Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Mavs Moneyball, where we put our brains together and talk all things Mavs.
Every Sunday, a few of our writers will give their analysis and two cents on a certain theme going on in Dallas. This week's topic is the Mavs' crazy offseason and officially closing the book on one of the more successful summers in franchise history.
Craig Berlin, Jamie Plunkett and Hal Brown are our first participants, and a big thanks to them for participating. Without further delay, let's get to it.
1) Now that everything looks set (for now), what are the overall thoughts on the new additions this year?
Craig: Well it’s impossible not to be excited about Tyson coming back. His fit with the team as far as skills, personality top-to-bottom was and is simply great and he’s a joy to have. ‘nuff said.
My excitement has been tempered with both an emotional and analytical attachment to three of my favorite players who are now gone: Trix, Vince and Calderon and to a lesser extent, DeJuan Blair. If he could ever get to play his natural position I think he could be tremendous … like a supercharged Jason Maxiell. But in addition to everything on paper the first three brought to the table and the chemistry, Trix was also the last remaining guy from the championship team besides Dirk. There were also some things such as the great court chemistry Vince and Brandan Wright have.
Otherwise, I was surprised the team came out as well as they did and you can’t help but see great potential. Chandler Parsons is an up-and-coming talent whose offense is already great and appears to be very eager to learn more from Dirk and to soak up whatever defensive skills he can. The trio of Dirk, Monta and Parsons will be the closest thing the Mavs have had to a big three since the Nash/Finley days and they will be very hard to defend.
I was very concerned losing Calderon with how his court savvy and shooting would be replaced. I’ve always been a fan of Devin Harris but he’s had his issues with consistency and injuries, so I’m very glad to have some other options, particularly a savvy veteran such as Jameer Nelson, who has played with a defensive-minded big man and is a good decision maker and solid shooter. I don’t think Dallas will need all three point guards and while they’re talking about playing all of them in both guard positions, they’re going to need some bigger shooting guards for significant minutes.
I’m actually curious to see how Richard Jefferson performs in a bench role for a good team. He had a good year last year as a starter on a bad team, so hopefully he’ll have some incentive and do a decent job filling Vince’s shoes. I am very excited about Greg Smith and that’s why I wanted to write about him. A big part of the championship season was also having a solid backup for Tyson and Smith provides that. In addition, he is also untapped but already better built for banging around the low block, which perhaps might give Brandan Wright an opportunity to play more at the 4.
Carlisle has done some things that perplexed me with the last couple of years of the revolving door but in the end, the teams always got better and the Spurs series was the pinnacle of that. I trust he will work his magic on this interesting group as well.
Hal: I think, like everyone, that I'm fairly optimistic that the Mavericks have upgraded their roster generally. I think as long as Devin Harris is getting a plurality of the point guard minutes and Tyson Chandler can stay healthy, then Dallas has pretty clearly upgraded their starting lineup at every position that has swapped out in some fashion.
What I remain curious about for next season -- and I've said this numerous times and will probably say it a few more -- is how much better Dallas will actually be. If Jameer Nelson is running the point for 20 or more minutes per game and if Chandler Parsons plays defense like he did last season, I'm not actually all that convinced that the Mavs upgraded their defense that much.
Similarly, the Mavericks upgraded their offense in terms of pure weaponry, and they'll be more flexible and variable on that end next year, but without the strategic floor spacing of Jose Calderon, will Monta be quite as effective? Will Chandler Parsons have the necessary room to operate ideally as a 3rd ball handler? Will teams be able to crowd Dirk? The offense will certainly be elite again, but will it be better? I don't actually know.
I think most of my optimism is really hinged on Tyson Chandler. He's such an absurd upgrade over Sam Dalembert it's unreal, and for all the questions about whether or not Parsons can replace Marion's defense (which, in fairness, Aminu and Crowder do still exist, too) or whether Jameer can replace Jose's shooting, Tyson is such a huge upgrade on both ends that I think he's the deciding factor that tips this squad into the category of "definitely improved." Beyond that, I'm just waiting to see. Most questions won't be answered until the season starts anyway.
Jamie: Very solid. The most important thing this team did in the offseason was work to get better on defense. Tyson helps with that, as do Aminu and Smith. Not to mention, the scoring didn't take a huge hit, although replacing Vince and Calderon will need to be spread out among multiple guys. Parsons, Nelson and Jefferson will all help make sure the offense doesn't dip too much, and when this team hits a rhythm it should be fun to watch them move the ball. I'm positive this team got better in the offseason, and I really think this team has the potential to be a 50-55 win team. It all depends on how quickly they gel. From what Tyson was saying at the press conference earlier this week, it sounds like they're all off to a good start.
