So, yeah, if you've been out of touch for three days, you may not recognize the new, defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The frantic pace of a truncated NBA offseason, complemented by a new financial system, struck once again in Dallas Saturday night, as the Mavs added Lamar Odom with the trade exception gained earlier in the day via their three-team deal that sent Tyson Chandler to New York. Those moves followed two days in which we found out that Chandler, JJ Barea and Caron Butler were definitely gone and Vince Carter and Brandan Wright were coming in to help replace them. Top it all off with the early Sunday morning news that The Custodian, Brian Cardinal, will be back again.
With the additions Dallas has one remaining roster spot open and will likely use it on a minor acquisition for one more backup point guard or center - that is, unless more trades are on the horizon. As things are, though, let's take a look at the roster the Mavs are likely to take into the season to defend their title.
On the surface, Dallas is really light at the point. Jason Kidd is a year older still, and there's just no way that he can be expected to play heavy minutes in all of these five-game weeks. He's probably going to have to sit for a handful of games, and he'll certainly have to play light minutes frequently. With Barea gone the team does not have a true backup point guard. Jason Terry figures to get a renewed amount of minutes there, and Dallas will hope that Roddy Beaubois can come into his own in a similar combo guard role.
The beauty of what Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have done (at least we'll have to hope) is that Odom and Rudy Fernandez are really good with the ball in their hands. If that pair can take on some offense initiation, Terry and Beaubois become more valuable and Kidd might be able to afford his time off. How quickly Rick Carlisle can make that come together figures to be a key storyline for this team.
In the swing spots, Terry and Fernandez will be joined by Shawn Marion, Corey Brewer and Vince Carter, with Dominique Jones also waiting in the wings. It should be a pretty nice selection with which Carlisle can mix and match, and Odom can slot in at the three as well. Cardinal should play almost exactly the same role as last season, though Odom certainly gives the club much more of a pure four behind Dirk Nowitzki than they've had in a while.
Carlisle apparently sees Brandan Wright at the center spot, and Odom can play there as well at times against the right opponents. Ian Mahinmi should be the closest thing to a true backup center on the roster. Mahinmi becomes a really key guy on this roster as things stand. Brendan Haywood has averaged 24 minutes per game in his career. That will probably increase to around 30 this year, but Carlisle will have to choose between lineups without a true center and lineups with Mahinmi for significant patches of games.
It's taken Carlisle a while to figure out his rotation in previous seasons, so he'll have to work fast this time. Kidd, Dirk and Haywood should start almost every night, so the two and three spots are the big questions. Odom and Terry have been maybe the two most prolific sixth men in the league in recent years. They could join with Carter to form a heavy offensive second unit if Carlisle goes with good floor players, Marion and Fernandez, in the starting lineup.
Whatever Carlisle decides, he's lost his defensive anchor and the entire team will have to aid in compensating for that. On the other hand, the additions of Odom, Wright and Fernandez and and any extra minutes for Brewer would make this a noticeably longer team. Whether they can defend their basket is to be determined.