With the NBA lockout paralyzing all league business at a time when teams would normally be signing and re-signing free agents and making trades to set their 2011-12 rosters, I offer you my ranking and analysis of the world champion's roster, as is. Whenever the lockout ends and teams get back to daily business, the Mavs' roster will look a bit different. The core is likely to remain intact. Others will have to go, and if Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson are offered the right deal for either a player at a position of need or to take a big contract off their hands (i.e. Brendan Haywood), a trade is always possible.
So as the heat melts North Texas and the lockout freezes the NBA, let's continue as I rank the 16 players -- one each day -- currently on the Mavs' 15-man roster in order from least critical to most critical for a title defense.
Today's ranking: No. 15
PEJA STOJAKOVIC Pos: SF
Experience: 13 years
Contract status: Free agnt
2010-11 salary: $402,065 (pro-rated after signing with Mavs on Jan. 25)
Peja Stojakovic wouldn't seem likely to return, but the door opens a little if Caron Butler leaves.
His story: Stojakovic was a no-risk, potentially high-yield signing as the Mavs tried to maneuver beyond Caron Butler's knee injury that left a gaping hole at small forward and shook up the team's early chemistry. After Dallas let Sasha Pavlovic walk following two 10-day contracts, it signed Stojakovic -- released by Toronto after being traded from New Orleans earlier in the season -- who was still nursing a knee injury that had kept him out for all but eight games. Dallas put him through a two-week training camp before playing him. When he finally got on the floor, Stojakovic instantly became a starter until a stiff neck in mid-March took him out for a handful of games and entrenched Shawn Marion as the starter. Stojakovic averaged just 8.5 points a game, but he did shoot better than 41 percent from 3-point range, the main reason the Mavs signed him in the first place. He had a couple of big games in the playoffs. His five 3s and 21 points in Game 2 against Portland helped the Mavs take a 2-0 lead, and he made 9-of-13 from beyond the arc in Games 3 and 4 against the Lakers. However, in the conference finals and NBA Finals against teams with dynamic wing players, Stojakovic's weaknesses -- namely foot speed and defense -- were magnified. After scoring 21 points in Game 4 against L.A., Stojakovic scored just 25 in five games against Oklahoma City (10-of-32 on 3s) and he played just 11 total minutes in six games against Miami.
His outlook: It could be argued that Stojakovic, who said after the season that he is not contemplating retirement, should have led off this countdown at No. 16 (but, someone please tell me where DeShawn Stevenson fits with Rudy Fernandez, Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones guaranteed roster spots -- therefore he became my automatic No. 16). Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson loves pure shooters and accomplished veterans. Stojakovic's skills have clearly deteriorated and injury is always a concern, but he can still shoot the rock. If the Mavs have a roster spot open, don't be terribly surprised if they look to sign Stojakovic for the minimum and use him as a spot, 3-point specialist. Small forward is clearly unsettled at the moment with Butler coming off major knee surgery as well as being a free agent. Shawn Marion can start or come off the bench and Dallas would obviously love for springy Corey Brewer to become a rotation player. Odds are Stojakovic won't be back, but if Butler does not re-sign it could crack open the door for a return.