It was a magical run by the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, ending with their first NBA title in franchise history. What many may not realize is heading into this season, there are only three players left from the championship team (Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois).
Last season, it’s fair to say Rick Carlisle’s squad struggled. Training camp starting late due to the lockout didn’t help. But once they got on the court, they were out of sync and a step behind. The Mavs did make the playoffs, but it was a quick trip for the defending champs, getting swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
Prior to last season, the Mavs ownership and front office made the decision to free up some cap space by not resigning some key free agents, most notably center Tyson Chandler. The decisions weren’t exactly popular, ones that you don’t expect a defending champ to make. The idea was to save enough money in order to go after the big free agents after the season, including The Colony’s own Deron Williams. That didn’t pan out either, with the Mavs missing out on big name after big name.
So facing a potential disaster, the Mavs changed course. They went after players that may not be marquee names, but solid team players to fill gaps exposed last year. In came Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, and O.J. Mayo, along with drafting Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James.
All of these are upgrades at their respective positions, particularly at guard. Collison, Jones, Mayo and Cunningham add quickness both offensively and defensively in an area where the Mavs were constantly burned last season. Kaman brings back the toughness that left with Chandler, and can score down low. Brand is a capable threat coming off the bench when Dirk and Marion need a rest. Same can be said for Crowder and James at both forward and center.
After just a couple of games into the preseason, this looks like a completely different, and better, team than last year. One difference I noticed from last year is this Mavs group is willing to drive to the basket more, probably because they can. This new dimension of aggressiveness adds to an offense that still centers around Dirk, but also provides more help for him.
So maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to miss out on landing a highly paid superstar or two, tying your hands financially to where you couldn’t address other needs. All-Star teams don’t always win, solid teams can.
Right now, the Mavs look like a very solid team, more so than what people may expect.
Written by C. James