to put everything together in a coherent way by the twentieth game of the season. Yes, that is a fourth of the season. If the team isn't meshing at that point then it could be a very rocky ride.
Kirk: The whole mix of guys will take nearly 50 or 60 games, if not the entire season. Figuring out who works well with whom is a challenge, particularly when each game could have ramifications down the road. I assume the front court additions will sink or swim much faster than the back court, mainly because Dallas just doesn't have a lot of options. As we saw last season, Coach Carlisle doesn't have patentice for players who don't improve or learn from mistakes. I expect a bumpy road at times, but this year's unit has a much higher collective basketball IQ than the previous squad. Having a healthy Dirk from the start of the season is bound to help out as well.
Tim: I'm afraid we won't see total cohesion from this until the All-Star break, although I hope I'm wrong. Maybe the stretch of games leading right up to it. Monta and Dirk and the offense should be fine after a few weeks, but the defense might be a little more tricky with all that Carlisle asks -- especially if they run a lot of zone this year.
Rebecca: I think it'll be rough the first quarter and maybe the first half. But barring any insane injury it shouldn't hinder any playoff chances (if they exist). Dirk is healthy to start, with an offense that understands getting him the ball is priority #1. Brandan Wright/Shane Larkin/Devin Harris coming back from injury will certainly add a few wrinkles, but unlike last season, the centerpiece of the offense will be there, and it's just a matter of those smaller pieces fitting around him.