Earlier in the offseason, it looked like the Dallas Mavericks were intent on building a team made out of guards, neglecting to pursue the better big men available in free agency. However, they eventually started filling those roles, with DeJuan Blair signing as a free agent, finally giving the team some depth at the frontcourt.
The West is very crowded, and the Mavs don’t seem like favorites to be one of the teams to make into the final 8, but they seem in a much better situation than they were two weeks ago, when it looked like they moved a bit slowly on upgrading certain positions, leaving them with very few options, and not very talented options at that, in order to lift them from their worst season in over a decade.
And yet there are things to feel optimistic about. Dirk Nowitzki is healthy, and won’t miss the beginning of the season or have a long and frustrating adapting period which cost the Mavs a lot of wins, eventually not having enough back-wind to make the postseason. Nowitzki won’t be playing in the European championship to better prepare for his 16th NBA season, which should be a very promising sign for Dallas.
Monta Ellis might be the player their entire playoff hopes for next season rise & fall on. He’s an excellent and at times unstoppable scorer, but with a very strong selfish streak, that can do more harm than good. If Ellis realizes who is the first scoring option on this offense is and is willing to share the ball more than he has in the past, the Mavs made themselves a very good deal by adding him to their ranks.
And where does Blair come in? Probably in somewhat of an Elton Brand role from last season, and most likely getting a lot more minutes than he did last season with the Spurs, keeping him on the floor for only 14 minutes a night (averaging 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds). He should be the one who backups Dirk Nowitzki at Power Forward, providing some interior scoring and solid rebounding, but will probably get some minutes as center as well.
The Mavs also have Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright in the frontcourt, with Dalembert being the starting center and Wright not focused on backing him up instead of being a two-position man. It also means Shawn Marion can play more and more as a small forward instead of rotating between the two positions, with Jae Crowder serving as his backup.
The Mavs will be a very different team from last season, and now that Blair has joined them the likelihood of continuing their pursuit of Greg Oden is at an all-time low. They still have a roster spot open, giving Devin Harris the chance to re-join the team, but at least they have a more-or-less solid rotation when it comes to their big men, which eventually might be the difference between another .500 season and returning to the playoffs.