The preseason is in motion now and the regular season is merely weeks away. The NBA season is definitely a long and fun journey but you do have to endure the ups and downs that come along the way. Within the landscape of the NBA's elite teams, Dallas definitely flies under the radar now - a role that might suit them best. They're still considered a high-caliber team but everyone will be watching the Heat, Magic, Celtics, Bulls in the East and the Lakers and the Thunder in the West. Every team has their own sets of story-lines that play out over the course of the year and the Mavericks are no different than the rest. There are going to be specific items that are definitely worth monitoring over the course of the year to see how they play out. With these items, some of them are purely statistical and the rest are just situational. Let's take a look at just a few of the Mavericks' story-lines that are worth looking out for.
- Are Dirk and Kidd being overused in the regular season?
Last season, Dirk averaged 37.5 minutes/game and Kidd averaged 36 minutes/game. Those numbers need to be dropped to around 35 and 33/34, respectively. That might not seem like a major move, but that will pay off in spades further down the road. We all know that the regular season is a major grind but these two players need to be fresh when it's playoff time. The Mavericks have a variety of options to help reduce the wear and tear for Jason: Barea, Terry, Roddy and Jones. It was reported over the summer that Kidd could get the "night off" here and there over the course of the season, that wouldn't hurt him at all. Dirk is more of a rhythm player and has mentioned he is not in favor of sitting games out. That means Shawn Marion should get a fair share of minutes as his backup and hopefully someone out of the grouping of Brian Cardinal, Steve Novak and Ian Mahinmi can pan out and be a contributor off the bench.
- Where do they rank in the rebounding category?
Other than last season, the Mavericks have ranked in the top 10 in team rebounds over the past five seasons. Rebounds are incredibly crucial to a game, you have to remain active on the boards to create second-chance opportunities and negate any of those opportunities for your opponent. We need to see if last season was an aberration or the start of a negative trend. The addition of Tyson Chandler to Brendan Haywood, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd should make this team a very stout team on the boards.
- The Point Differential
Rick Carlisle commented during Mavericks Media Day that improving the point differential is vital this season, "that's an indicator of the overall strength of your game." That has to be music to ESPN stat-guru John Hollinger's ears. Last year, the average point differential for the Mavericks was 2.7. To put that into perspective, that was the fourth lowest positive differential in the league last season. They don't need to be the best team in the league in terms of differential but improvements are definitely welcomed. Working on breaking away from the pack and not playing down to your competition would definitely help in working to preserve their core players over the course of the season.
- Will the Mavericks make use of their DoJo and how does Carlisle handle the depth?
We all know the story with the rookie campaign for Beaubois last season, what will this season hold for the new rookie Dominique Jones? Rick Carlisle mentioned the fact that Jones provides a style that is different that the rest of the Mavericks in the sense he is a big, physical guard and can use that physicality on both sides of the floor. Between Roddy and Jones, hopefully one of them will be able to help the cause in slowing down quicker perimeter players, that has been a major issue for the team over the years. "DoJo" has impressed the coaching staff during training camp and is making a lot of headway in trying to earn minutes.
Carlisle on the rookie:
"That’s one of the great things about having Jones here. Jones has really, in five or six days, established himself as a rugged, tough, physical defender at the guard position. He’s got a chance to get minutes because of his defense."
It's been well-documented that the Mavericks love their depth and they have every right to love it. The depth can be very helpful a team that is long in the tooth and hasn't exactly been able to avoid the injury bug on a consistent basis. The issue then becomes managing the depth and maximizing it. Rick Carlisle has already voiced his opinion that he isn't worried about bruised egos and he's looking for players to accept the roles that are given to them. While everything is still up in the air, these practices and preseason games are going to go a long way in determining the rotation. We have seen in the past that his substitution patterns are hard to read and can be very inconsistent and it leaves himself vulnerable to backlash and second-guessing. It's going to be something to observe over the course of the season.
- Bounce-back years for "Tough Juice" and "Jet"
For a variety of reasons, many of which we have discussed on here, last season for Butler and Terry were not banner years. Both are determined to rebound from their disappointing years and the internal competition might be added fuel for them to show they're not ready to take another step back in their respective careers. Butler will be in competition with Marion for small forward minutes, while Terry will be battling Beaubois, Barea, Jones and Stevenson for minutes. Terry's ability to branch off into the point guard area will help his chances though. Having Butler and Terry bounce back would be great for them and better for the team over the long haul.
- Caron Butler versus Shawn Marion for the starting SF spot
This might not come into play once the season gets underway, but it could become an interesting situation once Roddy Beaubois comes back from rehabbing his foot injury. The reports on the projected starting lineup have changed about as much as you change your underwear (which should be a lot). It is possible that Butler and Marion could be starting together, but I think it's likely that we see one of them heading to the bench.
- Will there be a starting center controversy?
It's a two-headed monster unlike any the Mavericks have possessed in the franchise's history. Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler are both talented and defensive-minded centers, they just go about their business in different ways. Chandler is a little more energetic and vocal and that can ignite the team and the crowd. If Chandler is able to stay healthy, there will be a strong battle between the two in regards to who will emerge as the starting center. Again, it's a case where the competition can better the team over the long haul. For now, Haywood has the job and he's earned it. It will be interesting to see if both play to their potential, who gets the lion's share of the minutes.
Those are just some of the story-lines that we will be monitoring hear at Mavs Moneyball over the course of the season. Be sure to check out MMB frequently to get all the Dallas Mavericks information that you crave!