Mark Cuban is one of the best owners in all of sports and in the summer of 2011, he got to witness his baby, the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA Championship.  Dallas took a step back last season as they went from being the West’s 3 seed in 2010-11 to the 7th.  It’s not an indictment on the skill level of the Mavericks, but rather a testament to the talent and depth of the Western Conference.  All the teams around them are improving while it seems the Mavericks are remaining a bit stagnant.  This will be a very different season for Rick Carlisle’s team as there’s plenty of new faces.

Regardless of who has come and gone on this roster, Dirk Nowitzki remains as the face of the franchise.  The NBA Champion has put together a Hall of Fame worthy career in Dallas and he’s looking to add even more credentials.  The former MVP’s conditioning and durability are being called into question as he is currently slated to miss the beginning of the season with a knee issue.  Obviously this hurts overall because Dirk is the best player on the team, but it also hinders the team’s ability to form some chemistry after their makeover.  Nowitzki will have to step in during the season and get himself fitted with the scheme, which admittedly shouldn’t be extremely difficult, but it’s a hurdle that needs to be jumped before this team reaches its max potential.

For their sake, I hope Dirk returns sooner rather than later and plays at a high level because the rest of the roster is suspect.  Vince Carter is no longer "Half-man, Half-amazing."  He's all man now and he can be a decent player in the league who provides some nice moments for the Mavericks, but he's not your ideal SG on a team looking to make another run at the Larry O'Brien trophy.  Cuban did bring in some depth at the 2 guard spot by acquiring O.J. Mayo.  The former 3rd overall pick has been largely a bust since his rookie year.  The Grizzlies didn’t even bother to make him a qualifying offer this past summer when he became a restricted free agent.  It could be a case of a guy needing a change of scenery, God knows he was a part of enough trade rumors in Memphis.  If he’s going to have a respectful NBA career, it needs to begin now in Dallas.

Darren Collison, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman round out the core newcomers to this roster.  Collison replaces Jason Kidd (now in New York) and will most likely surpass the future Hall of Famer in terms of quality of play.  Kidd is old now and was old last year - he is beginning to lose his touch as a great PG and Collison is still young.  Indiana decided they didn’t need him anymore and Cuban swooped in and brought in a more than capable guy to run the floor for his Mavericks.  Elton Brand was a victim of the NBA’s amnesty clause as Philadelphia decided to cut all ties with him.  He will be counted on very heavily the first month of the season as he has to try and stop the bleeding while Dirk is out.  Once Nowitzki returns, Brand will have to accept a lesser bench role.  He’s never been a bench player in his career – it should be interesting to see how he takes to it.  Chris Kaman provides stability at the center position – very much needed since the departure of Tyson Chandler.

Expect Shawn Marion to step up and try to fill the shoes Jason Kidd left behind in terms of veteran leadership on the roster.  He’s been with the Mavericks for several years now and with Dirk out, he’ll have to become the vocal guy on the court who helps lead the team along with Rick Carlisle.  A guy likeMarioncould do a lot of good for someone like O.J. Mayo or the knucklehead Delonte West (suspended indefinitely as of right night).

I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope Rodrigue Beaubois gets a real shot this season.  No more sporadic playtime with stretches of being benched for seemingly no reason.  The guy has some game and hopefully Carlisle finally gives him a real shot.  He could emerge as the team’s starting SG should Carter or Mayo falter.  Hell, even if both guys are decent, Beaubois could outplay them en route to a starting job.

This will be an interesting season for Dallas.  Mark Cuban is trying to keep this team competitive as they try not to tread water while Nowitzki misses time.  I’m not thrilled with the roster and they have fallen back into the mix of decent teams in the West.  They could easily miss the playoffs this year.  I suppose I have enough faith in Cuban and Carlisle to not predict that to happen.

Season Outlook: Dallas struggles for stretches of the season as they try to find their new identity but manage to lock up one of the lower seeds in the West only to be knocked out in the first round by one of the powerhouses.

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