With the season starting, it's definitely time for a few predictions of the coming season. The Mavs Moneyball staff all traveled to a private beach resort to discuss what we thought was going to happen this season. That didn't actually happen, but we did discuss it over email, and here's the answers I got for my set of eight questions. Look for the next one on Monday.
1) Which player is going to impress the most this year?
Kirk: Has to be a toss up between Darren Collison or Jae Crowder. The realist in me says Collison, if only because he'l get more consistent minutes. After a year of not having a point guard who could make a layup, having one who can knife through the lane and make a decent pass out of a pick and roll will be refreshing. If he can stay under control and learns from Carlisle, Collison has a chance to shine with Dallas. As to Crowder, he simply screams 2003-2005 Josh Howard. Josh used to get his hands on so many balls during the game. A deflection here, a tip out there, an offensive rebound in traffic. Howard did so many little things that changed the game over time. I see a lot of that in Crowder, but with more strength.
Andy: Who is going to impress the most? Well, I like to think Dirk, cured of what ails him, is the answer to that one. But, let's say Elton Brand. I don't understand why it is that Elton Brand's superior defensive chops at center are basically being ignored. He played a majority of his minutes at center for the Sixers last year and he was really, really good. His points per play allowed, .75, were 48th in the league, considerably better than Chris Kaman's .81 and better, even than Tyson Chandler's .80. Players shot 37 percent against Brand last year. Really good. Much has been made of his lack of scoring so far in the offseason, and with Dirk gone, it's true we need some of that to survive. But besides Chandler, Brand might be the best big man defensive presence the Mavericks have had since the 80s. So....
Tom: This question is tough, but I will have to settle with Darren Collison. He is in his last year of his contract, and is looking for a nice contract next season, giving him the reason to put on his best performance. Collison will also be transitioning to a program that has a great coach and infrastructure to help him step up his game, and keep him long term as the point guard of the future for the Mavericks.
Alan: Jae Crowder. Injuries have opened the door, and I don't see him letting it close again. Just to be clear, I'm not saying he'll average 15-8 or anything, but I do think he'll make a serious push for the All-Rookie team, and any time a 2nd rounder does that you have to be impressed.
Josh: This could be a number of players, depending on expectations. I think Jae Crowder will impress for being a second round pick and Darren Collison will impress by default because he's such a different guard then Dallas fans are used to. But ultimately, I'm going to go with Chris Kaman. Kaman appears to have developed a bad reputation as a lumbering big man with declining skills and can't score efficiently. While it's true, his shooting percentages should be higher, he's still the most capable offensive big man in Mavericks history. After years of trying to get surprise offense from Erick Dampier, Desagana Diop and Brendan Haywood, Kaman is going to really open the eyes of a lot of Mavs fans with his impressive array of low-post moves.
Tim: I mean, come on now. Jae Crowder has exceeded all expectations, simply by showing is good at basketball. Finally, after years of wasting draft picks on players with great skill sets but a shitty ability to actually translate it to the court, the Mavericks flipped the script. Crowder doesn't wow with his measurables or stand out in a specific skill like shooting or finishing, but he knows how to play the game. The Spurs has been successful with this strategy for years, and finally, the Mavericks have a guy who is going to surprise the whole league.
2) Which player is going to be disappointing?
Andy: Probably OJ Mayo and Darren Collison should tie for this. Neither of their faults. They're young guys with a lot of potential, one of whom was supposed to be a perennial all-star, one of whom lit the league on fire early on. But if they were better, they'd have been better. You don't get a star for Ian Mahimni and you don't get one on a two year 9 million deal. They could be solid. But this Dallas offense needs more if it's going to win games.
Tom: Chris Kaman. Since his last All-Star appearance while he was with the Los Angeles Clippers, Kaman's stats have lowered, with injuries being the primary cause of his decline. Kaman biting the injury bug so soon is going to leave him weak, and he may not perform much better than Brendan "I just work here" Haywood.
Alan: Disappointment can vary depending on what your individual expectations are. Those expecting O.J Mayo to be the 18 point per game scorer he was as a rookie this year in Dallas will probably be disappointed. Those expecting Roddy to be a breakout star will probably be disappointed. My growing fear is that people like me that expected(or, perhaps a better word would be "hoped") Chris Kaman to stay healthy might be disappointed. So I'll go with Kaman, but on a health basis, not a production basis.
Josh: This could also go into a variety of directions. I think fans will be upset that the Mavericks couldn't get a little more out of their 24th draft pick (no offense to Cunninghamn, who was just taken too high) and people hate Vince Carter no matter how well he fits in with the roster. Ultimately though, I'm going with O.J. Mayo. He has star-talent and a star-pedigree growing up, yet hasn't come that close at all. He'll be replacing Jason Terry, and even at his older age, Terry is leaps and bounds a better offensive player than Mayo. I think people are hoping Mayo becomes the second-star for Dirk Nowitzki, but it probably won't happen. I think Mayo will have a fine season, but his reputation will make it a disappointing one.
Tim: Last season, Brandan Wright was one of the biggest surprises on the team. After looking like a bust, a guy who was perpetually injured and who would never live up to expectations, he came to Dallas and had one of the more surprising seasons. He's a young guy, so naturally people expect him to take a big step up this year, but unfortunately that isn't going to happen. Don't worry, he's not going to decline, but a monster breakout year just isn't in the cards. With Brand, Dirk and Kaman clearly in front of him, and now both James and Curry looking to squeeze their way into the rotation, he's going to be the odd man out some nights. He'll still be a spark off the bench who can play offense and defense, but don't look for too much more.
Kirk: Roddy. Such promise wasted. Between injuries and an inability to understand the game at a conceptual level, Roddy B. will be cast aside at years end. He's been around basketball for a limited amount of time compared to many professionals, but considering its his job, he should understand the game much better than he does. Toss in his injuries and we have a player who is right there but will never get much better. Roddy is forever the athletic nut who comes into the YMCA gym to play pick up basketball, but who can't call out a screen to save his life.