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Mavericks Blogger Preview

As mentioned in an earlier post, Jeff over at Celticsblog has gathered together bloggers from across the country to write previews of their teams. We are all using the same format, and here is my contribution:

Team: Dallas Mavericks
Last Years Record: 51-32
Key Losses: Avery Johnson
Key Additions: DaSagana Diop, Gerald Green, Rick Carlisle

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

The single biggest move made in the offseason was the dismissal of head coach Avery Johnson and the hiring of Rick Carlisle. The Mavs have the luxury (or curse) of having their core team signed for some time. This continuity will certainly help the team transition under a new coach, as they only need to adapt to him rather than a bunch of new faces. Carlisle has impressed so far, and his biggest challenge is creating a more flexible offense for what is still a potent group of weapons, from Jason Terry's dead eye shooting to the unique assets that Dirk Nowitzki brings. Avery Johnson could never figure this out, and his reliance on isolation plays was a major factor in the Mavs playoff woes over the past few years.

That said, Carlisle has some big shoes to fill on defense, as Avery Johnson took a mediocre defensive team and honed them into a very strong one. Carlisle, whose defensive reputation is top notch, shouldn't have too much of a problem here. Still, if Johnson excelled anywhere, it was in his ability to consistently get the team to overperform on defense, and that will be missed.

The other big move was the return of center DaSagana Diop, whose new face is actually one the Mavs are quite familiar with, as he was only away from the team for the second half of last season. The goal for the Mavs is to have Erick Dampier and Diop return to their very good platoon performance of the 67 win season.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?

An excellent forward tandem in all-stars Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard and also steadily improving Brandon Bass. If Diop and Dampier return to form, the Mavs will be incredibly versatile and potent at the forward and center positions.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

Shooting guard, where aging veteran Jerry Stackhouse and erratic youngster Antoine Wright will fight it out for playing time. Jason Terry may also spend some time at shooting guard, pairing with Jason Kidd. Although that will be a difficult pairing against the elite point guards in the western conference. Raw Gerald Green may make an impact at some point, but we haven't seen too much of an indication of that so far in training camp.

Also, age is a looming weakness. Jason Kidd can still pass the ball better than anyone in the league, but his abilities on defense and his weakening offensive skillset will be a problem. With Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George also pegged to be getting big minutes, the Mavs are certainly not getting any younger.

4. What are the goals for this team?

While the perception is that the Mavs have fallen from elite status, a look at the roster shows that this is more perception than reality. The Mavs core group of players is still the same, with the glaring exception of Jason Kidd, and it is distinctly possible that Carlisle can find a way to utilize Kidd's court vision and size on offense in a way that Johnson could not. Still the team is one year older and still have playoff demons in their past. The goal of the team is certainly to win the championship this year, although I believe that they feel that the fight to do so will be harder than in the past, a past where they failed to reach the top any way. 

5. Will Dirk Nowitzki's game finally start to decline?

Dirk's efficiency has been stunningly strong for a long time now. He said emphatically that he felt his game was much stronger with Jason Kidd at the point than Devin Harris. If that's the case, then it is distinctly possible that Dirk will have another strong year, although improving on his already spectacular offensive efficiency will be practically impossible.

Predicted Record: 55-27