COACH: Avery Johnson | 2005-06: 60-22
Dallas Mavericks

Nowitzki and the Mavericks will look to return to the Finals and erase last season's loss from their memory.
Randy Belice/Getty Images/NBAE
With the notable exception of an ill-timed four-game losing streak while they held a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks enjoyed the best season in their history.

The team that stumbled through the ‘90s with nary a winning season is now trying to stake their claim as the top team of the current decade. For six straight seasons, they’ve topped the 50-win plateau, finally advancing to the Finals after a 60-22 season that equaled the best in franchise history. They still have one more hill to climb after their Finals collapse, but they’ll do it with all of their starters back and motivated.

The Mavericks are taking a chemistry risk, however, re-tooling their bench with at least five new second-unit players. Among the departed, Marquis Daniels was the biggest contributor, offensively and defensively. He was dealt because Dallas has depth to compensate and so Dallas could get out from under the three years remaining on his contract. Darrell Armstrong, Rawle Marshall and Josh Powell were also traded; Keith Van Horn and Adrian Griffin left via free agency.

Forward Austin Croshere, acquired from Indiana in exchange for Daniels, steps into the Van Horn role. He’ll rebound, he’ll hit some threes, he’ll give Nowitzki a breather and he will be a free agent after the season. Point guard Anthony Johnson, acquired from Indiana in a separate deal, gives the Mavericks a true point guard whose defense and playmaking could keep him on the floor in crunch time.

First-rounder Maurice Ager and free agents Greg Buckner and Devean George will find a logjam at the wing positions where Jason Terry, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse will again get the bulk of the minutes. Ager, already a favorite of Avery Johnson, and Buckner should find their way onto the floor with their defense.

The two-headed center returns. DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier combined to average better than 8 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.

At least two-deep at every position, Dallas is as injury proof as they were a year ago, when only four players appeared in more than 62 games. If anything, this team benefited from injuries, because it gave everyone a chance to play.

Of course, that’s not true should the injury bug bite Nowitzki, who is coming off of another monster season. An All-NBA first-teamer, Nowitzki averaged 26.6 points and shot 48 percent, both career bests. He was even better in the playoffs … until the Finals, when he shot only 39 percent, averaging 22.8 points and slamming one training bike. Nothing like an unhappy ending to provide a little extra motivation for Nowitzki, who was recently re-signed through 2010-11.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks are a virtual lock for another 55-60 wins and another playoff run. They’ll go toe-to-toe with the Spurs in the Southwest, and appear destined for another spring clash.
-- Bill Evans

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Time to Shine

Harris
Devin Harris enters his third NBA season with the starting point guard job there for the taking. Will he take it? Consistency hasn’t exactly been Harris’s forte. Against the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, for example, Harris has as many turnovers (9) as points in games six and seven after four straight efforts of 15 or more points. Naturally, he went for 30 in the first game of the Western Conference Finals. Harris is long and lean with the speed to give the Mavericks a different dimension, but his shooting playmaking still need to evolve. His assist/turnover ratio is unspectacular (2.1), his assist total is sub-par (3.2) and his three-point shooting is downright woeful (.238). He has the right mentor in Avery Johnson, but Johnson is by no means handing him the job. The Mavericks brought in Anthony Johnson from Indiana, another big guard who can defend and run the offense. Johnson is a better shooter and skilled playmaker (4.3 assists) who has more experience. Obviously cognizant that his minutes will need to be earned, Harris told the Dallas Morning News he has spent the last month shooting an estimated 600-700 jump shots a day.
-- Bill Evans

65.52
THE STAT
Dirk Nowitzki averaged a career-high 26.6 points per game last season and enters this season with 13,257 career points. Should Nowitzki match his scoring clip from a year ago, he will hit the 15,000 career-points plateau in 65.52 games, i.e. just after halftime of the Mavs' game in New York on March 20.
X&O STRENGTH

Johnson
I think that Avery Johnson did an outstanding job last year ... I think that his use of personnel was key. He alternated those guards and got a little bit more out of them for the playoffs ... I think he's experienced enough now to know that you have to do it on both ends.

