“Hope Springs Eternal.”
Well it’s fall, but I don’t think Alexander Pope would approve of seasonal discrimination.
The 2015-16 Dallas Mavericks begin their seven game preseason tonight at home vs. the Denver Nuggets. It’s going to be…interesting. Dallas is missing the following players: Dirk Nowitzki (rest), Wesley Matthews (Achilles), Chandler Parsons (knee), Deron Williams (calf), Salah Mejrl (fibula), JaVale McGee (tibia) and Dwight Powell (elbow).
So…yeah. Preseason serves a purpose, however it is not until the final game or two until the main attractions, if fully healthy, suit up for any sort of role. However, there’s a lot to see in the group that Rick Carlisle will roll out tonight against the Nuggets at the American Airlines Center. The Mavs are carrying a gargantuan 20 players in Training Camp, so even with so many out, there’s always intrigue to find when you’re paying to watch professional athletes.
But I don’t intend to focus so much on tonight’s game, I want to give you all 15 or possibly 16 reasons to be optimistic about the 2015-16 Dallas Mavericks. You know, as the title says. Without further or do, in no particular order because I’m not good at lists:
Reason 1: Dirk’s Still Strong.
478 points shy of passing Shaquille O’Neal for 6th on the all-time scoring list, Dirk Nowitzki is going to have a good season. This we know. Yes, he’s 37 with 17 seasons under his belt, but you can still rely on Dat Dood for 15-18 PPG and once again being the leader on a team with a bunch of new parts.
Reason 2: Chandler Parsons Isn’t New
Chandler Parsons had a darn good 2014-15 season. Yes, he saw regression across the board in his basic stats, but he was in a pressure-packed first year of a near-max contract, a huge raise from his under one million dollar salary he was making his first three seasons as a member of theRockets. With a year of adjustments behind him, Parsons could be in store to pick up right where his 2013-14 left off and take the next step in his still budding NBA career.
Reason 3: Rajon Rondo is Gone
It seemed like an early Christmas present when the Mavericks pulled off the Rajon Rondo trade on December 19 of last year. However, an ill-fit alongside Monta Ellis, multiple run-ins with Head Coach Rick Carlisle and a disastrous end in Round One of the Playoffs led to Rondo’s dismissal from the team while he was still technically a member of it. Once he wasn’t officially a Mav, he was gone.
Reason 4: Wesley Matthews is the Biggest Free Agent signing in Franchise History
Yeah, yeah, we know what happened with DeAndre Jordan (see you November 11th) but when the dust settled the Mavericks still came away from the 2015 off-season with the biggest free agent signing in franchise history. The definition of a 3-and-D player, Matthews will be the starting shooting guard as soon as he, Mavericks Trainer Casey Smith and company feel he’s healthy enough. Apparently that could be a whole lot sooner than later.
Reason 5: Deron Williams Renaissance
A huge part of the 2015-16 Mavericks puzzle is Deron Williams. Originally spurning Dallas for the Brooklyn Nets in 2012, things went pretty damn poorly for D-Will on the East Coast. Injuries, being passed up by Shaun Livingston and Jarrett Jack but most importantly his numbers came down season by season in each of his three years after signing his $98 million dollar contract. He just needs to stay healthy for anything to be possible, a theme roster-wide.
Reason 6: Center-By-Committee Shows Promise
After DeAndre Jordan cost the Mavericks both DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler while playing hide and don’t seek in Houston, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson had some work to do to plug in the massive hole left by being left at the altar. To say they filled it admirably…fits. There’s a lot of upside however in all three of the team’s new projected centers. Zaza Pachulia averages a double double in his career per 36 (minutes) number, we know the good that Samuel Dalembert can offer as well as the opposite of good and everyone in the league knows the literal upside and potential of JaVale McGee. It will be an adventure for sure, hopefully one that gets a good review on Rotten Tomatoes.
Reason 7: Point Gawds
Deron Williams will be at the helm and J.J. Barea was re-signed to be the backup point guard. Coach Carlisle prefers using Devin Harris at the two, but we all know he’s capable of playing one. Throw in emergency situations for Raymond Felton (and his beautiful expiring contract) and Dallas has a lot of veteran point guards to keep what might be a shaky ship at times afloat.
