If you think the Phoenix Suns had tumultuous off season, check out the Dallas Mavericks for a second. The summer began with courting, but losing, DeAndre Jorden and then over-honoring their free agent agreement with free agent Wesley Matthews by giving him more money than he'd originally accepted to join the team.
In the end, the Mavericks are entering the 2015-16 season with four new starters since they were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs last April. Let's see how the Mavericks do to open the season against the retooled Suns, who boast a Tyson Chandler likely wanting to show Mavs owner Mark Cuban what a mistake he made.
When, Who, Where, What
When: Wednesday night, 7:00pm AZ time
Who: Phoenix Suns host Dallas Mavericks
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
The Mavs Offseason
Deron Williams now runs point in place of Rajon Rondo, who took over for Jameer Nelson. Wesley Matthews takes over for Monta Ellis at shooting guard. Jeremy Evans replaces Al-Farouq Aminu and Chandler Parsons (injured) at small forward. And Zaza Pachulia sits in the pivot, taking over for Tyson Chandler.
In their prime, this would be an excellent starting lineup. But Deron Williams was so bad last year the Brooklyn Nets gave him almost $30 million to just go away. Wesley Matthews is trying to heal from a torn achilles, and those are not easy to overcome especially for a guard. Chandler Parsons had some kind of mini-microfracture surgery, and is still recovering. JaVale McGee and Zaza are a clear downgrade from Tyson Chandler. And Dirk Nowitzki is like 84 years old.
Mavs Scouting Report
Let's hear a Mavs blogger talk about the Mavs. Rebecca Lawson provides her insight after watching/covering the entire preseason of this retooled team.
1) Among the projected starters, who's playing at full strength for you on opening night? Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons and JaVale McGee have all been hurting. If not them, who starts?
Deron Williams and Wes Matthews played in the final preseason game, and are expected to start. Both will be on a minutes restriction, so it's not clear how much they'll play, but both looked good in about a half's worth of action, especially D-Will. As of my writing this, Chandler Parsons probably isn't playing -- he's expected to be ready soon, though -- and JaVale is a ways off.
I'd expect the starting five to be Williams, Dirk, Matthews, Zaza Pachulia and Jeremy Evans, if the team goes with a more traditional look. But Rick Carlisle does like to experiment with lineups, and with injuries affecting the team early on, I wouldn't be surprised if it's something less traditional. For example, the Mavericks rolled out a starting five in the last preseason game of Williams, Matthews, Dirk, Felton and Pachulia -- a three guard lineup.
2) Who else impressed the team in the preseason? Will it be the Charlie V, Ray Felton and Devin Harris show while the others heal up? Or others?
John Jenkins was the preseason MVP, putting up gaudy stats in almost every game and getting to the line a ton. The former Atlanta Hawk could be the Mavs' newest reclamation project, a thing they've had some success with in recent years. (Brandan Wright, Vince Carter, and Al-Farouq Aminu come to mind.) If Jenkins can continue his preseason success, he's going to be a really nice young bench piece for the Mavs.
Raymond Felton has had a pretty good preseason, but with Deron Williams back, he'll likely be relegated to fourth on the depth chart behind Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea. Where the Mavs are weak, though, is frontcourt depth. After Dirk, Charlie V. and Dwight Powell are the only true power forwards. Backing up Pachulia at center will be 29 year old Tunisian rookie Salah Mejri, who beat out Samuel Dalembert for a roster spot. Justin Anderson could slide over and help some here, but look for Carlisle to roll out some small-ball lineups to help cover for those weaknesses, at least until Chandler Parsons can get back to action.
3) What do Mavs fans expect from rookie Justin Anderson this year?
To just get better and get used to the NBA game, at least initially -- and to hopefully be able to contribute more and more as the season rolls on.
The Mavericks don't exactly have a storied history of drafting well: their last "successful" draft pick was probably Josh Howard back in 2003 or Devin Harris the year after. Despite that, Justin Anderson is a pick that most fans seem to be excited about. He looked great in Summer League, and I think most of us are hoping he can turn into the 3-and-D guy that Jae Crowder never really was. In that respect, I'd hope that he's given the same kind of minutes Crowder was given as a rookie, which was 78 games and about 1,300 minutes. He plays at a position of need for the Mavs, and with injuries early on, may get more of a chance to see those meaningful minutes right off the bat.
4) How is Dirk doing with all the turnover? He was joking recently about a foot race with Peyton Manning so he appears to be in good spirits anyway.
I'd love to see Dirk host Saturday Night Live the way Peyton has -- I think he'd be fantastic. His sense of humor is low-key amazing.In all seriousness, at this point in Dirk's career, the team doesn't do anything without his input. And every move they've made the past several years, whether you agree with it or not, has been in service of trying to field the best possible team so that Dirk can go out on as high a note as possible. I rather suspected that, after DeAndreGate, the Mavs would have a lost season and Dirk would opt out of his final contract year and retire after this current season. But he recently said he plans on playing out his contract, which means another season after this one, so look no further than that to see how satisfied he seems to be with this team and organization, and how much he values what they are trying to do for him.
Simply put, the love affair between Dallas and Dirk goes both ways, and even when it seems frustrating, this is his home.
5) What's your win total for the Mavs this year?
This is, believe it or not, a hard question to answer. So many national media types are picking the Mavs to finish with one of the worst records in the NBA because of the injuries to Wes and Parsons, Dirk's age, and overall depth. I don't think the depth is as bad as people think. And sure, maybe Wes and Parsons can't come back from injury and be their former selves, and maybe Dirk continues to show his age. All that considered, I have a hard time seeing how a Rick Carlisle-coached team with this much theoretical talent finishes with anything less than 40ish wins.
Fun fact: in his 13 years as a head coach, Carlisle has only finished with less than 41 wins TWICE, and hasn't finished below .500 in his seven year Dallas tenure. Despite those stats, I'll say 44 wins, which will probably be good for 9th or 10th in the West.
You've been following all of our coverage all offseason, which ramped up even further this week with Jim's preview series, two podcasts and a couple round tables.
You know what you're going to know about the Suns. There's nothing new to report, until they actually take the court for a meaningful game.
Everyone appears to be healthy, including Ronnie Price who missed half the preseason with mono and Eric Bledsoe who came back strong the last two preseason games after contracting his own stomach bug.
Tune in to see if what the Suns promise is what we get: stronger defense and more passing.
I think Tyson Chandler will take this game very seriously, and put up something like 12-18 points and grab 18-20 rebounds to prove to the Mavericks that they made a mistake letting him go.
I'll say the Suns win this one, 98-85.
What's your prediction?