Jan 12, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; A view of the Dallas Mavericks logo before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Grizzlies 104-83. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New Western Conference Landscape: Dallas Mavericks

Apr 15, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (50) guards Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during the game at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have had a pretty major overhaul this summer, though to say it was positive might be a stretch, and it’s been perplexing to say the least.

Dallas has spent the last two years building teams on one year contracts to maintain the cap flexibility necessary to land big fish free agents like Deron, Dwight, and Chris Paul. They have obviously not landed Deron, Dwight, or CP3.

Now, one year removed from the star studded free agent market of 2014, the Mavs have given up the superstar chase and are trying to build a passable roster around Dirk and his talents to try for another bid in the playoffs, and maybe to be able to flip for better talent in the future.

Immediately upon losing the Dwight race, the Mavericks signed free agent point guard Jose Calderon to a four year, seven million a year contract. Calderon is a huge upgrade over last seasons’ starters Darren Collison and Mike James, who both had difficulty shooting, turnover problems, and trouble with getting the ball to Dirk. Calderon will not have those problems. They were also bad defenders, and he does have that problem.

Dallas also has struck a two-year deal with former Grizzly Wayne Ellington, committed to the mini-Mid Level Exception. Ellington is an ideal 3-and-D guy and should provide a nice lift off the bench. Between Calderon and Dirk, the Mavericks only really needed one more really good shooter to spread out the floor and give everyone space, and Ellington qualifies. Similarly, he could potentially make up for some of Calderon’s defensive deficiencies, though Ellington isn’t exactly a stopper in his own right either.

As well, the Mavericks HAD Devin Harris committed to return to the “Big-D” for 3 years, presumably to start at SG. The Harris deal was fascinating, and probably ultimately positive for the team, though perplexing given a huge logjam at guard positions (if you include draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo) and literally not a single big man on the roster.

Mar 31, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis (11) passes the ball as Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo (32) defends during the third quarter at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

More perplexing, then, was the signing on Monta Ellis. Harris’ deal was dropped in favor of signing the Ellis, the pseudo-star gunner who played in Milwaukee for the last two seasons. Despite Monta’s flaws as a not-great shooter who does basically nothing other than shoot, he’ll probably fit well on the Mavericks.

Ellis can essentially play JJ Barea’s role from the 2011 title squad: he’s a slasher and shooter who can thrive in the space created by running Pick and Rolls with Dirk, who himself creates more space than almost anyone else in the league. In that sense, Ellis can potentially be a frightening offensive pickup for the Mavs, as he is clearly a massive scoring upgrade over JJ Barea, whether you like him or not.

The Mavs, finally, signed a Center as of a few days ago: veteran big man Samuel Dalembert. It’s presumed that they will also re-sign their hyper-efficient bench big man Brandan Wright with their Bird Rights.

The Mavs aren’t looking to be contenders next season, though they are looking to squeeze into a low playoff spot and maybe flip some of their new assets for more talent in the future, or utilize their about 24 million in cap space that’s coming next offseason.

Their offense is likely to hum along at a highly efficient rate — as the Dirk centric offense always has and always will — but the defense is likely to be a total mess. A backcourt featuring Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis is a recipe for disaster, and Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert are nowhere near good enough on that end to make up for ALL of the mistakes that core is likely to make

The question, then, for the Mavericks will be whether the defense can hang on just long enough to make a small dent in the standings this next season.

For the Grizzlies, the Mavericks aren’t looking to be much of a threat. As Division rivals, and recent champions, Dallas should probably never be total taken for granted, but it just doesn’t look like they’re going to take the juggernaut Southwest division by storm. In all likelihood, the Mavericks will be battling the Pelicans for the last spot in the Division as both fight to hang on to franchise relevance and a low seeded playoff spot, so don’t expect a playoff matchup between the two teams or Dallas fighting for Memphis’ spot.

That said, when it comes down to individual games, the Grizzlies will need to tread carefully. The Mavericks still have Dirk Nowitzki, and that man can — and will — win by himself, and to count a win against any team who rosters a player of Dirk’s talent is to tempt fate. The Grizzlies should be able to beat the Mavericks at every head to head, but don’t say they will.

Otherwise, the Mavericks are just another team for the Grizzlies to beat on their way up next season.

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