Reason 8: Depth Chart
The best Mavericks teams have been super deep, with reinforcements at every position. The past year was a frightening exception. ThankfullyAl-Farouq Aminu emerged as a super sub, but depth remained thin all over the place, especially after trading Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder in the Rajon Rondo deal. Once the team hits full strength with Parsons and Matthews entrenched in the starting lineup, there’s a whole lot of promise in bench players emerging as good subs. See the previous two #reasons.
Reason 9: A Good Rookie?!
The last first round pick the Mavericks made that offered anything in the way of promise was 2009 when the team selected Rodrigue Beaubois25th overall. Since then they’ve selected Dominque Jones, picked and traded Jordan Hamilton and Tyler Zeller, picked and traded Shane Larkinafter a year and then in 2014 conveyed their pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 2015 NBA Draft produced Justin Anderson. Selected 21st out of Virginia, the 6 foot 6 228 pound man-beast is one of the most intriguing aspects of this Dallas Mavericks team. As a lifelong Mavs fan I know better than to get excited about a rookie, it’s been 12 years since Josh Howard was the most effective first round pick made by Dallas, however Anderson seems like the best bet in five seasons to buck that trend.
Reason 10: Devin Harris Wears #34 Again
Ok, this one’s for me. This is a selfish endeavor. Devin Harris has been my favorite Dallas Mavericks player(excluding the Deity Dirk) since being selected 5th overall in 2004. When he returned to the team in 2013, Brandan Wright occupied number 34, and Harris (obviously inspired by Gordon Hayward from his time with the Utah Jazz) switched to #20. With Wright departed, DH34 is once again…DH34.
Reason 11: Head Coach Rick Carlisle
I asked Coach Carlisle this summer at Dirk Nowitzki’s Heroes Softball game if the constant turnover of the team has taken a toll on him at all.
I don’t remember the exact quote, because technically I was “having a conversation and not interviewing him” (if anyone asks) but he was only brimming with excitement about his job, his team, his players (whomever they may be) and being the Head Coach of the Dallas Mavericks. We are lucky to have the Coach we have, because the free agent chasing that has resulted in makeshift rosters every season since 2011-12 has given Coach Carlisle some serious work to do year after year. He keeps producing, never letting even the 2012-13 team fall below .500.
Reason 12: Salvation Projects
Vince Carter, Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair in 2013. Al-Farouq Aminu, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva the following season. 2015 brings us former first round pick John Jenkins, super athlete Jeremy Evans and second year player Dwight Powell.
Evans and Powell were second round picks, but whether it’s being an insane athlete like Evans looking for somebody to polish his craft (or lack thereof) or a potential draft steal by Boston (via Cleveland via Charlotte) turned trade steal by the Mavericks last year with Powell, the Mavericks are no short on their usual stash of project players in this era of chasing free agency. Jenkins was selected 23rd overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2012, but has done absolutely nothing in three seasons. However, he’s darn good in NBA 2K, so there’s a thread to hold onto.
Reason 13: #MFFL’s
A term nobody used to know. Since it became the Mavericks playoff slogan in 2014 (#MFFLStrong), I’ve had people asking me just exactly what the heck an “MFFL” is. Is it a thing? An object? Lottery numbers even though they’re all letters?
No sir and ma’am, it stands for ‘Mavs Fans For Life.’ That’s what Mavs fans are, we’re MFFL’s, and as long as we’re around it’s hard to not believe in this team.
Reason 14: Team Chemistry
You can never underestimate team chemistry. The brotherhood amongst teammates. See: 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. Put on perfect display at 2015 Mavericks Media Day, a team led by veterans highlighted by Dirk Nowitzki is always strong in this department. I mean, we withstood Rondo’s presence…but seriously. Check out this photo gallery from Media Day to see just how close knit this new group already seems.
Reason 15: Underdogs
ESPN Pre-Season Prediction: 18th.
CBS Pre-Season Prediction: 22nd.
Print it and put it on the bulletin board in the locker room. Actually every locker.
Reason 16: Dallas Sports
On that note.
2014 Dallas Cowboys: Projected last in NFC East, finished first.
2015 Texas Rangers: Projected last in A.L. West, finished first.
2016 Dallas Mavericks: Projected last in Southwest Division.