The Mavericks: The Dark Horse

The Numbers

  •  Average Seed
  • 📉 Pessimist
    40.6 wins
  •  Realist
    47.1 wins
  • 📈 Optimist
    53.6 wins
 First Seed
⋆ Division
 Top 4
👍 Over (44.0)
ğŸ‘Ž Under (44.0)
ğŸŽ€ Playoffs

Old soldiers never die. Young ones wish they would.

British Barracks Ballad

The Brief

Step 1 - Bring in some older and underrated Wins Produced All Stars.

Step 2: Reclaim some players off the scrap heap and rescue some others from toxic situations.

Step 3: Hope your all-timer comes back to full health.

This formula has already won the Mavericks one title. Can it work again?

The Story

I am a big fan of the Mavs' "macro" strategy of reclaiming basketball projects (i.e. players who are talented but are perceived either as damaged goods or as over the hill). I was all in with getting Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd. With Tyson Chandler, I was a little more lukewarm, mostly because I thought his injuries were big rad flags (let's remember that I did not have access to team USA medical reports). Given my belief that you need that dominant big to win, I understood it, but I was skeptical. Vince has also turned out very well for them.

But it can have a dark side. Lamar Odom did not work out. It was a mixed bag last year with Mayo and Kaman. Really, it has not worked out for them since that title team. Losing Tyson and Jason has made it a precipitous fall from the glory days of beating Miami's on their own home floor two years ago.

Last Year

  •  Actual Wins: 41
  •  Expected Wins: 40.2
  • ⚅ Lucky Wins: 0.8
Player Minutes Age WP48 Wins
O.J. Mayo  2913 26 .095 5.8
Darren Collison  2372 26 .153 7.5
Vince Carter   2093 37 .129 5.6
Shawn Marion   2010 35 .184 7.7
Dirk Nowitzki   1661 35 .127 4.4
Elton Brand  1527 34 .096 3.1
Chris Kaman  1363 31 -.022 -.6
Jae Crowder   1353 23 .053 1.5
Brandan Wright   1149 26 .189 4.5
Mike James  862 38 -.034 -.6
Dahntay Jones  635 32 -.035 -.5
Rodrigue Beaubois   549 25 .004 0
Bernard James   457 29 .143 1.4
Dominique Jones   338 24 .035 .2
Troy Murphy   256 33 .015 .1
Derek Fisher  229 39 -.046 -.5
Anthony Morrow  82 28 -.001 0
Chris Douglas-Roberts  63 27 .026 0
Jared Cunningham  26 22 -.039 0
Eddy Curry   25 30 -.458 -.2
Josh Akognon  9 27 -.007 0
Chris Wright  4 24 -.564 0
Justin Dentmon   4 27 -.897 -.1

 Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.

  • 40.2 total Wins Produced
  •  12 players leaving
    (10085 minutes, 14.1 wins)

The Mavs thought they could change Chris Kaman. They bet their season on it. They thought they could teach Kaman to play smarter offense. He started off well but quickly reverted to form. Eventually, Dallas realized it wasn't going to end well.  The lesson here is that guys who are negative wins producers after ten years are not likely to turn it around.

We did try to warn them, and we took a lot of heat for it. The Kaman case is interesting because there was an easily identifiable and correctable flaw in his game (stop putting the ball on the floor and just pick and pop) but he was just two ingrained in his habits to change.

Mayo and Brand worked out much better. Even with the Kaman experiment, once they went more with Brandan Wright, and onvr Dirk came back, they put together a nice 19-12 run to finish out the year and barely miss the playoffs.

The Mavs did not stand pat in the offseason. 12 Players, representing 56% of their minutes and 15.1 wins. left the team. After an unsucessful experiment, Dallas cleared out all non-essential personnel and went back to roster building.

