2013--14 RECORD: 49--33 (4TH IN SOUTHWEST) COACH: RICK CARLISLE (7TH SEASON WITH MAVERICKS)
Tyson Chandler's return to Dallas after three years with the Knicks has raised hopes for a defensive transformation. When he was last with the team, in 2010--11, the 7'1" center helped the well-balanced Mavericks win their first title. Last season, though, they slipped to No. 22 in points allowed per possession, mitigating the impact of a top three offense.
Dallas won't be mistaken for a club of stoppers, even after turning over half its roster, but Chandler can make up for his teammates' poor instincts, slow feet and short stature by protecting the basket and covering ground with uncommon mobility. Of course, Chandler's ability to accomplish those things in his 14th season—and to boost the offense through space-clearing rolls to the rim, effective screens and high-percentage conversions inside—hinges on his health; he missed 16 games in 2012--13 (with knee and neck injuries) and 27 games in '13--14 (mostly with a broken right leg). In his last healthy season, lockout-shortened '11--12, Chandler was the Defensive Player of the Year, made the All-NBA third team and shot a career-high 67.9%.
The 32-year-old Chandler is eager to reclaim his role as the defensive leader in Big D. "I want the guys to feel secure and safe," he says. "Nobody should feel like they're on an island or that they have to be the best defender in the league. We just have to play together."
12.1 PPG; 7.0 APG; 39.4 FG%; 34.8 3FG%
19.0 PPG; 5.7 APG; 45.1 FG%; 33.0 3FG%
16.6 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 47.2 FG%; 37.0 3FG%
21.7 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 49.7 FG%; 39.8 3FG%
8.7 PPG; 9.6 RPG; 1.1 BPG; 59.3 FG%
9.1 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 0.9 BPG; 67.7 FG%
7.9 PPG; 4.5 APG; 37.8 FG%; 30.7 3FG%
Chandler lifts the defense, and Parsons's versatility makes the Mavs even more difficult to stop.
An unstable point guard rotation and defensive limitations keep Dallas from hitting its stride.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE MAVERICKS
I don't see why Dirk Nowitzki can't keep playing at a high level. He takes care of his body and has mostly stayed healthy. They used him more last season in the post, where his step-back off one leg is so hard to guard.... Monta Ellis is viewed as a gunner, but I didn't see much of that in his first year at Dallas. He played a more mature style while still getting into the paint and scoring in bunches. A lot of that has to do with accepting Rick Carlisle's coaching.... Carlisle doesn't worry about being friends with the players. If they don't do what he wants, they don't play. His playbook is as thick as any coach's, and he is always adapting. He is brilliant.... Defense will be a challenge for Carlisle, especially against teams with size in the backcourt and up front. What is their depth inside? They need the 2011 version of Tyson Chandler, who helped them win the title. But with his age and injury history, I don't know how much they will get.... Chandler Parsons is a great pickup, with his athleticism and ability to stretch the floor. They can put Dirk in the post or in a trail spot, Parsons in the corner or at the top of the key. Parsons is an excellent cutter who understands spacing. He wasn't forced to play defense in Houston. That will have to change.... It's not surprising that Jameer Nelson has the upper hand on Raymond Felton for the starting point guard job. When Felton is in shape, he runs the pick-and-roll and defends O.K. But you can't depend on him. Both will struggle stopping bigger point guards, though, so Devin Harris will be important.