After an outstanding championship campaign, the Mavs looked to repeat as champs with a whole new team. Out was defensive anchor/heart-and-soul Tyson Chandler and key reserve J.J. Barea; in were Delonte West, Vince Carter and the enigmatic Lamar Odom. The loss of Chandler was instantly felt, and the Mavs plummeted in the standings, and for a time, out of playoff contention. Rick Carlisle and his staff made tough decisions to bench Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki for large chunks in-season, hoping to shake off rust from the long lockout. Odom ended up being dreadful and banished from the team. After that, a rejuvenated and refocused squad made a playoff push (with some help from Phoenix and Utah, of course). Only this time, revenge was on the mind of their opponent from last year's Western Conference Final: the Oklahoma City Thunder. The younger, faster and hungrier Thunder demolished the Mavs in a four game sweep in the first round. Clearly outmatched at the guard position, and with absolutely no interior defensive presence, the champs were sent home.
Looking forward, the team will be addressing the point guard and shooting guard position via free agency in the form of Deron Williams. Make no mistake: the Mavs are all-in to lure a big free agent to helmp make one last run for Dirk. Deron Williams has expressed interest in playing for his hometown team. If Cuban can pull some strings, he may also target Dwight Howard. With the twenty-fifth pick, however, the Mavs should simply try and find a rotation player to fortify a rather weak bench, or package the pick in a deal to either land another bona fide star or, more likely, shed salary in an attempt to clear cap space for a run at D-Will.
This off season will clearly be one to watch if you're a Mavs fan. The franchise's future hangs in the balance.
- Jairo Martinez