Game 66: Mavs vs. Pacers

Steal and Slam

Wesley Matthews dives to the deck for the steal and David Lee finishes it off with the slam dunk.

Game 26: Mavs at Pacers

Mavericks vs. Pacers

Raymond Felton led the way with 16 points and Dirk added 13 but it wasn't enough as the Mavs fall to Pacers, 107-81.

With added outside shooting, Mavs believe they can replicate offensive success of ’14-15

DALLAS — After ranking in the top tier of the NBA with one of the league’s most potent offensive attacks during the 2014-15 campaign, the Dallas Mavericks believe that they have the potential be even more lethal this upcoming season.

Last season, the Mavericks ranked third in the NBA in scoring with 105.2 points per game. The Mavs also ranked eighth while dishing out 22.5 assists an outing, showcasing an ability to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways and with a multitude of scorers.

Much of that offensive success was created by leading scorer Monta Ellis, who produced 459 total points and shot 49 percent on 666 drives to the rim a season ago. Ellis’ relentless attack and 18.9 points per game helped the Mavericks feature the fifth-best offensive rating in the league at 107.2. However, even with Ellis now in Indiana following his departure during free agency, the Mavs don’t expect a drastic dropoff in scoring during the ’15-16 campaign.

With that said, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle will admittedly have a big void to fill on the offensive end while making up for Ellis’ production this season.

“It’s a big void,” Carlisle confessed while speaking on the loss of Ellis in July. “You know, we’re talking about our leading scorer the last two years and a guy that really, to be totally truthful about it, got us back into the playoffs the last couple of years. Without him, I don’t know if we would have been able to do it. He was that important to us. He’s a guy I’ve enjoyed working with tremendously, and we knew that it was a strong possibility that he would exercise his option to opt out and become a free agent.”

Integrating the likes of three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams and swingman Wesley Matthews, the Mavericks could be in for another big season scoring the ball. But while looking to keep pace with the rest of the top offenses in the league, the team’s offensive approach is also expected to change following the acquisitions of the two newest members of the backcourt.

With Ellis attacking, the Dallas offense ranked No. 1 in the league with 35.6 points per game on drives last season. The Mavs also ranked second in the league to Philadelphia in total drives and points on drives, respectively, tallying 1,620 points off 2,658 total penetrations into the paint.

According to NBA.com, the Mavs took the fourth-most catch-and-shoot strokes from behind the arc last season, averaging 19.4 attempts per game. The team also connected on 36.7 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts from long range as a team, benefitting from Ellis’ ability to draw the defense into the lane on his drives. Those numbers now figure to improve with more proven three-point shooters to help on the perimeter.

Ranking in a tie for 11th in the league while connecting on 35.2 percent as a team from behind the three-point arc last season, the Mavericks are expected to be an improved shooting team after the additions of Matthews — Portland’s franchise leader with 826 made three-pointers — and Williams — a career 35.8-percent shooter from long range. And according to both Carlisle and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks should also be better equipped to compete with the NBA’s newest trend.

“What we’re seeing more and more of these days, if you watch guys like (Stephen) Curry and (Klay) Thompson and (J.J.) Redick, a lot of these guys are running off screens for 26 and 27-foot shots. We have a lot of improvement to do shooting it and guarding it,” Carlisle confessed when assessing his team’s three-point shooting.

“It’s pretty obvious now that the league goes in a direction where everybody on the floor has to be able to score,” Nowitzki added. “All the good teams can score 110, 120 every night. There’s a lot of small ball now. You can’t have enough athletes, but you need enough shooters.”

Once healthy, Chandler Parsons may be asked to shoulder heavier scoring load in ’15-16

DALLAS — He’s been known for his versatility since entering the NBA four seasons ago, filling up the stat sheet in a variety of ways at the small forward position. However, four-year pro Chandler Parsons may be asked to be more of a scoring threat during the upcoming season.

After spending his first three years in the league with the rival Houston Rockets, Parsons continued to display his heralded versatility while battling through nagging injuries during his first season with the Mavericks. Playing in 66 games during the 2014-15 campaign, Parsons averaged 15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 33.1 minutes per outing. He then found his season cut short after Game 1 of the Mavs’ first-round playoff series against his former team due to a right knee that required arthroscopic surgery to repair a cartilage injury on May 1.

Following the free-agent departure of leading scorer Monta Ellis to Indiana, Parsons may now be asked to shoulder more of the team’s scoring load during the ’15-16 campaign. Still, as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle cautions, it’s unclear how quickly the 6-foot-9 forward can get back to playing at a high level as the team tries to fill a huge void on offense.

