The preseason is finally over and real basketball is set to begin. While many downplay the value of the preseason, for a team with a substantially new roster, there are plenty of things to evaluate to prepare for the season. And for the Dallas Mavericks, despite all the doom and gloom surrounding much of the coverage of the team, there were plenty of things to like.
1. The team is healthier than any of us expected
Coming into training camp and throughout the preseason we were expecting Wesley Matthews to be out until mid-December at best, Deron Williams to possibly miss the opener and Chandler Parsons to be out who knows how long after that mysterious knee surgery. But that's not the case, as Williams and Matthews played in the final preseason game and are expected to suit up for game one, and it sounds like Chandler Parsons won't be too far behind them.
2. The offense will be exciting
After seeing Rajon Rondo kill the Mavs fun offense last year, the Mavs have the potential to be an offensive juggernaut once again. The spacing on this year's team is ridiculous with Dirk Nowitzki and Wes leading the way, which will create ample driving room for Williams and Parsons. If the team can find a consistent roll man (get well soon, JaVale McGee!), this team will put up points every night, and easily.
3. Dirk is still this team's best offensive weapon
Of course, we haven't had a chance to see Parsons suit up, and Wes and Deron have only played ~16 minutes, but there's no denying Dirk is still this team's best shot creator and maker. He also demands so much attention in the pick-n-roll, which creates ample opportunities for the other Mavs. Carlisle has said he would like to get Dirk's overall minutes down even more than they were last season, and if the rest of the offense can hum along, lower minutes for Dirk would ideally keep him fresh and ensure he's available for key games and situations.
4. John Jenkins is here to stay and could be a useful weapon
Some viewed Jenkins as a roster bubble candidate, but preseason drastically changed that perception. Not only did Jenkins make the Mavs, he led the team in scoring and was fifth overall this preseason. He averaged 19.7 points and hit 48 percent of his shots. Of course, it's unlikely he'll keep up these numbers, but he may be the bench stabilizer the Mavs need.
5. This team might actually have depth on the wings
Speaking of the bench, wing depth is a combination of a few things: good health and surprising play. Along with Jenkins, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, Raymond Felton, and Justin Anderson fill the wing spots. We were expecting this to be a great weakness this year, but there is plenty to like here, and for Rick Carlisle to experiment with. As for the bigs....
6. We have no idea who will back up Dirk and Zaza Pachulia
One thing this preseason didn't answer is who will be backing up the big positions. Dwight Powell is the most likely candidate at the moment, but that's not a certainty. Salah Mejri appears to be making the team. Charlie Villanueva and Jeremy Evans are also in play. While all those guys have played solid stretches to some degree or another, none of them are names that excite you much. Safe to say, JaVale's return from injury can't come soon enough. Despite not seeing it in action, Parsons sliding down to power forward, as Shawn Marion did, when Dirk checks out might be the Mavs' best move.
7. What is defense?
The Mavericks defensive numbers weren't so bad this preseason, but there isn't much to be excited for. Outside of Wes, JaVale (injured), Anderson (who could be the odd man out of the rotation), there aren't many plus defenders on this roster.
8. Deron Williams shows life
He didn't play much in the final preseason game against the Bulls, but in the few minutes he did he looked good. He found Zaza a few times with some nice feeds and his movement generally looked unhindered. There's no denying how much the former All-Star has dropped off over the years, but Williams showed flashes of climbing back up the point guard rank. The Mavericks will need him to be better than recent years if they have any hope of competing in the West.
9. Rick Carlisle will need to work his magic
Carlisle is a top TWO coach in this league (don't even bother mentioning Doc Rivers in this conversation!) and will be greatly tested this season. The fact the league is trending to smaller and faster lineups might play in his favor, as noted above. In particular, the lack of bigs might result in plenty of Anderson and Parsons at power forward lineups. We all know Carlisle likes to experiment with lineups, sometimes to the fans' collective frustration, but he will have plenty to play with this season as usual.
10. Wes Matthews may have saved the Mavs season
Imagine starting the season with the lineup the Mavs opened preseason with -- Jenkins, Zaza, Charlie V, Felton and Anderson, or maybe throw J.J. Barea in that mix -- and, well, that was a very realistic regular season lineup at that time with the injury ridden expected starters.
With Wes defying odds (this is worth repeating) the Mavs will be as close to full strength to start the year than any expected. "Iron Man", in the process, became everything the Mavs need: a leader on and off the court, and greatly fills the voids left behind by Tyson Chandler (heart), Jason Terry (confidence), and DeShawn Stevenson (toughness). Oh, and he looked pretty good against the Chicago Bulls. He moved well guarding Jimmy Butler, showed his post up ability, made strong cuts on both ends of the court, and showed that shooting touch. Wes is back and with him the NBA season. It couldn't come soon enough.