As the final buzzer of 2011 sounded the Dallas Mavericks were NBA champions for the first time in their history. Heading into the offseason there were plans of making enough cap room to make a run at soon to be free agents Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Unfortunately Williams re-upped with the Nets and Howard went back to the Magic, leaving Mark Cuban with basically nothing.
The Mavericks made the playoffs in the strike shortened season, but were swept away in four games by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
Once again Cuban went for the home run, trying to acquire enough assets to become a trade partner with the Magic and land Dwight Howard. Once again he was foiled and Howard ended up elsewhere. This time the Mavericks didn't make the playoffs and another year of Dirk Nowitzki's precious, waning prime had been wasted.
Who was the prize free agent heading into the 2013 off-season? Dwight Howard. Did the Mavericks land him? Nope. Did they do enough to get the Mavs back into the playoffs and give Dirk another shot at a championship?
Head Coach: There is a very small, exclusive list of NBA players who won championship and then won a championship as a head coach. That list would include; Bill Russell (Celtics), Red Holzman (Royals/Knicks), Larry Costello (76ers/Bucks), Bill Sharman (Celtics/Lakers), Tom Heinsohn (Celtics), Pat Riley (Lakers/Heat), Billy Cunningham (76ers), K.C. Jones (Celtics), Phil Jackson (Knicks/Bulls/Lakers) and Rick Carlisle (Celtics/Mavericks).
Only once in his coaching career has Carlisle finished under .500 and that was the year after the Malice in the Palace. He's won more than 60 games once, 50 games or more five times and 41 games (.500) or better three times. In the 2011-12 strike shortened season he coached the Mavs to a 36-30 record.
Overall Carlisle is 520-366 in his eleven years of coaching in the league. In his twelfth season he's tasked with taking this duct taped roster surrounding Dirk, extracting every ounce of potential, getting consistent scoring from the back court, making them play some semblance of defense and getting them back into the playoffs. Not only into the playoffs though, but deep into the playoffs. At 35, Dirk doesn't have much time left to get a second ring.
Last Season's Record: 41-41
Player Losses: O.J. Mayo (Milwaukee), Elton Brand (Atlanta), Chris Kaman (Lakers), Darren Collison (Lakers), Anthony Morrow (New Orleans), Josh Akognon (Memphis), Rodrigue Beaubois and Mike James.
Player Additions: Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo were drafted. DeJuan Blair (Spurs), Jose Calderon (Raptors), Samuel Dalembert (Bucks), Wayne Ellington (Cavaliers), Monta Ellis (Bucks), Devin Harris (Hawks) and Gal Mekel (Maccabi Haifa) were all signed during free agency.
Best Player: Can we argue that it's someone else not named Dirk Nowitzki? Didn't think so. Dirk is the second best international player to ever play in the NBA. If it wasn't for Hakeem Olajuwon, he would be number one.
Despite some flaws on the defensive end, Dirk's offensive game is so fluid and organic. It's a thing of beauty to watch him work from low block to baseline to top of the key to beyond the arc. He's one of the few players in the NBA that you have to worry about guarding all over the floor. He's smart enough to know his defender's weaknesses and he will abuse them.
Worst Player: Fab Melo... yep.
Player due to breakthrough: With consistent minutes Wayne Ellington could be a sixth man of the year candidate and a sorely need, deadly sharp shooter off the bench.
The Starters: Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis are your starting back court with Shawn Marion, Nowitzki and Dalembert making up the front court.
The Bench: Devin Harris and Wayne Ellington should see the most amount of minutes off the bench at the guard spots with Vince Carter, Shane Larkin (Barry Larkin's son) and Ricky Ledo getting some run there as well.
Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Bernard James and DeJuan Blair will get minutes from the front court.
Random Seattle Connection: The Mavericks were the last team to ever lose to the Seattle Supersonics.
Best Case Scenario for the Season: Would be to outright miss the playoffs and win the lottery or land another top five pick to get a replacement for Nowitzki for when he retires.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: Making the playoffs. If the Mavs do make the playoffs, it's going to be as a 7th or 8th seed and they are going to be swept in the first round or at maximum win a single game. To go along with this, at the trade deadline the front office moves it's first round pick to another team for a wing player.
Most Likely Scenario for the Season: The Mavs are going to compete for one of the final playoff spots with the Nuggets, Wolves and Blazers. The Mavs though will once again, just barely miss the playoffs and are once again picking in the lottery and waste another year of Dirk's prime.
For more on the Mavs, here's another in depth preview from Mavs Moneyball.
Atlanta Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
Charlotte Bobcats: Rufus on Fire
Miami Heat: Hot Hot Hoops | Sports Agent Blog
Orlando Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post | Orlando Magic Daily
Washington Wizards: Bullets Forever