This Year

  •  Projected Wins: 47.1
  •  Conference Rank: 6
  • % Playoffs: 82.8
Player Position Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Monta Ellis  1.8 3173 28 .045 3.0
Jose Calderon  1.1 2405 32 .195 9.8
Shawn Marion   3.6 2345 35 .138 6.7
Brandan Wright   4.5 1990 26 .213 8.8
Dirk Nowitzki   4.0 1919 35 .071 2.8
Samuel Dalembert  5.0 1542 32 .127 4.1
DeJuan Blair  4.7 1351 24 .132 3.7
Vince Carter   2.6 1178 37 .054 1.3
Devin Harris  1.1 963 30 .089 1.8
Wayne Ellington  2.0 781 26 .059 1.0
Jae Crowder   3.1 660 23 .071 1.0
Shane Larkin  1.0 514 21 .082 .9
Ricky Ledo  2.0 388 21 .055 .4
Devin Ebanks  2.8 274 24 .040 .2
Bernard James   5.0 189 29 .133 .5

 Indicates that the player is new to the team.

  • 📅 54.2 WP last year
    by these players
  • 🔀 9.7 WP (roster changes)
  • ⏲ -3.8 WP (age/experience)

Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalambert, DeJuan Blair and Devin Harris (welcome home!) are the offseason haul for Dallas. Of course, they missed their shot at Dwight (despite the totally awesome recruting video) but I believe that Dallas did a swell job at rebuilding their roster.

Calderon is a no-brainer. He was the best guard available in the free agent market. The red flags on him are age, defense, and durability but Dallas has a proven track record of keeping their guys healthy and effective. And it all boils down to this:

I was shocked when people thought we signed a bad deal with Jose Calderon because hey, the guy shot 50 percent from three. The market for guys who can catch and shoot threes and do nothing else was higher than what we paid for Jose. He knows how to play point guard.

Mark Cuban, speaking with Fitzsimmons and Durrett on KESN-FM (via The Dallas Morning News

I also think Dallas did a great job at securing productive big men. The worst of the Bunch last year was Blair -- and we’ve seen him be better. He's a player with a very specific and useful skill set (I like to think of it as the Moses Malone toolbox). I know he fell out of favor in San Antonio but I think that had to do more with the quality of their roster and their game plan. While I very much favor starting Brandan Wright at center, the projected time share is a good one.

The lynchpin for their season, though, will be Monta Ellis. Monta takes a lot of bad shots. He makes a fair amount of them, but we don't let Russell Westbrook off the hook for this, so Monta doesn't get a pass either. He does a lot of other things very well, though. Shot Selection will be the key. Taking shots at the rim was a much bigger part of his offense prior to his moped injury. He seems to have switched that up for threes. I would look at his ankle conditioning proactively and also examine what kind of three's he's been taking.

If they can get Monta to work within the system and take better shots, and get him back to his 2007-8 form? The ceiling for this team jumps from playoff team to championship contender. The biggest cause for hope for the regarding Monta is that this is clearly the best PG (Calderon) and team he's ever played with.

I think it might work. If not? He'll score a lot a points and be good for a trade.

Projected Playoff Rotation: Dirk, Calderon, Monta, Marion, Wright, Dalambert, Blair, Vince and Devin. This is a very good and experienced playoff lineup. This is a dangerous playoff team.

The Wrap

The Mavs have identified a gap in the market and exploited it. By putting in a world class maintenance program (medicine/nutrition) for their world class assets (athletes), they've been able to bring in older, productive players and sustain their production longer than the what is the expected norm. Doing that has allowed them to build and rebuild very productive rosters while remaining competitive (instead of tanking).

While there is some risk to this strategy, they tend to mitigate that by taking some safe picks. It's very important to note that swinging for the fences on a questionable, high risk player like Tyson Chandler (whom OKC traded for, then gave back, citing health reasons) brought them a banner. It brought them a headache in 2011-12 (Odom) and it brought them a non-learner in 2012-13 (Kaman).

I do believe it might have brought them a winning ticket again.

After the flack I got last year for questioning Kaman, I get to double down and question Ellis. I'm still skeptical of Ellis' massive contract. Now, that said, if Dallas can actually find a way to "change players", which has traditionally been next to impossible for most coaches, it could be a huge edge.

What's interesting is that most people act as if there are two paths: "win now!" or "rebuild". Dallas has actually been doing both. Marion, Calderon, and Dirk certainly mean this team is aging fast. However, if some of their younger prospects mature and they turn around a head case or two? The Mavs could be looking to advance in the playoffs again.