“It’s a big void,” Carlisle confessed while speaking on the loss of Ellis in July. “You know, we’re talking about our leading scorer the last two years and a guy that really, to be totally truthful about it, got us back into the playoffs the last couple of years. Without him, I don’t know if we would have been able to do it. He was that important to us.

“We’ve got to get Parsons back to 100 percent, which will happen,” the coach added. “His game has grown a lot. He’s not only a shooter and a scorer, but he’s a playmaker. He’s a defender and a rebounder. He’s one of our best all-around players. As the season went on, his responsibilities grew, and they will continue to grow going forward. … There are going to be plenty of things that he can do to refine his game, even if he’s not on the court going 100 percent. I’ve had long discussions with him about that. There will be no time wasted, and he will continue to get better and be one of the best young players in the game.”

Parsons figures to be even more important to the Mavs this season after finishing third in scoring on the team behind Ellis and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki in Year 1.

Shooting 46.2 percent from the field, the 26-year-old Parsons also connected on 38 percent from behind the three-point arc to finish second on the team in that department during the regular season. He showed that he could handle a heavier scoring load after a sluggish start to the season as well, stepping up his play in December while averaging 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 14 games, in addition to shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from behind the three-point arc during that span.

Parsons picked back up that aggressive play in April after battling back from a bone bruise and left ankle sprain, averaging 17.2 points on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and connecting on 42.9 percent from long range in 10 games during the month. He’ll now try to pick up where he left off at prior to the knee injury, hoping to again showcase his versatility while leading the Mavericks back into championship contention.

“I’ve never been hurt in my career,” Parsons explained. “I think I missed more games this year than I did my entire first three years, which is extremely frustrating. Obviously, being a new guy on a new team and in new city, everything was just brand new with me. A lot of times I’m trying to get acclimated and get used to it. I’m just disappointed I couldn’t play in the playoffs. That’s the most fun time of the year, and what you come here to do is compete for a championship. For me, not being able to do that this year was devastating and frustrating. I’ve never really went through anything like that. It was a pretty down year for me, just from the standpoint I couldn’t help. I couldn’t play in the playoffs and help my team compete for a championship.”

With Ellis no longer manning the opposite wing, Parsons will certainly be called upon to help replace the 18.9 points per game that departs from the Dallas lineup. That’s an opportunity the young forward is eagerly awaiting, hoping to become more of a focal point in the offense after also playing in the shadows of perennial All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard during his time in Houston.

Immediately beginning his rehabilitation process after the season, Parsons fully expects to be ready by Opening Night in Phoenix on Oct. 28. And while vowing to return from the injury stronger than ever, Parsons could see a spike in his scoring numbers as the ball figures to be in his hands more going forward.

“With this knee injury, I think it’ll be a blessing in disguise,” Parsons proclaimed after watching helplessly as the Mavericks fell in five games to the Rockets. “I’ll be able to work on all aspects of my game. I’ll be able to get much stronger, and I’ll be able to get much faster. I’ll feel like a new guy with a new game. Being 27 at the start of next year, obviously it’s not ideal, but it’s good timing and I’ll be able to do things and spend time with things I never have before. I’ll get in the gym, work on my shot, work on everything, and just continue to be a versatile player and do a little bit of everything on the floor.

“I’m going into my prime. I think I’m ready. I feel like this year was more of a year to get comfortable and get my feet wet. I had some big games. Next year, I hope for a much bigger role. I want the ball in my hands. I want good players around me. I think we have a chance to make some noise next year. Like I said, this year was a little frustrating, mostly just health-wise with the ankle and the foot, and then with the knee. So, my biggest goal right now is to do whatever I have to do to fix my knee, no matter how long that’s going to be. I think that’ll be good, because it will allow me to basically reset my body and take time to work on my foot and my hips. And it will allow me to get stronger than I have ever been and not too overweight, hopefully.”

Three-point shooting could key Mavs’ offensive success in ’15-16

DALLAS — After ranking in a tie for 11th in the NBA while shooting 35.2 percent as a team from behind the three-point arc during the 2014-15 schedule, the Dallas Mavericks figure to be one of the most lethal squads from long range this upcoming season.

Last season, much of the Mavericks’ offensive success was predicated on penetration to the rim, ranking No. 1 in the league with 35.6 points per game on drives. The Mavs also ranked second in the league to Philadelphia in total drives and points on drives, tallying 1,620 points off 2,658 total penetrations into the paint.

