Editor's Note - This preview is part of SB Nation's annual NBA preview. For a more extensive Mavs Moneyball look at the 2014-15 Dallas Mavericks, check out Hal Brown's article here.
Last Year's Record: 49-33
Key Losses: Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert
Key Additions: Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, Jameer Nelson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Richard Jefferson
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The Mavs' first off-season move was one of the biggest, making a trade to bring back Tyson Chandler, the fan-favorite defensive anchor of the 2011 championship team. The team followed this up with two other spectacular home runs. Dallas stole the talented young restricted free agent Chandler Parsons from the increasingly more hated division rival Houston Rockets (and did so with style and suspense--driving all of us insane for that 72-hour window). Dirk Nowitzki also re-signed for an absurdly team-friendly 3 years, $25 million, making the exorbitant contract used to lure Parsons from Houston much more palatable. The Mavs then re-signed Devin Harris and brought on Jameer Nelson to solidify the point guard position and filled out the rest of the bench with former starters and talented youngsters.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Offense and coaching. The Mavs were one of the best offenses in the NBA last season, and despite losing one of the key cogs to that offense (Jose Calderon), the Mavs have reloaded extremely well. This team has so many offensive weapons who can attack defenses in so many different ways. Dirk Nowitzki. Monta Ellis. Chandler Parsons. Devin Harris. Brandan Wright. Tyson Chandler. I could go on and on, but my point is that it's almost unfair how good this offense might be.
When the Mavs took the eventual champion Spurs to 7 games in the first round last year, it proved to everyone what most of us in Dallas already knew: Rick Carlisle is a damn good coach. Probably second only to Pop. If there's anyone who can take all the weapons the Mavs have accumulated this off-season and figure out how to mesh them together perfectly, it is Carlisle.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Defense, probably. Other than in the first round against the Spurs, the 2013-14 Mavs were a terrible defensive team. Terrible might be putting it nicely. But the Mavs certainly have the potential to be better this season. Tyson Chandler is big, if he can stay healthy. Parsons has the ability to provide the same defensive presence as Shawn Marion has in the past, but Parsons has not been great at that end since his rookie year. However, the bench has some really quality defensive pieces, between Aminu, Crowder, Harris, and maybe also Greg Smith. But until Dallas proves otherwise, we'll go ahead and assume defense could be an issue.
Another potential issue is health. Tyson Chandler's health in particular. If he goes down for any significant period of time, that will really hurt this team. The Mavs NEED Chandler, both for his defense and his gritty leadership, arguably more than any other player on the roster. The onus is the Mavs training staff to keep Tyson in peak condition, and Rick Carlisle needs to do his best to manage Tyson and Dirk's minutes this season,
4. What are the goals for this team?
Make it to the second round of the playoffs. At minimum. On paper, this team is better than last year, so we should expect better results than last year. Unfortunately, every good team in the West maintained or improved their roster (except Houston), so nothing is guaranteed. Other goals include figuring out whether Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons are a good enough core to build into the post-Dirk era, moving Dirk a couple spots higher on the all-time scoring list while playing him less than 30 minutes a night, and generally being just a ton of fun to watch.
5. Can the Mavs win the West?
Possibly. There's no way in hell I'm going to say that it is probable that the Mavs make the NBA Finals this season, but unlike the past three seasons, I am willing to entertain the possibility. The Spurs have to be the favorites, and the Thunder and Clippers are right behind them, followed by about eight other teams out West that should all be legitimate playoff teams if not for the NBA's terrible conference setup. So even though the Mavs have more talent for Rick Carlisle to work with than any year since the championship season, it is a very steep uphill climb.
For the first time in a long time, the Mavs are built to compete with anyone. And I, for one, cannot wait for this season to start.