The Dallas Mavericks’ 2013-14 season may have ended in disastrous fashion on Sunday afternoon in San Antonio but the Mavericks season did bring about some positives. Dallas was considered a fringe playoff team by some, and they were predicted to be a team that missed the playoffs entirely by many others.
When Dallas did sneak in the playoffs with the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, they were not expected to be much of a challenge to their opponent, the San Antonio Spurs. For six of the seven games in the series, the Mavericks went toe-to-toe with the Spurs, the team with the best regular-season record in the NBA. This series does not define the rest of the 2013-14 season and there may be even be reason for optimism next year.
Let’s take a look at four things we can takeaway from the Mavericks the 2013-14 season:
4. Dirk can still play
Sure this seems obvious to everyone now, but many were questioning what version of Dirk Nowitzki the Mavericks would see this season. Nowitzki was recovering from offseason knee surgery to begin the 2012-13 season and he was only able to start in 47 games.
Nowitzki put any doubts about his durability to rest in 2013-14. Nowitzki started in 80 games, the highest number of games he has started since 2009-10. Not only did Nowitzki stay on the court, he produced at a high level when he played.
Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points per game last season, higher than his scoring average the previous two seasons. Nowitzki’s consistency allowed him to ascend to the No. 10 spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The Mavericks may not be able to ride the big German like they did five years ago, but Nowitzki has proven that he is still a dangerous weapon on the court for Dallas.
3. Monta Ellis was a brilliant addition
Despite the fact that Monta Ellis averaged 19.4 points per game throughout his career, his signing did not generate a great deal of buzz in Dallas. The Mavericks had their sights set on Dwight Howard and they were once again rebuffed by a premier free agent.
The Mavericks needed an explosive scorer like Ellis and he needed a situation that would provide him with the opportunity to thrive once again. The Mavericks worked to put Ellis in a position to succeed and he paid immediate dividends.
Ellis relentlessly attacked the basket when he was on the court and proved to be a fantastic fit with Dirk Nowitzki and point guard Jose Calderon. Ellis averaged 19.0 points per game and his field-goal percentage jumped from .416 to .451 percent.
Teams will often have to overpay for a player of Ellis’ caliber in free agency. Ellis made less annually in 2013 than shooting guards Marcus Thornton, Ben Gordon and Tyreke Evans. Ellis’ contract pays him only slightly more per year than Arron Afflalo, O.J. Mayo, Rodney Stuckey and Trevor Ariza.
2. The Hole at Center Remains
The Mavericks settled on Samuel Dalembert in free agency after Dwight Howard chose to join the Houston Rockets in the offseason. Dalembert started slow but became a serviceable center for the majority of the season. Dalembert averaged 6.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, while playing an average of 20 minutes per game.
The Mavericks were 15-3 when Dalembert scored at least 10 points, but the fact that only occurred 18 times is revealing. Dalembert would be an ideal backup center, but counting on him on a night-in, night-out basis is not a position the Mavericks want to be in.
Dalembert signed a two-year contract for $7.6 million prior to the season, but only $1.8 million of the second year is guaranteed. While Dalembert may not be an ideal starter, his cap-friendly salary should ensure he will return in 2013-14. You can expect him back in 2014-15, but it would be better for the Mavericks if he returned as a key member of the second unit.
1. Dallas will be better in 2014-15
Is it a little early to predict the Mavericks will be better next year? Sure it is, but that won’t stop me from telling you why that will likely be the case.
Nowitzki is not going anywhere, and all indications are that he will sign a contract that adds some offseason maneuverability for the Dallas brass. It also appears likely that Sixth Man of the Year candidate Vince Carter will return as well. While nothing has been stated publicly, it would be a shock if Devin Harris does not sign a two or three-year contract similar to the one he signed in the offseason, before it was revealed he had a toe injury that would require surgery.
Shawn Marion made $9.3 million in 2013-14 and if he does return, it will be at a reduced salary. DeJuan Blair’s strong play in the postseason could lead him to another year or two in Dallas, his physical presence provided the Mavericks a much-needed boost in the first round of the Western Conference.
While the free agent class of 2014 lacks big names, there are a number of solid players that Dallas should have the ability to add in free agency. The current Mavericks were a game away from knocking out the best team in the NBA in the first round of the playoffs. With that being a fact, it’s not hard to surmise that even a moderately improved team in 2014-15 could make a significant playoff run.
Tags: Dallas Mavericks