With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Brandon Jennings/Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: Dirk will not be Dirk!
Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest players of his generation and the greatest German of all time. He's so likable and made even casual NBA fans root for the Mavericks a little bit back during that 2011 title run. Yet, it's hard to ignore the fact that he's regressed statistically ever year since 2009, and probably no longer- from a basketball value standpoint at least- worthy of the 2nd biggest contract in the NBA, although it's hard to deny the man his goodwill money. As we look ahead to the upcoming season, maybe Dirk won't be the 11-time All Star who puts the team on his back, but maybe he doesn't have to be. The addition of Monta Ellis was key and gave the Mavs a bonafide scorer who can throw up 20 points per game no problem to take the scoring load off of Dirk. The Mavs further bolstered their front line by adding Samuel Dalembert and re-upping Brandon Wright who can easily lift the defensive/rebounding loads off Dirk's shoulders as well. So, although we've grown to expect a little less from Dirk, it looks like Cuban has put Mr. Nowitzki in a fine position to ride off into the sunset utilizing his strengths and protecting his weaknesses all while shielding the legacy of the greatest Maverick we've ever known.
No. 2: Dallas are a lottery team, but don't want you to know it
5 out of Dallas top 6 guys -Sam, Dirk, Shawn, Vince and, Jose- will be 32 or older going into this season. While one train of thought would think that's a great veteran presence that will bring a healthy professional leadership to the Mavs, the other thinks how on earth are they going to get 70+ games from any of those guys let alone all of them (and yes I know Vinsanity played 81 games last season, he also started only 3 and kept a fairly tight minutes restriction so spare me). Age aside, there's a glaring lack of depth too. The bench is full of either guys who are unproven (Mekel, Ledo, Larkin, James) or players probably incapable of handling 30 minutes a game (Vince, Crowder, Wright, Ellington). All that to say this group is perfectly capable of winning 40 games like clockwork.
Yet, when you think about 2014's free agents and this supposedly stacked upcoming draft, it's hard not to think that Cuban, Nelson, and Rosas might be scheming for next summer. While this year's team looks great on paper, it's completely conceivable that if the injury bug comes a stinging, the Mavs are going to shut some guys down and cede some games, enabling themselves to rebuild heavily next season. Especially with Nowitzki's mammoth contract off the books, the Mavs will realistically be able to pass the torch from one super star to another. If Marion and Carter don't resign that's another $12 million to play with. Cuban's alway been a big picture guy, so this scenario really isn't that far off especially in a year where there's going to be a surfeit of small forwards available -Lebron, Melo, George, Deng, Granger, Gay, Turner, Hayward- and possibly big men too- Favors, Cousins, Gortat, Larry Sanders, Ed Davis, Bogut, Monroe. Throw in a lottery pick to the mix and the voila the Mavs would be rebuilt in a matter of a few months. How's that for a conspiracy theory?
No. 3: Vince Carter's will be the Mavs MVP
When Carter signed with the Mavs 2 years ago, a lot of people saw him as a punchline. He could no longer jump out of the gym, and he had never lived up to the "Next-MJ" billing. The former All-World dunker was past his prime and clearly chasing a paycheck after a decent season where Phoenix resurrected him via their voodoo medical staff. Then he got in the game, started hitting shots like this one, and people thought well maybe no he's not done. As he's had a renaissance in Dallas as a great bench spark, he's proved we were wrong to write him off when he left New Jersey. Coming off a season where he shot a career 3rd best (.406%) from 3 point land and had his way with most opponent's second units, his role will only be more valuable to this Mavs team than ever before. Carter will be called on to run this bench squad, putting the scoring load on himself to keep the Mavs in games once the starters get winded, and show off his underrated passing skills plus facilitating ability. And while Vince may not be the best player this Mavs team has to offer, there's no understating that his value will be crucial to keeping the Maverick's in every game.