Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:32 AM ET

Are Mavs coming or going?


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Where will the Dallas Mavericks finish in the Southwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.


Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

Finally, there's a "D" in Dallas.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
They should play Dirk as an undersized center and try to run teams off the floor with their athleticism and scoring. That seems way too radical for coach Avery Johnson, so I see them living and dying in the middle of the playoff pack.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
Newcomer Doug Christie will improve the team defense. But center Erick Dampier must have a consistent and productive year for the Mavs to get past first round of playoffs.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
The loss of Michael Finley will hurt, but not as much as people think. Good news: Dirk is entering his prime and the Mavs have several young players poised for breakout seasons. Bad news: they're in the West's toughest division.
John Hollinger ESPN Insider
Dismiss them at your own peril. The Mavs have quietly built a deep and talented team that defends much better than previous editions. If the Spurs should falter, Mark Cuban's gang is lying in wait.
Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2


The beginning of the downfall. Avery Johnson will still get consideration as Coach of the Year.

Tim Legler ESPN Insider

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Dallas Mavericks.

Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2

Dirk needs to play angry, with something to prove (to himself) all season long. Otherwise, they're irrelevant.
Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
Doug Christie's and coach Avery Johnson's increased emphasis on defense will help negate the loss of Michael Finley. They have plenty of weapons and are starting to understand D.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
Coach Avery Johnson will have this team constantly trying to improve on defense. We know they, like Sacramento, can score. Maybe they should tell Tim Duncan that Mark Cuban will pay his fines for not abiding by the dress code.
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
The departure of Finley will hurt, but not as much as many predict. This is Avery Johnson's first full season to change the culture Don Nelson spawned. It'll be a two-year project before the Mavs reassert themselves among the West's top four.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
This team doesn't look a lot different than last year's 58-win club. So pencil in 50-plus wins, even if you're skeptical about Avery Johnson wanting Dallas to be known for its D ... and the push to make Dirk more of a post-up guy.

Dirk And J.T.
Nowitzki, Terry
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images
When we last saw the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki was snapping at Jason Terry for a blown assignment. Now the Dallas Five are high again.

Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Mavericks roster:

Starters: Better than most, not as good as their owner thinks.
Will be on the blocks more. Watch out.
Might as well call him the volcano. He's about to blow up.
Got the big bucks. Maybe he can buy a big game.
If he can't defend, he's useless. He can't defend.
No one missed Nash. Until it counted.
Bench: Comfy on the outside (Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Van Horn, Marquis Daniels and Devin Harris), exposed on the inside (DeSagana Diop and Josh Powell).



ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.

Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Devin Harris
Player Efficiency Rating
vs. NBA Avg.: -0.93

Devin Harris' rookie season wasn't nearly the failure some made it out to be. Don Nelson jumped the gun by making Harris the starter in training camp when he wasn't ready for the job, but by the end of the year Harris was a quietly effective reserve. And as the projections show, he figures to improve substantially in his second season.

Harris' biggest weakness was a propensity for turnovers. His turnover ratio was well below average and his consecutive miscues in a playoff game against Houston got him yanked in favor of Darrell Armstrong. He also needs to improve his 3-point shot. Harris had a reputation as an outside shooter in college but in his first year with the longer line, hit only 33 percent from downtown. Improving on that mark is important because he has enough scorers around him to get a lot of open shots from the perimeter.

Otherwise, Harris has most of the tools. He has good quickness, is a very strong driver going to his right and fares well in the open court. He needs to see the floor better though, because too many of those right-handed drives led to shots instead of passes.

Defensively, Harris fared better. He had the second-best rate of steals per minute in the league and he has enough size to distract shooters. While he could probably gamble a bit less and certainly needs to hit the weights, he has all the makings of a high-quality defender down the road. In the short-term, he'll again be learning his craft as Terry's caddy, but he'll eventually justify Nelson's faith in using him as a starter.

-- Mavs player profiles adapted from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

Howard's Hops
Nathaniel S. Butler Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Quietly, Josh Howard has become Dallas' second-best player with a blend of athleticism and intensity.

Nation Speaks
We asked SportsNation to address two areas of concern with the Dallas Mavericks: shooting guard and center.

Almost 8,000 fans voted, and here are their responses:

Who should start at shooting guard?
43.9% Marquis Daniels
32.6% Jerry Stackhouse
23.5% Doug Christie

Which Erick Dampier will show up?
55.7% The 2004-05 version (9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
44.3% The '03-04 version (12.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg)

Vote: Mavericks in 2005-06 | Results

Tim's Time
Dirk Nowitzki

Legs on Mavs: I just don't see them being as good as the past five years. Losing Michael Finley is big. Doug Christie is a veteran fill-in, but his best days are behind him.

It's still Dirk Nowitzki's and Jason Terry's team, and they are both All-Star caliber players. But, overall, they haven't improved and might even have taken a step back. They are still a formidable team capable of beating anyone on any given night, but I don't see them as a legitimate title contender.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider

Coach's Corner
Avery Johnson
Experience: 1 year
Reg. season record: 16-2
Playoff record: 6-7
Coach's profile

Coaching his team from the beginning of training camp will help Avery Johnson set the right tone. His emphasis on defense (No. 8 in defensive field-goal percentage) should be ingrained early.

Avery hopes the loss of Michael Finley will be negated by the addition of Doug Christie and his defensive mind-set.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN Insider

Hollinger's Q & A
Is the center spot still a problem?

For much of last year, it looked as though the Mavs' long-troublesome center position was finally in safe hands. Erick Dampier came over from Golden State and provided his usual assortment of high-percentage shooting and offensive rebounding. Additionally, he was able to give the Mavs enough size in the middle that opposing centers didn't destroy them.

Then the playoffs started. Houston's Yao Ming handed Dampier a savage beating in the first round, raising new questions about the Mavs' ability to defend the post. To make matters worse, Shawn Bradley retired in the offseason and Alan Henderson signed with Cleveland, leaving the Mavs dangerously thin in the middle.

The Mavs turned to Cavaliers reject DeSagana Diop to be their backup center this year, with second-year experiments DJ Mbenga and Pavel Podkolzin the only depth behind him.

Thus, Dallas needs Dampier to deliver more than ever. Not only do the Mavericks need his highly variable effort level to be more consistent from night to night but they also need him to avoid fouls -- not necessarily because it keeps Dampier on the court but because it keeps Diop off it.

The Mavs know they can be a title contender if Dampier can play the way he did in Golden State two years ago, but an injury or decline would be devastating in light of the flimsy alternatives.

More Hollinger Mavericks analysis Insider

Fantasy Fix

Sleeper: Marquis Daniels is the main beneficiary of the Michael Finley exit. In 17 starts last season, Daniels averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds and nearly two steals. Off the bench, his stats paled in comparison. Dallas intends to give Daniels big minutes, so you should give him consideration in rounds 8-10.

Bust: Doug Christie's attempt to play with as many teams as possible overshadows his decline. Now mainly a defensive stopper, the Mavs don't expect Christie to score much. Neither should you. Christie is no longer durable, a master thief or the long-range option he once was. Draft him late, if at all.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index


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