2) Of these new faces on the roster, who's the one that we're not really talking about that we should? Parsons and Tyson are going to get the attention, but who are you guys excited about that no one else is thinking of?
Jamie: Jameer Nelson is the guy people should get to know, and I think fans will really like him. I've been following him for quite a few years now, and was hoping the Mavericks would take a shot at signing him back in 2012, when he wound up re-signing with Orlando for 3-years, $25.2 million. Nelson has averaged 12.6 points and 5.4 assists for his career, and should thrive in a system in Dallas that requires him to do less and be efficient. We should see the Dirk Effect take effect pretty quickly with Nelson. He's no Calderon, but he's absolutely capable of getting the ball in the hands of scorers, and with plenty of weapons around him, we could very well see a spike in his assist numbers.
Hal: Well, I'll start by saying that I don't know that Tyson is getting enough attention. I'm of the firm belief that he is far and away the biggest acquisition this offseason. I also think that Greg Smith is probably the only reasonable answer here, to go along with Craig, since I think he'll be really good in real minutes this season, and most fans don't know who he is. But, to answer in a way that isn't counter to the question or piggy backing on someone else: I've seen very little talk on Richard Jefferson, and I think he has a real role on this team. We laugh at him, because he was on a terrible contract for good teams with no minutes for the last few seasons, but he was quietly very good for the Jazz last season. Normally I would make fun of any team carving out a real niche for RJeff, but Dallas is pretty desperate for shooting in spurts and he brings that in spades. That, alone, has some serious value.
Craig: Again, Greg Smith. I wish someone had asked him a question at the press conference. I think he has the potential to be the unexpected difference maker. He sort of reminds me of a freight train to Brandan Wright’s helicopter or taller more mobile DeJuan Blair and a better defender. He will be particularly important if TC has any injury issues, which history suggests is a possibility. I also think Richard Jefferson could come up big if used properly, although his per 36 numbers are way down from his better days.
3) Did Dallas do enough this offseason to better themselves defensively? Adding Tyson was a major factor, but what about the other positions? And will it be enough to put Dallas in that conversation to make a deep run in June?
Replacing Vince and 'Trix
The Mavericks have a lot of new and unknown talent on this year's team, but can it replace two of the most important players of the past several years?
Hal: I genuinely don't know. I don't think their defense is improved enough to position themselves for a really deep run (and I am prepared for the hate that statement will cause). I just don't see where the improvement is big enough to make the leap into a top 10 defensive team, and that's what's required. Beyond that, I really can't say.
Jamie: Yes. Tyson is four years older, and hasn't been healthy, but the fact of the matter is he makes the Mavs better defensively, and he's an incredible motivator and floor general when the Mavs are on defense. If Greg Smith can step up and help control Tyson's minutes, this team will be better around the rim and on the glass, no question. I'm not sure how much Al Farouq Aminu will play, but when he does, he'll be the best perimeter defender on the floor. Not to mention, a big guy who can defend takes a lot of stress of perimeter guys, and should help Monta and Devin Harris tremendously. As far as a deep run, I'm not sure. I'd like to say yes, but I need to see Tyson stay healthy, and I need to see improved rotation on the defensive end of the court before I'll make a call like that.
Craig: Parsons is competent and improving. Aminu and Smith are major upgrades, partially because Marion is showing signs of age. Vince’s D and court sense will be missed and Crowder really needs to step up in a visible way. Jameer is an upgrade over Calderon but not a big one (pun inevitable) so that’s still an area of concern but overall they will be much better … if that’s "enough" is hard to say.
4) Will Chandler Parsons be an All-Star in Dallas?
Craig: It’s very likely although possibly not this year. He has two major scorers already in the rotation in Dirk and Monta but with possibly less scoring from the bench. It may be as Dirk’s role wanes that Parsons becomes the more central figure but regardless, he’s young, hungry and wants to learn so my guess is yes, eventually.
Hal: I can't imagine Parsons being an All-Star in Dallas until Dirk has retired, and I'm not ready to face a reality in which Dirk is not still playing basketball in Dallas. So I'll just say, "not in the next two years."
Jamie: I'd like to think so, but not this year. Eventually, he will be.
You can find these three on Twitter. Jamie (@TheDSportsRant), Hal (@HalBrownNBA) and Craig (@AustinMFFL). Thanks again, guys.