It didn’t take Monta Ellis very long to recover from firing his agent, agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks, coming right on time as rookie point guard Shane Larkin breaks his ankle, and Devin Harris, with a different injury, eventually does not sign with the team.
While The Mavericks are far from a complete team looking like a lock for the postseason, at least the starting lineup is taking shape. It’s going to be problematic finding a good starting center without too much money to offer (still have the Mid-Level exception to give), but offensively, this team looks quite solid, with the Mavs getting that extra scorer they wanted to put next to Dirk Nowtizki.
Defense is going to be an issue, with Calderon, Nowtizki and Ellis in the starting lineup, while Shawn Marion clearly isn’t the player he used to be, not to mention the Mavs considering ways to move him. Re-singing Brandan Wright might help take care of that problem, but the Mavs are very thin in the frontcourt, and are going to struggle playing against teams that run the floor well.
Offensively, there’s not that much to be worried about. Ellis, if Rick Carlisle find a better way to use him than he handled the whole O.J. Mayo situation, can be a 20-points per game scorer without coming in the way of Nowitzki. Calderon is pass-first point guard and with these offensive weapons can finish with 10 assists per game, and not take on too many scoring duties, which aren’t a strength of his.
But the West is problematic. Too many teams, good teams, and the Mavs right now don’t look very deep. Gal Mekel suddenly becomes the top option as backup point guard, with Wayne Ellington playing next to him. There’s Vince Carter, who had an impressive season at 36 years old last year, but that’s pretty much it. The bench doesn’t seem strong enough to carry and support a lineup that isn’t very young through an 82-game season.
But eventually, with the Mavs swinging & missing on Dwight Howard, this was the best they could come up with. They wanted some cap flexibility for next season which they’ll have when Dirk Nowitzki’s contract expires, and the German has said he’ll take a significant paycut in order to make the Mavs contenders in the 2014 free agency market.
The question that remains now is Carlisle capable of taming Ellis and making him into a less individualistic player with a bit more commitment on defense, because without that kind of change from the explosive guard (19.2 points per game last season), the Mavs are going to miss the playoffs once again.