Editor's note: this preview is part of a SB Nation-wide series. We'll have plenty of additional preview material, including in-depth player and team analysis, which started this morning and will continue up to the first game of the season.
Last Year's Record:
Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis, Rajon Rondo (is he really a "key loss" though? Makes you think.)
Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams
What significant moves were made during the offseason?
So did you hear about how the Mavericks tried to sign DeAndre Jordan and did for like four days and then he changed his mind because of emojis and kidnapping or something like that? Oh, you DIDN'T hear? Well, too bad. I don't want to talk about it anymore.
In all seriousness, the Mavericks rebounded about as nicely as they possibly could from DeAndreGate, considering Tyson Chandler wasn't going to wait around to again be a bridesmaid, Rondo had long since been kicked off the island and they weren't planning to bring back Monta Ellis.
Wesley Matthews, last with the Portland Trail Blazers, was signed to give the Mavericks what they hope is an uptick from Monta Ellis. If he's healthy, he presumably upgrades the Mavericks' 3-point shooting and helps to space the floor.
After the Great Rajon Rondo Experiment, the Mavs were once again left with a pretty significant hole at point guard. Because apparently time travel exists and it's the 2012 offseason again, the Mavs were able to snag Deron Williams after he was bought out by the Nets. D-Will has not been the player he was in 2012 of late, but if he can regain some of his Utah magic, it could be just the edge the Mavs need to compete in the Wild Wild West.
What are the team's biggest strengths?
The hard part about this question is that it depends on so many things. (More on that later.) But in theory, shooting should be the team's biggest strength, and in particular, 3-point shooting. The Mavs' leader in 3-point percentage last year was Richard Jefferson, which is....well, weird. Dirk definitely had an inconsistent season on his usual *fire emoji* 3-point shot. With the addition of Wes Matthews, the Mavs hope to both replace Monta Ellis' offense, and give Dirk some help from behind that arc. Rookie Justin Anderson could also be a wild card in the shooting mix if he gets playing time.
The fast break offense could be another little strength if a few things come together right. Deron Williams is historically a good shooter, passer, and can get by his guy (in theory). So with that triple threat, and with Dirk trailing and Wes and Parsons spacing the floor, that could give Rick Carlisle another creative way to get points on the board. Another thing they might experiment more with are small lineups with Dirk at the 5, which had some success last year, right up to some lineups in the playoffs series against Houston.
All of this, of course, assumes some level of health - otherwise, we'll need Anderson and J.J. Barea to hold down the fort for a bit. And that is a scary thought.
What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
So, Tyson Chandler had all the rebounds last year and he's been replaced with.....OH GOD MY EYES IS THAT ROSTER CORRECT?
Unlike biggest strengths, it's hard to see how this team's biggest weaknesses aren't going to be anything related to defense and, in particular, rebounding. Tyson Chandler had to put it all on the floor every night last season to make the defense even remotely serviceable, and he's now replaced by a rotation of Zaza Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert, and maybe JaVale McGee. Justin Anderson has said he wants to model his game after the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, but rookies are going to take time to develop and even if he can get there, he won't be ready on day one. Unfortunately for him, he might need to learn very quickly if he's the opening night starter.
Basically: you're going to be able to score on the Mavs. The question from night to night will be whether they can score more than you.
What are the goals for this team?
Make the playoffs, pure and simple, and anything after that is gravy. Despite Mark Cuban's comments that the team would have considered tanking if they hadn't been able to field a competitive roster, this Mavs team does have enough pieces to compete...IF things fall just right. And there are a lot of "Ifs"
If Matthews can be most of the player he was before his injury. If Parsons comes back from injury well. If Parsons can take that next step. If Dirk can give us just a few more "DIIIRRRRRK" games than he did last year. If Deron Williams regains some form. If this patchwork center rotation can hold it together. To be completely honest, there is a small part of me that is really optimistic that if all these "ifs" come together -- the Mavericks could be a scary good team. They have all the pieces.
So, I, for one, hope that the Mavs can win some of those "ifs". Not just for Mavericks fans, but simply for the pleasure of watching Dirk go out on a high note. If ever a future Hall of Famer deserved that, it's the Tall Baller from the G.
Will Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews be ready to start the season?
Though Parsons and Wes are both expected to miss at least the start of training camp, both have said they expect to be ready for the start of the season.
Whether that's true, we can't really say with certainty despite hearing it from the players themselves. The Mavericks have never publicly said what type of surgery Parsons had in the offseason, though he was cleared to start fully running recently. Wes Matthews' Achilles injury is another story. Though he was among the best players for the Blazers last season, this injury is among the most difficult to recover from. And when he does come back, he probably won't be as explosive as he used to be.
The Mavericks are betting on their training staff, which is among the best in the NBA, so there are very few better hands both guys could be in to be game-ready as soon as possible. If they aren't ready, Rick Carlisle is going to have to invoke some of his typical wizardry with a strange cast of characters that could include the aforementioned Anderson and Barea as starters, with Devin Harris, John Jenkins and Jeremy Evans coming off the bench.
What Taylor Swift song best describes the 2015-16 Mavericks?
Our motto at Mavs Moneyball is simple: "What Would Dirk (and Taylor Swift) Do?" With that in mind, I went searching for our theme song for the year. It would be too easy to make it "Better Than Revenge" or "All You Had to Do Was Stay" or "The Story of Us" and lament about what could have been with DeAndre or Tyson, but I want to be optimistic. I want to think about Dirk.
We've reached a stage where every season could be Dirk's last season. He's an injury or a season of missing the playoffs away from declining his player option and hanging it up for good. He had some games that reminded you of his age last season, more so than we are used to seeing. But he still had some really magical games, including a Game 4 against Houston in the playoffs, the only game the Mavs would win in that series.
In the words of Taylor Swift's "State of Grace":
This is a state of grace
This is a worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game, unless you play it good and right
These are the hands of fate
You're my Achilles heel
This is the golden age of something good and right and real
And I never (never) saw you coming
And I'll never (never) be the same.
None of us know for sure how much longer Dirk might play. So I'll watch every shot, treasure every moment, and no matter what happens this season, I'll remember the joy of having a once-in-a-generation player play for my favorite team.