Much of that success was created by leading scorer Monta Ellis, who scored 459 total points and shot 49 percent on 666 drives to the rim a season ago. Ellis’ relentless attack towards the rim helped the Mavericks feature the fifth-best offensive rating in the league at 107.2. However, with Ellis’ free-agent departure to Indiana subtracting that offensive success, the Mavericks will certainly have to look elsewhere to generate points during the ’15-16 campaign.

And after adding a collection of deadly three-point assassins on the perimeter, incuding newcomer Wesley Matthews, the Mavs are expected to find more offensive success from the outside.

“I think, before it’s all said and done, there’s a chance that we’re a better team this year than we were last year,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said while assessing the new-look roster. “We brought in Wes, and that’s a huge step in the right direction. We’ll keep on adding to that core. We’ve got some vets who know how to play, so I think we could be better than we were last year.”

According to NBA.com, the Mavericks took the fourth-most catch-and-shoot strokes from behind the arc last season, averaging 19.4 attempts per game. The team also connected on 36.7 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts from long range, stretching the floor to allow Ellis an open lane on his drives.

Officially re-signing 10-year veteran Charlie Villanueva on Thursday, the Mavericks kept one of their best three-point shooters from last season in house. In his first season with the Mavs, the 6-11 Villanueva averaged 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 64 games. He also shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc, giving the Mavericks a stretch big man in the second unit.

Meanwhile, Matthews connected on 2.2 catch-and-shoot attempts a game from behind the arc while with Portland last season, ranking third in the league in that department. And after connecting on 38.9 percent from long range, the Trail Blazers’ career leader in three-point field goals figures to give the Mavericks a boost once he returns from a torn left Achilles tendon that ended his ’14-15 season after 60 games.

“You know, I’ve never been one to allow someone to label me,” Matthews said while assessing how he fits into the Mavs’ offense after totaling 826 three-pointers in five seasons with Portland. “I always continue to try to get better. I’m not a content type of person. If they come up with a term three-and-D and they want to fit me in that category, that’s fine. But there’s not a thing that I don’t think I can do on the court, and I’m excited for the opportunity. You know, talking to [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle], I’m obviously familiar with the system, having ran it in Portland. And talking to him, there’s opportunities that he sees how I can help this team. And I’m excited for those opportunities.”

Opportunities also figure to be there from the outside for fellow new additions Deron Williams, John Jenkins and rookie first-rounder Justin Anderson.

Williams, a three-time All-Star, has shot 35.8 percent for his 10-year career from three-point range with Utah and the now-Brooklyn Nets. He’s expected to benefit from playing alongside 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and starting small forward Chandler Parsons, who both connected on 38.0 percent from behind the arc last season, respectively.

The same could be said for Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 sharpshooter that comes to Dallas after three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks.

Jenkins, who was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, suited up with the Hawks in 98 career games and averaged 5.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in 13.8 minutes an outing. Perhaps more importantly, Jenkins showed an ability to stretch the floor while swishing 37.5 percent from three-point range in his first three seasons.

The former standout at Vanderbilt decided to forego his senior year after he led the Southeastern Conference in scoring as both a sophomore and a junior, leaving as the 10th all-time leading scorer in school history. And after tying the SEC single-season record with 134 made three-pointers to garner First Team All-SEC and Third Team All-American honors in his final colligate season, Jenkins could give the Mavericks another lethal shooter on the perimeter.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Anderson also hopes to fit into that equation after being selected by the front office with the 21st pick in the first round of June’s draft.

Playing three years at Virginia while leading the Cavaliers to two Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season titles and just the second ACC tournament championship in school history, Anderson was an attractive prospect to the organization for his unique size and athleticism. As a junior, he averaged 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists, connecting on 46.6 percent from the field on his way to being named to the NABC All-America Third Team and All-ACC Second Team. Anderson shot 45.2 percent from behind the arc as well his last colligate season, which could translate to the pro game.

And according to Carlisle, the influx of three-point shooters helps the team remain competitive in an ever-changing league.

“What we’re seeing more and more of these days, if you watch guys like (Stephen) Curry and (Klay) Thompson and (J.J.) Redick, a lot of these guys are running off screens for 26 and 27-foot shots,” Carlisle confessed when assessing his team’s three-point shooting. “We have a lot of improvement to do shooting it and guarding it.”

Mavs may turn to trio of newcomers to replace Monta Ellis’ production at shooting guard in ’15-16

DALLAS — While the Dallas Mavericks figure to see a spike in production at the point guard position following the summer signing of three-time All-Star floor general Deron Williams, the team will still have a hole to fill in the backcourt following the free-agent departure of leading scorer Monta Ellis to Indiana.

