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MMB Roundtable: Expectations for the NBA season, part 1

With the new season on the verge of starting for the Mavericks, our writers pitched in on a roundtable to discuss the expectations for the coming season. Parts 2-4 will be out between now and the weekend.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

1) Which player is going to outperform expectations?

Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace): Dirk Nowitzi - the answer to this question depends upon who you ask, but if you ask a non-Dallas pundit, most seem to think that Dirk's going to continue declining. It's odd, because his game is based on his shooting touch, his basketball IQ and his height, and those things are just going to disappear. By the end of last season he had rounded into form despite having a host of guards who couldn't/wouldn't pass him the ball. Mark Cuban has talked about Dirk being an MVP candidate at age 35. If Dallas is somehow able to win 45+ games in a loaded Western Conference he has to be in that conversation.

Rebecca (@beccaaftersix): Monta Ellis. We saw in at least a couple of preseason games how well he and Dirk run the pick and roll, and have seen him look to pass even in the final preseason game after saying he was "passing too much." The question has been about his play when Calderon came back, and I think Carlisle figures this out earlier rather than later, and puts Ellis in his place if Ellis can't do it himself. Hopefully "Monta Basketball" ends up being something that doesn't strike fear into our hearts and is instead a nice surprise.

Ian (@SmitheeMMB): The question presumes there is some kind of consensus on what expectations are. Devin Harris is kind of a forgotten man at the moment, but if he's healthy(and that may be a decent-sized "if"), I wonder if he won't prove to be a key piece of the puzzle here. If his defensive metrics from last year weren't a fluke, then I will go on record as saying I think he's a better fit with Jose Calderon in the starting lineup than Monta Ellis. Not better in a vacuum, but better in terms of how his skillset balances against those of the other four projected starters, and with Calderon in particular. He can defend either position, pass, drive to the hoop at a near-Monta level, and he won't be a ballstopper.

Andrew (@andytobo): Jose Calderon. I have never in my life heard so many people rationalize away such great strengths. You get the impression that if anybody else was content to play the game as boringly as Jose does, they could just fall into 7-9 assists and less than 2 TOs. You literally have a guy here whose passing stats are nearly as good as Chris Paul's, and who was the number one three-point shooter in the NBA last season and people are like..yeah, Jose...I mean, he's no....Andre Miller....It does not make sense, y'all.

Josh (@Boweman55): So many options for this question. Everyone seems to be counting out Dirk and general NBA fans seem to think Monta Ellis' volume shot-taking = bad passer. I'm going to go way off the beaten path however with Samuel Dalembert. Yes, the one that some of my colleagues think will underperform his expectations. My reasoning probably has to do with my already low expectations set for Dalembert, who seems to put up great traditional numbers (points, blocks, rebounds) but fails to really transform a team on either end of the court. But compared to Chris Kaman and the Mavs center rotation last season, Dalembert will look fantastic. He's surprising still athletic and pretty mobile, something that was missing from the Kaman + Brand duo last season. He's big, long and can move his feet when he's in shape (ZING) and can definitely alter shots at the rim. He's a capable finisher on offense and can make his free throws when teams hack him under the rim. He's not going to amaze and he's not an All-Star, but the Mavs just need SOME consistent presence at the rim and Dalembert can provide that, providing he can stay on the court for 30 minutes a night. That's a big "if" and probably while some of the other writers think he'll underperform. Color my optimistic that Dalembert stays on the court, puts up something like a 9-points, 9-rebounds line and something around a a 17-19 PER.

Doyle (@TheKobeBeef): Monta Ellis came to Dallas with a lot of baggage so to speak. He has been attacked over his propensity to shoot and shoot often. Statistics have suggested that many of these shots are low percentage looks and his field goal percentage have not been spectacular either. Then there is his "have it all" mentality that has come across as boastful. All of these factors have colluded lower expectations in Ellis, if not tarnish his image outright.

