Just 3 short years ago, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title. Last year, they barely made the playoffs, taking the Champion San Antonio Spurs to 7 games before ultimately falling short. With Shawn Marion gone to the Cavaliers, Mark Cuban decided to surround re-signed championship holdover and Mavs franchise hero Dirk Nowitzki (3 years, $25 million) with a healthy mix of veterans and youngsters, drastically improving their odds in the Western Conference.
The heart and soul of the roster remains intact, with Nowitzki and last summer's free agent consolation prize Monta Ellis (who averaged 19.0 PPG in 82 games in 2013-2014) in charge of putting points on the board. Re-signed point guard Devin Harris (4 years, $16 million), sophomore guards Gal Mekel and Ricky Ledo, forward Jae Crowder and 7-year veteran center Brandan Wright (9.1 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season) further ensure continuity.
As you might have noticed, that means key contributors Vince Carter, who left for the Grizzlies, DeJuan Blair (traded to the Wizards), Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington are gone. The latter foursome was shipped to the New York Knicks for Tyson Chandler (who was let go after the 2011 Championship) and former Bobcats point guard Raymond Felton. The Mavs then outsmarted the capped-out Houston Rockets, signing restricted free agent Chandler Parson to a 3-year, $46 million offer sheet, which Daryl Morey decided not to match.
To shore up the bench, the Mavericks also added amnesty clause casualty Jameer Nelson, Richard Jefferson, Pelicans free agent Al-Farouq Aminu, and big men Greg Smith and Ivan Johnson.
Sure, Dallas lost some important pieces, but adding a budding star like Parsons (who averaged 16.6 PPG behind James Harden and Dwight Howard last season) to serve as a third-wheel scorer is kind of a big deal. Head coach Rick Carlisle has a great amount of depth at his disposal - litterally every position is covered - and I can't imagine the Mavs not finishing as a top-5 seed.