Signing with the Mavericks during free agency in the summer of 2013, Ellis quickly emerged as a go-to option for the team in his first season, suiting up in all 82 games and averaging 19.0 points to go along with a team-leading 5.7 assists during the ’13-14 campaign. He followed that up with another impactful season during the ’14-15 schedule, emerging as the No. 1 offensive option for the Mavs while averaging a team-high 18.9 points per contest and 4.1 assists in 80 games.

Ellis then stepped up his production in the first round of the playoffs, averaging 26.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists while leading the charge as the Mavericks pushed the Houston Rockets for five games. For that reason, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows the team will have big shoes to fill at the shooting guard position this season.

“It’s a big void,” Carlisle confessed while speaking on the loss of Ellis in July. “You know, we’re talking about our leading scorer the last two years and a guy that really, to be totally truthful about it, got us back into the playoffs the last couple of years. Without him, I don’t know if we would have been able to do it. He was that important to us. He’s a guy I’ve enjoyed working with tremendously, and we knew that it was a strong possibility that he would exercise his option to opt out and become a free agent.”

However, the Mavericks may not ask for just one player to fill Ellis’ void.

Expected to slide into the starting spot next to Williams once he’s healthy, fellow newcomer Wesley Matthews will likely be asked to assume the bulk of Ellis’ responsibilities from the past two seasons. Matthews, a six-year veteran, played alongside Williams as a rookie with Utah during the ’09-10 season. He then spent the next five seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers prior to signing with the Mavs as a free agent this summer, looking to rehab his way back onto the floor following a season-ending torn left Achilles tendon that brought to a close his ’14-15 campaign after 60 games.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Matthews holds career averages of 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 441 games, making 381 starts during his time with Utah and Portland. He’s also a well-established marksman from the outside, connecting on 44.3 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three-point range for his career to leave Portland as the Trail Blazers’ all-time leader in three-point field goals with 826 makes from behind the arc.

Matthews, 28, finished his injury-shortened ’14-15 campaign averaging 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. The veteran swingman’s versatility will now be on full display in Dallas, according to Carlisle, as Matthews looks to carry over the same success he saw in former Mavs assistant and current Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts’ system.

“We just like him as a culture guy — his toughness and work ethic. He’s become a terrific player,” Carlisle said while praising the addition of Matthews. “He’s a different kind of guy than we’ve had here, but he can play both wing positions. He can post up, he’s a great three-point shooter, and he’s developed a post game to where he can both score and make plays out of the post. We think he’s going to bring a lot to our team.”

Also hoping to bring something to the team is new addition John Jenkins after spending the first three years of his career with the Atlanta Hawks.

The 24-year-old Jenkins possesses good size to play on the wings at 6-4 and 215 pounds. He also brings plenty of potential to the backcourt after being selected by the Hawks with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.

Jenkins, a former Vanderbilt standout, led the Southeastern Conference in scoring as both a sophomore and a junior before leaving as the 10th all-time leading scorer in school history. He also garnered First Team All-SEC and Third Team All-American honors in his final colligate season, averaging 19.9 points and tying the SEC single-season record with 134 made three-pointers before declaring for the draft.

Appearing in 98 career games with the Hawks, Jenkins holds averages of 5.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in 13.8 minutes. He’s also shown the ability to stretch the floor, connecting on 37.5 percent for his career from three-point range. That bodes well for a Dallas offense that shot 35.2 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season but just 31.1 percent from long range as a team in the playoffs.

“What we’re seeing more and more of these days, if you watch guys like (Stephen) Curry and (Klay) Thompson and (J.J.) Redick, a lot of these guys are running off screens for 26 and 27-foot shots. … We have a lot of improvement to do shooting it and guarding it,” Carlisle explained.

The depth in the backcourt continues as rookie first-rounder Justin Anderson hopes for an opportunity to play after showing the ability to make an impact immediately during an impressive showing in the Las Vegas Summer League in July.

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Anderson played three years at Virginia while leading the Cavaliers to two Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season titles and just the second ACC Tournament Championship in school history. As a junior, he averaged 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists, connecting on 46.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from behind the arc on his way to being named to the NABC All-America Third Team and All-ACC Second Team.

Selected by the Mavericks with the 21st overall selection in June’s draft, Anderson then dazzled during summer-league play while averaging 17.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals. He could now compete for minutes at the shooting guard position while looking to work his way into Carlisle’s rotation in his first season.

