With 21 games played, the Dallas Mavericks are roughly at the quarter point in the NBA’s 82-game season. Let’s take a look at what we have learned about the Mavericks to this point in the 2013-14 season.
As odd as it sounds now, the Mavericks free agent deal with Monta Ellis was not met with much excitement in Dallas. Ellis was viewed as high scoring, but inefficient, shoot-first guard. It took Ellis only one game to display what kind of asset he could be for the Dallas Mavericks. Ellis had a stellar debut in Dallas, scoring 32 points and dishing out eight assists in a 118-109 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks. Ellis has created offense for others while relentlessly attacking the basket. Through 21 games Ellis is averaging an impressive 21.6 points and 5.7 assists per game. Ellis has been a tremendous team player that has also proved adept at running the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki, something O.J. Mayo failed to accomplish last season in the same position.
Nowitzki started the season healthy for the first time in two years and he is once again presenting opposing teams with an extremely difficult matchup. While Nowitzki has yet to regain his championship form that he had in 2011, he is playing very close to the level that Mavericks fans have become accustomed to seeing. Dallas chances at a winning season were slim to none without Nowitzki and the fact that he is once again healthy and producing is a great sign for the Mavericks. Nowitzki is currently averaging 21.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and he is saving his best basketball for the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks quietly bolstered their frontcourt with the offseason signing of DeJuan Blair. Blair came at a bargain for the Mavericks; his one-year contract pays him the veteran’s minimum of $947, 907. Blair has brought a physical presence that the Mavericks desperately needed. Despite being undersized at 6’7”, Blair has routinely been matched up against opposing centers. Blair averaged only 14 minutes per game in 2012-13, the lowest of his career. His reduction in minutes raised questions about his health and productivity coming into the season. Those questions were quickly answered once the four-year veteran hit the court. Blair has been an integral member of the Mavericks bench and has filled in as an effective starter when head coach Rick Carlisle feels the matchup suites Blair’s skill set.
The Mavericks started the 2013-14 season with seven straight home wins. For Dallas to make a return to the post season they will need to continue their strong play at home. Dallas shoots the ball at a higher percentage, commits fewer turnovers and score over seven more point per game at home.
This was one of head coach Rick Carlisle’s primary concerns coming into the season and it has proven to be an early-season issue for Dallas. Through the first 21 games of the season, the Mavericks are ranked No. 23 in points allowed, and they allow their opponents to get to the free throw line more than any team in the NBA. The return of point guard Devin Harris and forward Brandan Wright will provide Carlisle with two additional assets to use as the matchup dictates. Click here to see what the Mavericks are doing to improve on defense.
While the Mavericks have played great at the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center, they have struggled out of the gate on the road. The Mavs are currently 4-6 on the road, but their most recent road victory was the type of win that should provide Dallas the shot of confidence they need moving forward. The Mavericks victory at the Moda Center against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, Dec. 7th was the type of road win Dallas desperately needed. Dallas defeated the 17-3 Trail Blazers by a score of 108-106 with a buzzer-beating jumper by Monta Ellis.
Wayne Ellington was signed to provide the Mavericks bench with an effective perimeter defender and spot up shooter. Ellington’s ability to stretch the floor was something the Mavericks bench was in need of coming into the season. Ellington went 1-7 from the field in the Mavericks second game of the season and he has played more than ten minutes only twice since that time. Ellington is one of many new players that joined Dallas this offseason and there is certainly time for him to come around, but his performance during the first quarter of the season has been a disappointment.
Overall the Mavericks have exceeded the expectations of most fans and media members around the NBA. The veterans that Dallas acquired via free agency have bought into Rick Carlisle’s team-first edict and the results are evident on the court. The Mavericks are closely bunched in with the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers to this point in the season, two teams with championship aspirations before the season began. The Mavericks on-court chemistry should improve as the season continues to unfold. If Dallas stays healthy and continues to develop as a team, they could become a truly dangerous team in the Western Conference.