Are you ready for some basketball, friends? Basketball season is finally upon us, and for the first time since May 4, the Dallas Mavericks will playing a meaningful basketball game.
And for the first time since May 4, the Mavericks will play the San Antonio Spurs. Make sure your TV is set to TNT that night. This is our season preview roundtable here at Mavs Moneyball.
This week, Rebecca Lawson (@beccaaftersix), Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace) and Bailey Rogers (@BRogers789) have been kind enough to give their insight on, arguably, the most anticipated season of Mavericks basketball in recent memory. Let's get started.
1. Multiple-part question: Now that we're ready for some real basketball, what were some things you liked or disliked during the preseason? What's something you'll be looking at early on that people aren't thinking about?
Rebecca: The biggest thing I liked and noticed during the preseason is the balance and chemistry that the starting five already seem to have. I'm sure it will be an adjustment to games that count, but that was very encouraging considering Dirk and Monta are the only returning starters. (I suppose there's easy chemistry between Dirk and Tyson as well, which probably helps.) I don't know if there is much I disliked. Dallas will still be a team that has to score a lot to win. They've upgraded their defense, to be sure, but I'm not clear yet how much of an upgrade it is. To that end, I'll be looking early on at that defense, and also at the bench unit. The bench didn't SEEM to have that much drop-off from last season in these preseason games. The difference, however, seems to be that there are more "specialists" and fewer "do it all" guys (a la Vince Carter). I'll be curious to see if that makes much of a difference in how teams approach Dallas and if it's maybe a better approach.
Kirk: I liked how good everyone looked. More or less, all 20 guys looked pretty solid. I don't like that the front office is going to have to cut a few guys who may be better than other guys on contract. Early on, I'll be paying the most attention to how Tyson Chandler is moving on defense. In general, folks are fairly concerned about his health but that's just one part of the Tyson equation. The other part is whether or not he's still good at basketball.
Bailey: I'm interested to see how Rick Carlisle uses the bench. I feel like the preseason featured much more Mekel and Crowder than the season will ever see. At least I hope so. Also, will Greg Smith be less foul prone? Because I'd like to see him get some minutes this season.
2. What's going to be the biggest storyline that will dictate how this season goes for Dallas?
Will Chandler Parsons carry the Mavs deep into the playoffs? Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
Kirk: The offense should click just fine and the front court defense will be fine, but the biggest issue has to be the back court defense. The guard rotation is talented, but Monta, Jameer, and Devin can't keep up with the top tier guards out West. Perhaps Jae Crowder works his way into the shooting guard rotation, but if not, Dallas will continue it's recent trend of giving up big leads.
Bailey: Chandler Parsons. Will he live up to the hype? However, contrary to popular opinion, it isn't his offensive contributions that will make the season for the Mavs. Can he live up to his defensive potential?
Rebecca: As Chandler Parsons goes, so goes this season. All due respect to Tyson Chandler -- and the defense will be better with him -- but Parsons is the offseason move that gives the offense the firepower it needs to take it to the next level. We saw a pretty balanced scoring attack from Dirk, Monta and Parsons in the preseason when they were in a game together, but now Dallas has a piece alongside Dirk and Monta so that if one goes down for any significant period of time, it's perhaps not the end of Dallas' playoff hopes in the wild, wild Western Conference. And if Parsons can take that next step towards being the first option he claims he can? Ohhhh boy.
3. If the opportunity presents itself, somehow, do the Mavs make a trade at the deadline? And if so, for who?
Bailey: Of course they do! That is Cuban and Donnie's MO. I have no idea what happens, but if I had to guess, Monta gets traded to make room for a more traditional SG.
Rebecca: Absent injury, I don't think so. My sense is that they like the mix of guys they have, and if that chemistry we seemed to see in the preseason continues to work well and build towards the ultimate goal of just mayyybe getting Dirk another ring, no need to mess with it.
Kirk: It's too early to think that way. I'll need at least 20 games before any trade talk makes any sense. That said, with such a deep roster, the Mavericks will probably get plenty of offers about it's rotation guys. I think Aminu is going to be a target for many teams. Of course, the Mavericks signed him, I expect them to hold on to and foster his talent.
4. Vegas has the Mavs' win total at 49.5. Over or under, and why?
Tyson Chandler would definitely like to know why. Jerome Miron - USA TODAY Sports
Rebecca: Over. They had 49 last season and this roster is improved. The West will not be any more easy than it was last year, and every game will matter yet again. Ugh and there are 82 of them I'm already tired.
Kirk: Over and I think by at least four to five games. I know the West is pretty stacked but I can't understand how this team is somehow penciled to reach last years win total. I know a lot depends on the Maverick roster health, but if things go moderately according to plan, 52 to 56 wins should be within reach. But I have no idea how oddsmakers come up with those totals.
Bailey: Mavs finish over. Because I think Carlisle and Parsons will produce a better defense than anyone expects from either.
5. Where do the Mavs finish in the Southwest Division?
Kirk: This is so hard, because the Southwest is so brutal. Dallas could win the division, they could also finish fourth. There's even an outside shot that all five division teams make the playoffs (unlikely, I know). The optimist in me thinks the Mavericks finish second, getting a leg up on the Rockets and the Grizzlies. The Spurs are too damn good to just fall off and their team is built to survive the regular season, while also kicking the crap out of the division.
Bailey: I think Mavs finish 2nd in the Southwest, behind the Spurs.
Rebecca: Second, because you know, the Spurs exist. I think Houston took a step back this season, and the Grizzlies could still give Dallas a run again. But I'll take the Mavs' roster improvements over Memphis'.
6. What will the Mavs' record be at the end of the year, and how far will they go in the playoffs?
Bailey: I don't want to speculate too much, but I think the Mavs break 50 wins and make at least the conference finals. I'm probably drinking the kool-aid, but I really like this year's team. Haven't felt this excited since 2010-11.
Rebecca: Again with the caveat of no significant injuries, 54-28 and they get at least past the first round, mayyyyybe to the WCF depending on the match-ups. I mean, they almost beat the Spurs with that ragtag bunch this past season. So i this team is as advertised -- as good as it seems to be -- I think it can run with anyone.
Kirk: With the shiny optimism I'm feeling right now, I say the Mavs finish 55-27, good enough for the 4th seed. They'll survive a tough round one then take the Thunder, Clippers, or Spurs in to seven games in round two. Do they win once they get there? I don't even want to predict that far ahead.