Point guard, defensive big man top Mavs’ offseason wishlist

DALLAS — Coming out of their first-round playoff series sweep in 2012 at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was clear to the Dallas Mavericks’ front office that the team had to address two areas of need during the offseason.

After falling to the eventual Western Conference champions in four games, Mavericks president of basketball operations and GM Donnie Nelson made it clear that the team needed to add a perimeter player capable of engineering the offense while also creating shots for himself and others. Nelson also coveted a defensive big man capable of protecting the rim against the Kevin Durants and Russell Westbrooks of the world.

But, after failing to lure former All-Star point guard Deron Williams away from the Brooklyn Nets in the offseason during free agency and never adding a consistent defensive presence, the Mavericks (41-41) went into the 2012-13 season still lacking in both areas. They now head into a second straight summer needing to address their floor general position while also seeking a big man capable of providing the same defensive spark that former center Tyson Chandler added to the fold during the 2011 NBA championship run, attempting to improve a team that missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 years after breaking even with a .500 record.

“Look, we’ve been spoiled with guys like [Steve] Nash and Jason Kidd, and those are certainly big shoes to fill,” Nelson said after a multitude of point guards manned the position this season. “And I think, you know, the quarterback position is one that we’re going to look very, very hard at. We’ve always liked players that are veteran, players that are smart, and having the ability to raise our collective IQ is also something that’s important to us. And yes, we’re always into rim protectors and shot blockers. That certainly makes life a lot easier for everyone on the floor. But we’ve got six guys under contract. We’ve got three veterans and three young guys, and we’re in pretty short order going to try to address all of those available positions. … It’s free agency, it’s draft, it’s trade, and so we’ll turn over every rock in attempt to get where we need to be, which is not where we are right now.”

Looking to add talent around veteran leaders Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, the Mavericks will again head into the summer looking to attract prized free agents. They will also try to bring along rookies Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder, hoping the trio is capable of playing bigger roles if called upon by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle next season.

Ranking eighth in the league in scoring (101.1 ppg) and fifth in assists (23.2 apg) this season, the Dallas offense would likely only see improvement if the Mavs were about to add an elite-level floor general to boost a team that struggled with late-game execution. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense ranked just 27th in points allowed (101.7 ppg), making the need for a defensive catalyst a pressing concern as well.

Perhaps more importantly, however, the Mavs will have to fill expected holes in the lineup after finishing the season with nine players on expiring contracts. And with point guard and defensive center still high on the priority list, the Mavs head into this offseason well aware that they have plenty of areas to address in order to build a playoff contender this summer.

“You’d love to get a point guard that can score, get in the lane a little bit and create his own shot, but also a good passer, a guy that loves to compete on a high level and make his teammates better. I mean, all the good stuff you like to see in a point guard really,” Nowitzki said.

“Well, we’ve got to get better at every position if we can,” Carlisle added. “Personally, I’d like to have as many of these guys back as we could that fit, because the fewer new guys that we have next year the better it’s going to be from the beginning of training camp going forward to get the team functioning the way we want it to function. So, you know, those things will be evaluated. We had a lot of guys that did good things, particularly in the latter stage of the season, and in the summer those things will work themselves out and we’ll go from there. But we’re going to have some new guys on the team. We know that. We’re just not sure exactly who at this point.”