After winning the title in 2011, the Mavericks let centre Tyson Chandler leave instead of signing him to a new deal, in hops of saving cap money for a big name free agent this off-season.
With Chandler's defensive presence gone, Dallas wasn't the same team and barely made the playoffs as the seventh seed. Unable to muster the magic they captured the year prior, the Mavericks were promptly swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
After missing out on the big name free agents, Dallas retooled their roster with veterans like Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo and will now try to make another run towards a title.
Don't Doubt Dirk - Nowitzki's numbers may have dropped slightly last season, but there's no reason to second guess his ability when healthy. Nowitzki is one of the most efficient scorers in the entire NBA and when he returns from surgery he will pick up where he left off. With a better surrounding cast, Nowitzki will be ready for another post-season run.
Take a Knee
Dirk Nowitzki's troublesome knee is a major concern for the Mavericks.
Going Deep - The Mavericks are one of the deepest teams in the NBA this season and that will be needed right out of the gates with Nowitzki sidelined. Nowitzki, Brand, Mayo, Kaman, Shawn Marion, Darren Collison, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brandan Wright and Rodrigue Beaubois give the team a legitimate 10-man rotation. While it remains to be seen who will run their second unit, the Mavericks should be able to win the war of attrition as the season goes on.
Point Break - Acquiring Collison to man the point was an excellent trade that took advantage of a Pacers club that simply needed to jettison one of their ball carriers. with Jason Terry now in Boston and Jason Kidd in New York, Collison will be called on to lead the offence.
Missing Dirk - As great as Nowitzki is, the time spent without him in the lineup will be an equally great loss for Dallas. Nowitzki had arthroscopic knee surgery and won't resume activity on-court until late November at the earliest and won't return to action until well after that. With Nowitzki out of the lineup Mayo and Brand will be asked to fill the void offensively.
Get ready for the season with the latest from TSN.ca.
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Weird Science - The Mavericks will have to try to find chemsitry with their star out of the lineup initially. Once he returns, it will be another learning process as Nowitzki acclimates himself to his new teammates. The players will also have to bye into a new system, which will be the responsibility of head coach Rick Carlisle. It's not easy, but if Carlisle can successfully bring the pieces together, Dallas will be in great shape late in the year.
X Factor: O.J. Mayo
The biggest beneficiary of Nowitzki being sidelined is Mayo, who will have a chance to assert himself as the clutch scorer in Dallas. Mayo showed in Memphis that he is capable of taking a starting role, but in recent seasons he excelled off the bench as the sixth man. Mayo is just 24-years-old and if he can play smart in Carlisle's system he could be a breakout star this season.
What to Expect
With a great coach like Carlisle, Dallas is in good hands. Given a new infusion of talent, Carlisle should be able to keep the Mavericks in the playoff picture, even with Nowitzki out for the first 15-20 games. Dallas doesn't need all of their additions to hit, but if two or three turn in solid years then the Mavericks will be a force late in the year.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
The Mavs may have missed out on Deron Williams (which they now claim was a blessing), but they did a serviceable job in surrounding Dirk Nowitzki with a compelling supporting crew.
O.J. Mayo, in particular, holds fascination because Dallas seems especially interested in helping him turn his career around after seeing his production taper-off in Memphis.
Also, all of these new imports are on short deals, keeping Dallas financially flexible moving forward, a priority since they are still hoping to land that elusive second All-Star.