C DeAndre Jordan (free agent), G Wes Matthews (free agent), G Deron Williams (free agent), C Zaza Pachulia (trade), C Samuel Dalembert (free agent), G Justin Anderson (draft), C JaVale McGee (free agent), F Jeremy Evans (free agent), G John Jenkins (free agent)
Who's Gone: G Monta Ellis (free agent), C Tyson Chandler (free agent), G Rajon Rondo (free agent), F Amar'e Stoudemire (free agent), F Al-Farouq Aminu (free agent), F Richard Jefferson (free agent)
Off-season Grade: C+. As much as it's tempting to make fun of the Mavs and Mark Cuban in particular, give them full marks for not whining and bemoaning their fate once DeAndre Jordan spurned them in free agency. They filled the center as well as they could given their circumstances and took a flyer on Williams at point guard. He's probably never going to be good again, but you can't knock them for trying.
(With that written, there will be more jokes at their expense, sorry -- not sorry.)
2015-16 Slogan: "We have a hole in the middle and an a-hole in charge"
What Else Is New?: There has been speculation all the Jordan drama was just to hype up his awful-sounding "CyberDust" app that lets you send texts that disappear in 30 seconds with no record. First off, that sounds terribly inconvenient. Who reads every text within 30 seconds of it being sent? What if you're working or driving or in the shower? Secondly, if you're that worried about people snooping around your texts, it probably means you've got some shenanigans going on. You might as well have your product's marketing campaign be "Finally, a way to hide what a vile person you are from the rest of the world."
Cyberdust is the perfect app for Mavs fans because they had DeAndre Jordan for 30 seconds and then he disappeared.
Your Likely Starting Lineup:
C Samuel Dalembert
F Dirk Nowitzki
F Chandler Parsons
G Wes Matthews
G Deron Williams
Oh, Dirk. Poor, lovable Dirk. Our relationship with you was like the Russian crowd with Rocky, except we're mostly American and you're more like Ivan Drago. It's an imperfect analogy. The point is, you changed. We changed. You've gone from being the ultimate villain to one of our favorite non-Spurs ever, someone who made the NBA a better place and someone we're genuinely going to miss. I don't know if I've ever felt happier for an athlete not on one of *my* teams than I was for you in June of 2011. I love how passionately you support all the Dallas teams, even in sports you didn't grow up caring about. I love how, like Tim Duncan, you keep taking less than market value so that your front office can surround you with talent, that winning still means that much to you even after you got your ring. I love that you take your job seriously, but yourself -- not so much.
I wish more athletes were like you, in every way.
Be that as it may, it was painful at times watching Nowitzki play last year. He just can't move laterally at all anymore on defense. I doubt very much even getting Jordan could've salvaged that situation. Far be it for me to tell one of the all-time greats to retire, but man, I don't want to see him go out like this.
Nowitzki's frontcourt mate Chandler Parsons may have mobility issues of his own. Parsons was limited to 66 games in his first season at Dallas and performed fairly well, pretty much the same as his last season in Houston, a productive starter but decidedly less than a star-level player. However, not only was Parsons shelved after one playoff game due to a persistent knee injury, but the off-season procedure he went through was described as a "minor-hybrid microfracture operation," according to ESPN Dallas' Tim McMahon.
It appears doubtful that Parsons will be ready by the start of the season, but he may have less pressure to guard the opponent's best perimeter players when he does return.
That's because the Mavs signed Wes Matthews (who's been one of the better two-way two-guards in the league for a while now) to a monster contract. The problem, of course, is that Matthews ruptured his Achilles last March and probably won't return before Christmas. If Matthews can quickly return to form, he instantly becomes Dallas' best all-around player. We might not see him at his best until next season though, if we see it at all. He's someone whose game I like a lot, but please excuse me from expecting about his full recovery from that injury until I see it.
Williams has regressed badly from his Utah heyday, but he comes into a perfect situation in Dallas. He's literally replacing this guy:
If Williams can simply show up in shape, run the plays as called and try hard --while making more than 50 percent of his free throws-- he'll win the hearts and minds of Mavs fans. Still, it's hard to make much of a case for him as even a league-average starting point anymore. He shot 38.7 percent from the field last year. Williams did hit at a good percentage from three and the charity stripe, but he couldn't get to the hole anymore and his defense was lackadaisical. Maybe he'll be rejuvenated in Dallas and Nowitzki's defender-sucking gravity will help him, but this is probably his last shot.
Finally, there's Dalembert, returning for his second stint with the Mavs, as a bit of a panic signing in the wake of the Jordan fiasco. He looked pretty near the end of the line last year as a Knick. I'm guessing Pachulia takes his spot soon, if not by the season opener.
Your Likely Bench:
C Zaza Pachulia
G Devin Harris
G John Jenkins
F Charlie Villanueva
F Justin Anderson
G J.J. Barea
G Raymond Felton
F Jeremy Evans
Like three of these guys might start the first couple months.
Pachulia is pretty much the definition of "league average," but he's an elite mid-range shooter. It's gonna be interesting to see how that works with Nowitzki. Harris has always been a guy who's less than the sum of his parts, if that makes sense. He makes you wonder why he's not a starter if you catch him on the right night, but I imagine he drives Mavs fans who watch him every game crazy. Jenkins played almost exclusively in garbage time the last two years in Atlanta, but he seems to be able to shoot well enough, and he'll get the first shot to start with Matthews out. I've never cared for Villanueva and thought he was just about washed, but he bounced back with a nice season last year for Dallas as a backup stretch four. He still doesn't do much else though. It feels like Barea is far removed from the guy who swung the Finals four years ago, but really the only difference the past couple of seasons is he hasn't made threes at the same rate. If can find his stroke, he'd still be valuable.
Then there are the unknown quantities. Evans is a former dunk champ whose coaches in Utah never seemed to take him seriously. Maybe he'll get more of a chance to impress in Dallas, where his athleticism is sorely needed. Rick Carlisle doesn't suffer fools, so we'll know soon enough whose fault it was with the Jazz. Anderson blossomed as a junior at Virginia but had a so-so resume overall. He shot well in Summer League but has struggled something fierce in preseason. Felton has done just about everything possible on and off the floor the last two years to get shuffled out of the NBA and he might be fourth-string here. McGee is currently injured and completely unpredictable.
Your Coach: Rick Carlisle
He's blunt, brutally honest at times, a master strategist and has proven he can mold his system to the talent on hand. Carlisle's always skewed offensive, but it's a shame that Cuban has given him such little to work with on the other end of the floor. It's also bizarre to me why Cuban didn't pay more attention to his concerns about Rondo. I wonder about the state of their relationship in light of that.
Bottom Line: It's possible that the Mavs can hold off the Jazz and the Kings for the final playoff spot, but I don't see it happening with Nowitzki in his state and both Parsons and Matthews' health and quality in question. On some level Cuban must realize his club needs a couple of successive trips to the lottery to re-tool because despite his lavish free agent pitches they're just not attracting top-tier talent. Forget Jordan, it was telling that LaMarcus Aldridge, a Dallas native, didn't even consider them.
For more nuanced Mavs coverage, please visit MavsMoneyball.com