However, Ellis has the skills to contribute and help the Mavericks. He played well in preseason and was more than capable in dishing dimes, despite thinking that it was not the best way to use him. He can also get to the rim, something that a Mavs guard has not been able to do for ages. It will take time, but Ellis could prove to be a more than capable partner with Dirk in the pick-and-roll.

2) Which player is going to underperform expectations?

Kirk: Jose Calderon - it's frustrating, because I actually think Calderon has a good season, but the fact that he signed a four year contract worth nearly $30 million is going loom large over his season. Though I like what he brings Dallas in terms of stability and excellent shooting, the fact is he's probably not a top 20 player at his position. As the rules have changed the last five years, point guard becomes more and more important, and Calderon may well be a relic of a bygone era.

Rebecca: I'm going to say something that seems wrong, but bear with me: Brandan Wright. I think we were all happy that Wright wanted to stay with the Mavs and that the Mavs wanted him to stay. I also think that he has missed most of the preseason and that last season Carlisle showed little patience with players who don't perform well (other than Crowder, for reasons that remain a mystery). How Wright fits into a team that has had a whole preseason together might be a thing, at least for a while. I hope I'm wrong about this, because I adore Brandan Wright. But his importance has been hyped a lot and anything less than an amazing season is going to seem disappointing.

Ian: History says this one is easy: Samuel Dalembert. While Tyson Chandler is the emphatic exception to the rule, Dallas has been the place established veteran centers have come to die -- or, at least, underperform. LaFrentz, Dampier, Haywood, Kaman. Now, relative to his raw numbers last year, Dalembert might be about the same, but I think in terms of what the franchise is hoping for from Dalembert(the defensive ace they like to have to take pressure off Dirk), we may be in for a rude awakening. Sammy can block shots and board, but it's the fundamental stuff where he sometimes leaves you scratching your head. I don't think the man has met a shot-fake he didn't go for, and despite his reputation as a defender, Milwaukee allowed five points per 100 possessions fewer with him off the court last year. He's also prone to ball-fumbling and ill-advised shot-taking. At 32 and 12 years removed from being drafted, Dalembert has already been called out for his conditioning. He seems like a nice guy, so I hope I'm wrong, but I fear as with too many centers, Dallas is a year or three late to the party on him.

Andrew: Samuel Dalembert. Big Sam, unfortunately, is in the position where they need him to be good so badly and he has been so basically competent that it feels like he MUST be fine. Nope, unfortunately. Sometimes you just have a yawning chasm of center despair. What kin ye do.

Josh: Before the preseason started, I was very confident that Monta Ellis was going to shatter all expectations the NBA world had on him. Then the preseason, happened and those first handful of Jose Calderon-less games happened and Ellis looked MARVELOUS. He displayed the same vision in the passing game that he's always had, except he was surrounded with capable finishers like Dirk and Brandan Wright. What was even more surprising was the efficiency in his shot-making -- Ellis was draining over 50 percent of his looks and not settling for threes or long twos, unless they came within the flow of a Dirk pick and roll. I feel like that small sampling of preseason games shot the Ellis' expectations through the roof and as we saw with the return of Calderon, Ellis will still has a ways to go with fitting in with the Mavs. I still think he'll be good and turn around his inefficient ways, but maybe not to the degree some might be expecting after watching Ellis in the preseason.

Doyle: The bench. Okay, so the bench is technically an entity made up of players but just go with it. Last season, Dallas had the highest scoring bench in the league. This year the results may be very different. Vince Carter is currently the only reliable player on the bench with Devin Harris and Brandan Wright out with injury.

Shane Larkin is also injured and there is no timetable for his return. Therefore, it is unknown whether he will contribute to the team. The rest of the bench has been underwhelming during the preseason. Gal Mekel has proven that he has a floated and the ability to look completely lost. Wayne Ellington can hit shots sometimes. Jae Crowder, despite having my support, is still a considerable work in progress. And the centers just cannot seem to establish a role in Carlisle's rotation.

There isn't much going for the bench. This could change when everyone gets healthy, until then it is going to be rough.

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