X&O WEAKNESS
His biggest job is to get everybody over there to forget Games 3 and 5 of the Finals.

HEAD COACH PHILOSOPHY
I think the jury's still out whether he'll be an offensive or defensive coach. I think he had to go there and put the defense in, but I thought he used some ingenuity in the offense during the playoffs last year.
-- Bill Fitch (courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association)

The young guys have a taste of what it takes and what you need after making the Finals and they are hungry to get back.
Here’s the scary thing, if they get anything out of a guy like Ager and the other guys they drafted then you can put them back in the Finals again right away just because they would be 12-13 deep then.
I don’t think Nowitzi playing in the Worlds will be a factor, he is an elite athlete.
In order to beat them you have to stop them in every facet. You have to slow them down, you have to get them in foul trouble, you really have to have a lot of stars aligned.
The playoffs hardened them last year, their experience is invaluable now.
-- Western Conference Scout
Josh Howard: Howard is a young player who is beginning to develop into a star alongside Dirk and is well worth the risk of a mid-round pick compared to the reward he could offer.
DeSagana Diop: Although his blocks do come in handy in a very scarce category, the depleted numbers in every other category are not worth the pick up.
The Mavs’ main contributors are coming back for another run at the Finals. All of the starters and the first two guys off the bench (Jerry Stackhouse and Anthony Johnson) will be fantasy worthy. Three of the five starters should retain the same fantasy value as last year with a slight increase for Josh Howard and Devin Harris. Josh Howard’s increase should simply come from a young player progressing and learning how to be a scorer in the NBA. The largest jump in value should come for Devin Harris. He showed during the playoffs that he can contribute if he is given the minutes. Coming off the bench for the Mavericks this year will include a talented bunch to choose from: Jerry Stackhouse, Anthony Johnson, Maurice Ager, Erick Dampier and Austin Croshere. If there are any injuries in the starting lineup, expect any of these subs to fill in admirably.
-- Isaiah Barney
Mavericks Fantasy Preview
PLAYER/2005-06 STATS
PPG
RPG
APG
PG
17.1
2.0
3.8
SG
6.7
2.9
1.7
SF
15.6
6.3
1.9
PF
26.6
9.0
2.8
C
2.3
4.6
0.3
G
9.9
2.2
3.2
F
8.2
5.3
1.2
G-F
6.3
3.9
1.0
G
9.2
2.2
4.3
G-F
13.0
2.8
2.9
F
Germany
C
Congo
G
Puerto Rico
F
England
C
Senegal
G
Draft
G-F
Free agent
G-F
Free agent
F
Undrafted rookie
G
Undrafted rookie
G-F
Free agent from USBL
F
Free agent
G
Undrafted rookie
F
Trade
G
Trade
G-F
Free agent
G
Trade
G
Trade
G-F
Trade
F
Trade
C
Waived
PPG
26.6
RPG
11.7
APG
3.8
SPG
1.18
BPG
1.27
Points Scored
99.1
(9th)
Points Allowed
93.1
(7th)
Field-Goal Percentage
.462
(7th)
Opponents' FG%
.443
(21st)
Rebounding Diff.
+3.86
(3rd)
2001-02: 57-25, Second, Midwest Division
1996-97: 24-58, Fourth, Midwest Division
1986-87: 55-27, First, Midwest Division
1981-82: 28-54, Fifth, Midwest Division
Best NBA Season: 2005-06, 60-22
Season/Home Opener:
Nov. 2 vs. SAS (8 p.m. ET, YES)
Longest Road Trip:
6 games in 10 days: Mar. 18-27
@ DET, @ NYK, @ CLE, @ BOS, @ ATL, @ NOK
Longest home stand(s):
4 games in 7 days: Nov. 25-Dec. 1
NOK, MIN, TOR, SAC
4 games in 9 days: Dec. 22-Dec. 30
LAC, CHA, PHO, NOK
Buy tickets | Full Mavericks schedule
TV: UPN-21, FSN Southwest
Radio: ESPN 103.3 FM
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: Dallas Morning News | Fort Worth Star-Telegram