The Commerce Journal

October 29, 2012

Mavericks will struggle with health, age, new faces

Lakers, Thunder still favorites in West

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — A couple months ago, I wrote a column about the Dallas Mavericks retooling in which I went over the various offseason moves the Mavs front office made. Here was my conclusion:

“This year’s Mavs won’t be championship caliber, but they should be fun to watch and will easily win 45-50 games, all while preparing for one last deep playoff run with Dirk (if they can land a big-name free agent in the 2013 offseason). How successful will they be? Only time will tell.”

Not a lot has changed in the last few months, but the Mavericks have a couple more hurdles to jump over than they had earlier in the year. Dirk Nowitzki has had trouble with his knee, and it’s doubtful he’ll play at all in November. If Dirk misses significant time this year the Mavs go from a playoff team to a lottery team. PF Elton Brand could potentially make up some of the German’s rebounding, and scoring, but not enough to make a significant difference.

Meanwhile, center Chris Kaman who Dallas signed to a one year deal in the offseason is also having health issues. Journeyman Eddy Curry was signed earlier this month to fill in for Kaman should he have to miss some games, since former backup Ian Mahinmi is now in Indiana. If the Mavs play their first 5-10 games with a frontcourt of Brand and Curry instead of Dirk and Kaman, expect a losing record.

Dallas is apparently shopping third year shooting guard Dominique Jones, which is a shame in my eyes. The former South Florida standout can slash to the hoop with speed and determination, something no Maverick can do with ease. O.J. Mayo, who the Mavs signed to replace Jason Terry (who is now in Boston) was injured earlier in the preseason, and considering his significant statistical decline since his rookie season in 2009, it’s fair to say that Jones’ ability to drive hard to the basket will be missed if he is cut or traded. Unfortunately, Jones doesn’t have a consistent enough shot to earn a spot in Rick Carlisle’s rotation.

Guard Delonte West’s future in Dallas is also in question, since he has been suspended not once but twice this year for “conduct detrimental to the team.” West was an important role player for the Mavs when he was healthy last season, and keeping him on the team is important if Dallas wants their rotation of Darren Collison (a new player the Mavs got in the Mahinmi trade)/Rodrique Beaubois (still waiting for this kid to play and a consistently high level)/Mayo to gel.

And then there is the concern with age. Dallas is an old team, the sixth oldest in the NBA with an average age of 27.9. Teams in the West got strongers as well. The Thunder added shooting guard Kevin Martin, who can light up a scoreboard, and the L.A. Lakers, who the Mavs will play in the season opener tomorrow, got perennial all-stars PG Steve Nash and C Dwight Howard.

If the Dallas Mavericks can stay reasonably healthy (and that’s a big if), they’ll be competitive in a conference that features the playoff-bound L.A. Clippers, Lakers, OKC Thunder as well as the always tough Nuggets, Trailblazers, Spurs and Jazz. If they struggle getting on the court and the new faces don’t get on the same page quickly, this could be a long season for Mavs fans.