The Dallas Mavericks somehow won 42 games last season and even made the playoffs after many expected them to occupy the bottom of the standings. This season offers plenty of more skepticism to the team, which could help explain why ESPN projects the team winning just 34 games. While some of it may be rightfully placed, there is plenty to get excited about for this upcoming season.
Harrison Barnes WILL help
The opinions on the Chandler Parsons-Harrison Barnes tradeoff vary from person to person, and play a large part in why ESPN believes the Mavs will be eight games worse this season. And while I still strongly believe that the this team's peak is greater with a healthy Parsons, there should be no doubt that Barnes will help this team to a certain, and hopefully significant extent.
First, let's look at the fact that he should be on the court more, which is pretty important. Barnes has missed just 21 games during his four-year career, with 16 of those coming last season. In comparison, Parsons missed 21 games alone last season and was fully healthy for maybe 40 of those games.
While we can't predict injuries, 82 games of Barnes is better than 40 games of a healthy Parsons. And whether or not you believe Barnes is better or worse than Parsons, he will help this team when he is on the court.
Thanks Zaza, but Bogut is a BIG upgrade
Zaza Pachulia was such a pleasant and season-saving surprise last season for the Mavs. And while it was hard to root against his toughness and effort (which explains the national media's love of his fit with the Golden State Warriors), Pachulia was such a huge liability on both ends of the court and was almost unplayable for Dallas after the All-Star break.
Being somewhat forgotten in the offseason frenzy is the addition of Andrew Bogut. Bogut gives the Mavs two elements they drastically missed with the loss of Tyson Chandler: rim protection and a lob threat. His screen setting on and off the ball and passing will give Rick Carlisle a new tool and look to throw out on offense.
Imagine Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and others coming of Bogut picks for open looks. And no longer are the days of Pachulia under the basket, wide open, pump faking three times just to allow the defender to recover and force a miss.
Oh, and let's not forget this about the impact and value of Bogut: the Warriors were up 3-1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers before he got injured.
Seth, Simba, and the Mavs' bench
I might be in the minority here, but I think this is the Mavs' best bench unit since Vince Carter and Brandan Wright. The Mavs added Seth Curry and Quincy Acy to replace Raymond Felton and David Lee. Those two along with Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell, and Salah Mejri should improve from their 2015-2016 seasons.
Curry will most likely have to compete with J.J. Barea and Devin Harris for minutes, but his shooting and playmaking will be vital to this team's success. This will also be the first time in his career where he will have security, and is coming off a strong season (shooting 45 percent from three), we should see a more confident and comfortable Curry.
Along with Curry, Anderson should continue to improve off his late season performance and see an expanded role. Anderson wowed us with his athleticism, energy, defense, and passion, and now with a year under his belt, adding those qualities to improved skills and comfort with Carlisle's system and demands, Simba could roar loud this season.
Acy, Powell and Mejri will provide a nice competition for minutes behind Nowitzki and Bogut. All three offer a little something different, so Carlisle can pick and choose who to play depending on matchups and who's trending in the right direction.
The Mavs bench is younger and far more athletic than it's ever been, which is a great change of pace from the far older starting unit. The bench should be a better shooting, defending and rebounding unit than the one we saw last year.
Dirk, Carlisle and continuity
Finally, let's not forget about Nowitzki and Carlisle. Nowitzki, 38, came off another impressive season as he led the team in scoring yet again. Nowitzki can't play huge minutes anymore and the team can't count on him for thirty and forty point outbursts, but there's no denying that he still plays a vital role. Teams need to game plan for him and he still has that gravitational effect on team's defenses.
As crazy as Carlisle might drive some of us with his preference of players and subbing patterns, he always finds a way to get the most out of his teams. And that's something that shouldn't be overlooked, and which is why we should show patience with Barnes.
This is also the first time, in what seems ages, the Mavs will bring back the majority of their roster. Barnes, Bogut, Curry, and Acy are the exceptions, but should fit in somewhat smoothly. Deron Williams and Matthews will the be the Mavs opening day backcourt for the second straight season, which hasn't happened since Harris and Jason Terry started the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons. This is the first time since the 2010-13 (Jason Kidd and Terry) seasons that the Mavs will bring back their top two guards.
There is also a hope that Matthews, with a season under his belt after Achilles surgery, should be healthier and stronger. He, along with Williams, should compete on defense and will be able to get some good-to-great looks in Carlisle's offense.
Obviously moving from Parsons to Barnes changes the dynamics of the offense. But with the Mavs bringing back many familiar faces and adding a rim threat in Bogut, they could easily be a fun and consistent offensive unit once again to go along with an improved defense.
Could the ESPN predictions be right?
Could ESPN be right about the Mavs being worse? Yes, but that might play more into the hands of the rest of the league than the Mavs letting Parsons walk for Barnes.
Last season the Mavs, along with a few other teams, benefited from a beat up Western Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, and even the Mavs saw significant injuries all season long. It seemed that a West team had a player go down every week.
If the Grizzlies and Jazz are healthy all season, they could make a strong run for 50 wins. The Minnesota Timberwolves are also poised to make a strong leap with Karl-Anthony Towns leading the pack. You can even make a strong case that the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans will have improved seasons.
Every game between West teams might be a battle all season long.
More important than a strong West, the biggest threat to the Mavs topping last season will be Nowitzki's age and health. If this is the season Father Time catches the Big German, Dallas could be in for a tough season, especially if Barnes can't expand his game and play more of a lead role.
Whether or not you or any other national media outlet believes in the Dallas Mavericks, let's not forget this: how many times has this team been in this situation just for Dirk and Carlisle to find a way to get this team to exceed expectations?