Frontcourt additions hope to improve defense

DALLAS — Despite missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years and failing to close out several games during a 41-41 march through last season, the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks saw plenty of success on the offensive end.

Ranking eighth in the league in scoring while putting up 101.3 points an outing and fifth in assists while dishing out 23.2 dimes per game, last season’s Mavericks squad positioned itself as one of the top offenses in the NBA. However, it was the other side of the ball that gave the Mavs the most concern while giving up 101.7 points a night to opponents.

In addition to hoping to hold opposing offenses in check, the Mavs will now try to become more of a force on the boards, after ranking 16th in the Association while pulling down 41.9 rebounds a game last season.

Addressing a big hole in the middle, the Mavericks believe they acquired the anchor of their defensive scheme this season when the front office signed free-agent center Samuel Dalembert, who has averaged 8.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks during his 11 professional seasons while suiting up for Philadelphia, Sacramento, Houston and Milwaukee. They also surrounded 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki and top perimeter defender Shawn Marion with more support in the interior, re-signing big men Brandan Wright and Bernard James before inking former Spurs center DeJuan Blair.

Now, after making several key offseason moves to sure up the front line, the Mavericks feel they’ll finally establish an identity that has been lacking since center Tyson Chandler was the main defensive catalyst on Dallas’ 2011 champion team.

“I think Sam [Dalembert] really helps us there, because he’s a true rim protector and a rebounder, and Brandan is kind of a complement to that on the matchups,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said while sizing up his new-look team’s defense. “I think obviously when we had Dirk back our defense improved, because teams had to spend a lot more attention on him and Dirk’s obviously a good rebounder as well. We should be better defensively, but it really depends on what our pace is, and that will be up to Coach [Rick Carlisle]. But, even DeJuan is going to put a hurt on people and really make them pay attention to him offensively and defensively, and so it will be interesting.”

“Well, I thought we were pretty good last year offensively. I think we’ll be even better this year,” Wright added. “You know, sometimes we had those droughts, but I don’t think we’ll have those droughts this year. I think we still averaged 100, 101 points a game, so I think it will be really good for us. We’ve got some guys that can really put the ball in the basket, and if our bigs do their job then we’ll be in good shape.”