“Justin is a unique kid,” the coach said while speaking about the addition of Anderson in the draft. “He’s a three-year guy. He’s gotten better each year. He’s very physically strong. We feel he’s a wing player that could play either the two or the three. We believe that he’s got an NBA body, and he was one of the strongest kids in the draft positionally. He’s in a good position coming here. You know, we have to fill roster spots, we need to get younger, and so he makes a lot of sense for us. And we need to improve our defense. He’s a solid defender, and he’s a guy whose shooting has gotten better the last three years.”

Anderson will now likely join Matthews and Jenkins in collectively plugging the hole at shooting guard.

Mavs could focus on perimeter help in Thursday’s draft

DALLAS — With two of their top contributors from the 2014-15 season perhaps sat to enter free agency on July 1, the Dallas Mavericks may look to add depth on the wings during Thursday’s NBA Draft.

As the draft rapidly approaches, the Mavericks patiently await word from leading scorer Monta Ellis on whether or not he’ll opt in for the final year of his contract or test the open market in hopes of landing a longer deal. Ellis, 29, has until the eve of the draft on Wednesday to make his decision. That could have the Mavs looking to fill a void in the draft at shooting guard to help potentially offset the loss of Ellis’ team-best 18.9 points per game during the ’14-15 season.

That’s exactly what one mock draft has the Mavericks doing.

Tabbing UNLV’s freshman standout Rashad Vaughn as a player that could fall to Dallas’ 21st overall pick, NBADraft.net has the Mavs addressing the shooting guard position in the first round. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Vaughn dazzled in his lone collegiate season, averaging 18.3 points on 44.7 percent shooting in 22 games for the Runnin’ Rebels before tearing the meniscus in his left knee. He also showcased an ability to stretch the floor out to the three-point line, connecting on 38.4 percent from behind the arc.

The 18-year-old Vaughn, who is the second-youngest player in this year’s draft class, also possesses a 6-7 wingspan that could make him an attractive prospect for the Mavs. And if Ellis does in fact decide to enter free agency, Vaughn could be a player the Mavericks consider for help on the perimeter.

“I haven’t talked to him lately, but I’m guessing he wants to opt out,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said last week of Ellis’ pending decision. “Why would he not? He had two phenomenal seasons here. He was our closer, he was our leading scorer last year, and I’m sure for his market value he feels he was a little underpaid. My feeling is that he would opt out, but I have no idea. He only has a couple of days to make that decision. We’ll have to wait and see what happens this week, but my gut feeling is he’s going to opt out.”

Meanwhile, the Mavericks may have another hole to fill at small forward as high-energy reserve Al-Farouq Aminu jumps back into free agency after coming on strong for the team in the playoffs.

Playing in 74 outings this season while supplying depth behind starter Chandler Parsons at the three position, Aminu averaged 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.5 minutes of work after signing with the Mavs last summer. He also struggled shooting the ball during the regular season, connecting on just 41.2 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from three-point range.

However, the 6-foot-9 lanky forward stepped up his production when it mattered most in the first round of the playoffs, averaging 11.2 points, 7.2 boards, 1.6 blocked shots and 2.0 steals an outing while starting the final two games in the series for the injured Parsons as the Mavericks fell in five games to the Houston Rockets. He also supplied the Dallas defense with its best option on the league’s No. 2 scorer, James Harden, connecting on 54.8 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from behind the three-point arc to boot in the series.

With Aminu already vowing to opt out of his current deal, re-signing the 24-year-old headlines the Dallas front office’s offseason to-do list. Should the right player fall their way in the draft, however, the Mavs may look to supply depth behind Parsons with another young contributor. And according to CBSSports.com, that’s what the Mavs will do should Virginia’s junior standout Justin Anderson slide their way in the first round.

At 6-6 and 230 pounds, Anderson definitely possesses enough size to play either wing position in the pros. He also displayed plenty of versatility at the offensive end of the floor in college, averaging 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 26 games this season for the Cavaliers while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range.

But, much like Aminu, it’s Anderson’s ability to guard multiple positions and near 7-foot wingspan that has teams looking forward to what he can bring to the table on the defensive end of the floor. And should the Mavericks fear losing either Ellis or Aminu in free agency, they may look at adding a player like Anderson.

“I think the draft is coming up, and we’ve had a bunch of draft workouts the last couple of weeks,” Nowitzki admitted. “I was in the gym the last couple of times working out myself, and we’ll see if we can get some help there. Maybe an athlete, or maybe a defender on the wing that’s long. We’ll just see.”