TAKE IT SLOW
As the Dirk Nowitzki era winds down in Dallas, there is no clear design for what comes next. The 37-year-old Nowitzki is signed through this season, and he has a player option for 2016--17. The closest thing the Mavericks have to a follow-up act is the wing duo of Wesley Matthews, 28, and Chandler Parsons, 26, who provide a nice blend of shooting, defense and playmaking.
The catch: Neither the 6'5" Matthews nor the 6'9" Parsons is fully healthy. Last March with the Trail Blazers, Matthews tore his left Achilles tendon—an injury historically debilitating to the career of an NBA player. Dallas signed him to a four-year, $70 million contract just four months later. Parsons made his exit in April with a right-knee injury, followed by minor microfracture surgery. Both are young and committed to their rehabilitation, but Matthews won't be ready by opening night, and it's unlikely Parsons will, either.
And there should be no rush to bring them back—no matter how precious every one of Nowitzki's remaining games feels. Dallas has to mind the long term, especially given the financial commitment to Matthews and the leadership role Parsons has taken within the organization. There's only one real option for the Mavericks: Lean on 32-year-old journeyman Devin Harris and their first-round pick from Virginia, 6'6" Justin Anderson, until Matthews and Parsons are completely healed.
A rival scout sizes up Dallas
This team has a lot of parts, but it's hard to predict how they come together. If they have a good start, if they get with each other, they can be a 50-win team. But the center is going to be an issue, and they can just as easily be out of the playoffs.... Tyson Chandler [who signed with the Suns] was good for them last year; he did all the things as a big that Dirk Nowitzki doesn't do. They replaced him with backup players who have more faults than positives.... There's a reason the worst team in the league [the 76ers] didn't want JaVale McGee. Sam Dalembert is at the end of his career. Zaza Pachulia clogs up the paint but doesn't have shot-blocking skills. None of them are outstanding rebounders.... Dirk is still pretty consistent. He gets you on his shot fake; he can get it on the post and shoot over you. I don't see his game slipping because he was never a great athlete to start with.... Wes Matthews is a great fit—if he's healthy—but [$70 million for four years] is a lot to pay a guy coming off Achilles surgery. He goes hard and lives with a chip on his shoulder. He can shoot threes. He played with Deron Williams in Utah, so there is some familiarity there.... If I was buying shares, I would buy big on Deron. He's going back home, he's better in a small market, he's better without all the pressure. He has said that he wants the structure he had with Jerry Sloan. He will get it with Rick Carlisle.... Last year Rick went to what he calls his flow offense: free-form pick-and-roll, just play, attack your man. I think he'll go back to being more of a play caller, and they'll run a more rigid offense. Deron could thrive in that.
COACH RICK CARLISLE
(8th season with Mavericks)
2014--15 RECORD 50--32
(4th in Southwest)
PG DERON WILLIAMS*
13.0 PPG; 6.6 APG; 38.7 FG%; 36.7 3FG%
SG WESLEY MATTHEWS*
15.9 PPG; 3.7 RPG; 44.8 FG%; 38.9 3FG%
SF CHANDLER PARSONS
15.7 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 46.2 FG%; 38.0 3FG%
PF DIRK NOWITZKI
17.3 PPG; 5.9 RPG; 45.9 FG%; 38.0 3FG%
C ZAZA PACHULIA*
8.3 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 1.1 SPG; 45.4 FG%
PG DEVIN HARRIS
8.8 PPG; 3.1 APG; 41.8 FG%; 35.7 3FG%
SG J.J. BAREA
7.5 PPG; 3.4 APG; 42.0 FG%; 32.3 3FG%
SF JUSTIN ANDERSON (R)
12.2 PPG; 4.0 RPG; 46.6 FG%; 45.2 3FG%
*NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS
Seasons in which Dirk Nowitzki has made at least 100 three-pointers. (He had 104 last year.) In NBA history there have been only four other instances of a 7-footer making 100 threes.
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED