NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #14 Dallas Mavericks

Could the Mavericks play the dark horse role this year in the NBA?

This NBA offseason has been very eventful and the preseason is now in full swing. To help hoops junkies with the transition from the lull of summer back to competitive basketball, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 14th-ranked Dallas Mavericks!

The Dallas Mavericks fought their way in to the Western Conference playoffs last year as the Suns flamed out in the last week of the season only to draw the best team the league – the San Antonio Spurs. In fact, the Mavericks turned out to be the toughest test for the veteran Spurs, pushing the series to a Game 7. But they didn’t pull the upset and the rest as they say is history. Dirk Nowitzki watched Mark Cuban make a bunch of offseason moves once again, but will it be enough as Nowitzki is nearing the end of his career and the Western Conference competition continues to increase?

numberFire Metrics

Projected Record: 42-40
Western Conference Rank: 8th
NBA Rank: 14th
nERD: 51.8
Playoff Chances: 55%
Championship Chances: 1.3%

Each offseason, Cuban tries to make a run at some of the bigger name free agents, but can’t entice anyone to join. For whatever reason, the Mavericks aren't looked at as a giant in the Western Conference when they probably should be. Over the last 15 years, they have made the playoffs 13 times. Only two other teams have equaled or exceeded that: the Los Angeles Lakers (13) and their Texas nemesis, San Antonio Spurs (all 15). And don’t forget they’ve made two NBA Finals appearances during that time, winning one of them.

Once again, the Mavericks are viewed as a playoff team coming into this season. However, our metrics see them barely squeezing in while playing in arguably the toughest division in the NBA. Not only are the measured by the Spurs’ success but they also have to deal with the up-and-coming Rockets. But while third (or even fourth) best in their division means near the bottom of the Western Conference, they shouldn’t be any less feared, especially with who they added this year.

Player Movement

Notable Additions
Emir Preldzic (via draft)
Tyson Chandler (via trade)
Raymond Felton (via trade)
Chandler Parsons (via free agency)
Jameer Nelson (via free agency)
Richard Jefferson (via free agency)
Al-Farouq Aminu (via free agency)

Notable Losses
Vince Carter (via free agency)
Shawn Marion (via free agency)
Jose Calderon (via trade)
Wayne Ellington (via trade)

The Mavericks didn’t add any superstars – despite Cuban’s best efforts – but that doesn’t mean they didn’t improve at some positions. The biggest contributor should be Chandler Parsons, as he’ll be another guy who can space the floor for the Mavericks. Cuban also made some moves on the trade market, most notably for Tyson Chandler, getting Chandler and third backup point guard (Felton) for a bunch of backups.

I’m somewhat surprised he let go of Vince Carter, too. Carter had really developed into a three-point specialist over the last couple years in Dallas. While others were brought in that could likely fill his role, Carter was one of the biggest instruments in keeping the Spurs at bay last postseason. But the bench should be just as deep if not deeper with additions of Jameer Nelson and Richard Jefferson joining Devin Harris.

Three Burning Questions

Who starts at the point guard position?
Raymond Felton, Devin Harris, and Jameer Nelson have all been “the man” for their respective teams previously in their careers, but now they will have to learn to get along and share those duties. Further complicating the issue is Monta Ellis who had better assist numbers than the now-departed Jose Calderon – and Ellis is really the starting shooting guard.

Nelson may be the bigger liability of defense (108.6 Defensive Rating last year) but from Russell Peddle’s research, he has better assist numbers than Harris and Felton. Each guy had a career-worst (or close to it) season last year, but with the duties being shared among all three, they could all bounce back this season. Rick Carlisle could have his hands full – or just the right mixture if he needs a bigger scoring presence or defensive presence.

How strong can this team be defensively?
In jettisoning Wayne Ellington, Calderon and Shawn Marion, the Mavericks got rid of three of the four biggest defensive liabilities on the team. Bringing back Tyson Chandler will conjure up memories of the 2010-2011 championship team, but Chandler probably won’t be as good as he was then. However, Chandler should be a scoring and rebounding upgrade from Dalembert.

Parsons may not be much of an upgrade defensively from Marion, but he will bring a lot of youth to the starting lineup, something not on Marion’s side. If Parsons shuts other wing players down, Ellis stays in the top 15 among steals and Chandler improves even a little from last year, the Mavericks should be able to rise out of the bottom third in defense (according to last year’s numberFire power rankings).

Who shares the scoring load with Nowitzki?
Thankfully, Nowitzki didn’t lose the team’s second-leading scorer in Monta Ellis, but he did see the third, fourth, and fifth scoring options all depart in Vince Carter, Jose Calderon, and Shawn Marion. But in picking up Parsons' 16.6 points per game, the hope is Dallas can form their own “Big Three” this year. Richard Jefferson was picked up to take the place of Carter and could be a more efficient shooter than Carter was. However, if Jefferson is a defensive liability, he won’t see a lot of time on the court, hurting the Mavericks’ depth.

Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch

PF/C Dirk Nowitzki (Yahoo O-Rank: 18)
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is another one of those second round anchors to your team. He’s a big man that will give you plenty of points, grab five to eight rebounds, and hit a few threes for you on a nightly basis. Throw in good field goal and excellent free throw percentages and you have a player that will stuff your stat sheet fairly well. And if you have been following the “Punting Series” on numberFire, Nowtizki is a great asset if you decide to punt assists in your fantasy basketball league.

SF/PF Chandler Parsons (Yahoo O-Rank: 46)
Parsons move to the Mavericks could really benefit his fantasy basketball stats. And he actually picks up deficiencies from Nowitzki’s game that could help your fantasy basketball team as well. He’s not a big scorer, but he’ll hit about the same number of three-pointers that Nowitzki does on a nightly basis. Expect Parsons to be a great mid-round value, contributing to your assist, steal and percentage categories while keeping his turnover rate low. A change of scenery could make Parsons a steal in some drafts.