3) What was the biggest surprise of the season?
Kirk: The rapid development of Brandan Wright. He was the main player I was wrong about. I enjoyed his athletic style of play early, but I was convinced that he wouldn't be able to curb his shot blocking instincts in order to help the team defense of Dallas. He'd so often try to block anything that he'd force back side rotations and the result would be offensive rebounds for the other team or the Mavericks having to commit fouls. As the season wore on Wright went to the bench for an extensive period but worked his way back into the line up as Dallas made the final push for the playoffs. His shot making ability remained excellent, but his defensive awareness had improved a great deal. I've no idea what sort of contract he's going to want this off season, but I am delighted that he's developed into a rotation big man.
Hal: I surprised, at first, by how good OJ was at the beginning. When he got signed, the Mavs seemed intent on making him the second scoring option, the pseudo-star. In Memphis, he'd burgeoned as a really phenomenal role player, but not much more. I had a hard time imagining him stepping up to the second scorer role, but he did so brilliantly. I was sold. So, I was similarly shocked by his total collapse post-All Star break. The one-two OmfgJ Mayo punch. It hurt.
Josh: Darren Collison's floundering season. I was so sure that given starter's minutes, a different offense and Rick Carlisle's coaching magic mojo, I figured Collison's clear talent would be utilized. Carlisle did all he could: he gave Collison the starting job, upped the Mavericks tempo considerably to fit Collison's elite transition game and generally supported him throughout the year. Although he didn't do him any favors by calling him a "really good backup" and benching him in favor of 37-year-old statues, Collison had enough opportunity to seize the starting job and he didn't.
Andy: I guess it was the depths the Mavs sunk to, not to fill out their bench but to find starters. I mean they picked random names from a hate (Murphy, Curry, James, Fisher) and those guys literally started games. All of them. I mean, what the hey, right?
Tim: The O.J. Mayo roller coaster was just shocking. That he was THAT good, then THAT bad. And even when he was THAT bad, we all just thought it was THAT slump players fall into, and then all of a sudden it was March and he'd sucked THAT bad for two straight months and he was still making turnovers in the fourth quarter like a pastry chef working for Pepperidge Farm. My expectations for him kept changing, and he kept laughing at every one of them and proving me wrong.
Alan: I want to stay positive, so I'll say that Vince Carter didn't fade in the second half. If we remember last year, Carter tanked after the All Star Break. This year, he got a little better. I know he's credited the training staff (and what was it? whirlpool treatment?) for feeling rejuvenated. Can he do it another year?
4) Biggest misconception this year?
Kirk: This is tough, because I think the Mavericks were who we thought they were, and that includes members of the national media who only paid attention to Dallas now and then. I'd have to say the lingering impression that O.J. Mayo is still a viable number two option for Dallas moving into next season. It's not that I think Dallas should let him go, but he's not consistent enough to take the pressure off of our aging superstar.
Hal: That Mike James was the worst person to don a Mavs uniform (other than Odom, I don't think there's much debate on that point). I know that everyone thinks that's it's criminal that Carlisle gave such a big role to a 37 year old travelman-nobody-veteran, but I've said - and will continue to maintain - that The Mavericks were just straight up better with Mike James at the helm. At least, he was better than the other people the Mavs eyed. James was better than D-Fish by a wide margin, and the team played much better over long stretches with James at the point than with Collison at the point. The net efficiency number were better in every sense: the Mavs scored and defended better with him on the court. They moved the ball more. They turned it over less. And, to boot: the Mavs were outstanding with Collison on the bench. Given limited time, DC lit a fire under the team. When given 30+ minutes, not as much. Is Mike James a good player? No. Was he good for the team? Ish. They still might have been better pulling a Detroit and picking up someone like T-Mac to run the point, or something to that extent. There might have been better options. But, given what they tried, he was better than the alternatives.
Josh: That these Mavs were any different than previous teams. Sure, they didn't have a stable point guard or a rim protector like Tyson Chandler, but many pointed to Cuban's off-season moves for the reason this team failed. They didn't help, but it also didn't help that Dirk Nowitzki missed 20+ games. No team in the Dirk-era would have survived an injury hit like that, even the 2011 title team. That team went 2-7 when Dirk hurt his right knee in December. If Dirk missed 27 games instead of nine, there wouldn't have been any parades that summer. This team wasn't great, but it would have been good enough to grab a fifth or sixth seed in this year's playoffs if No. 41 had been healthy from the get-go. It would have changed a lot of perceptions about the front-office's moves and the state of the organization.
Andy: I'm HOPING it's that Dirk has gotten old? Took him awhile to get his legs under him, but afterwards he was dynamite. He struggled last year, but he didn't have a training camp then either. He was really, really, really good in March. So let's go with that.
Tim: That Mike James was a horrible human being. Whenever I talked to him in the locker room, he was quite nice. No, but seriously, lemme pull out some +/- data real quick -- the Mavericks had five players finish with a positive +/- for the year. Vince Carter lapped the field with +2.9 per game, and Brandan Wright unsurprisingly came next, with a +1.7. Dirk was next with a +1.1, Roddy had a +0.8, and then there was Mikey Mike James (just made that nickname up), with a +0.7. There's other stats that also back the fact up that James did a decent job of running the offense, even if he took way WAY WAY way WAY too many dumb two-point shots (basically, any two-point shot he took was dumb).
Alan: That this team couldn't, or didn't function offensively without Jason Kidd at the helm. Dallas finished 11th in offensive efficiency, and tied for 6th in assist rate. That's much better than they did last year. And as a team their assist ratio was better than that of the championship team(which led the league in that category). Notice how many guys set career highs in assist rate this year. I know Collison became kind of a whipping boy for the team and that a lot of people have pinpointed point guard as the position of need, but I would stress that point guard defense is what they really need to upgrade.