In 2013, the Southwest Division looks to be the toughest division in the NBA, as it has been for the past decade plus. All 5 teams are expected to make the playoffs. The team in question is the Dallas Mavericks who, 2 years removed from a championship and subsequent dismantling, have finally made moves with winning basketball games in mind rather than salary cap room. Although Dallas, along with the Pelicans, has the lowest expectations in the division, I see them as a dark horse. They have made moves to improve across the board, replacing their one year rentals with veteran pieces like Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert, and a man with something to prove in Monta Ellis.
While they may not seem fearsome on paper, they resemble to 2011 Mavericks in that they are a group of castaways that, when steered under the guidance of Coach Rick Carlisle, can prove to be very lethal. Even the pieces they’ve surrounded Dirk with are somewhat similar in their roles and style. They are a sum of their parts.
Pelicans Strengths vs Mavs
Counter Against the Zone:
Carlisle and the Mavs are heavy users of the zone defense and have been for years. The way to make a team pay for that is to slash in, make the zone to tighten inside, and kick it out to an open shooter. Luckily, the Pelicans have just the tools for this. Holiday, Evans, and Gordon are excellent at beating defenders off the dribble. Once they cut inside, they’ll have the opportunity to kick the ball out to more than competent shooters in Anderson, Morrow, or any one of the three previously mentioned. If any indication is given by Davis’s performance in the Team USA Scrimmage, he could also prove deadly on the perimeter with an improved outside shot.
Point Guard Battle:
On the offensive end, Jrue Holiday needs to take advantage of the age difference between Calderon and himself. The Mavericks have lacked a strong defensive point guard for a while (save for spurts of Jason Kidd), so this isn’t new. CP3 and Tony Parker have taken advantage of this for years. If Jrue can get around Calderon, it will open up many avenues for the Pelicans.
Pelicans Weaknesses vs Mavs
No Match For Dirk Nowitzki:
This is a weakness every team in the league has, and it’s unavoidable. There is no defensive counter for Dirk Nowitzki. The Pelicans have to find a balance between not allowing him to burn them on the one-on-one too badly, but also not continually committing the double team. Jose Calderon was one of the best 3 point shooters last season at 52%, and the Pelicans also don’t want to allow to give Monta Ellis one step ahead of his defender who is trying to re-check him.
Can’t Rely on Fastbreak, My Fall into Mavs Pace:
Jose Calderon was one of the smartest point guards last season. He is very efficient in distributing the ball, coming up 2nd in assist to turnover ratio only behind Chris Paul(4.11). While the Pelicans will have speed on the Mavs, they may not be able to capitalize on this as much as they’d like with infrequent turnovers. Rick Carlisle combined with a pure, tempo controlling point guard is very dangerous when it comes to pace management. And on the defensive end, we should expect the Mavs to be much better replacing Chris Kaman with Samuel Dalembert in the middle. Monty Williams and the Pelicans will have to avoid being lulled into the Mavs pace, while also making sure Monta Ellis doesn’t explode in transition.
Prediction : 2 – 2