Dallas Mavericks: Jared Cunningham

Mavs trade down again, dump Cunningham

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
8:18
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DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks traded down for the second time in the first round, shipping the No. 16 overall pick along with 2012 first-rounder Jared Cunningham and the 44th overall pick to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for the 18th pick.

PODCAST
Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.

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The Mavs are motivated to shed salary as they prepare to try to sign Dwight Howard to a max contract with a first-year salary of $20.5 million. At the beginning of the night, Dallas needed to trim $3.8 million to have that much cap space.

Cunningham is due $1.2 million next season. The difference in cap holds between the No. 13 (the Mavs’ original pick) and No. 18 is $374,500.

The Mavs traded No. 13 to the Boston Celtics for No. 16 and two future second-round picks.
Let’s focus on the long shots and forget about the miracles for now.

In other words, stop dreaming about the Mavs signing Chris Paul and Dwight Howard this summer. That isn’t happening unless one or both of them agree to take much, much, much less than max contracts, even if the Mavs managed to strip their roster of everyone except for Dirk Nowitzki and didn’t take any salary back. Or if the luxury-tax-paying Lakers agree to a sign-and-trade that frankly wouldn’t make sense for them.

PODCAST
Tim MacMahon joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the possibility of Chris Paul joining the Mavericks and break down what kind of pitch Mark Cuban would have to make to the NBA's best point guard.

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But it is realistic -- not probable, but certainly possible -- for the Mavs to be able to add either the NBA’s premier point guard or the league’s best big man while keeping key complementary veterans Shawn Marion and Vince Carter.

It wouldn’t necessarily be simple, however. It would likely require cooperation from Carter or Marion -- both of whom are otherwise candidates to be moved in salary-dump deals despite the Dallas front office’s strong desire to keep them -- and maybe a little luck.

First, some pertinent figures:
    PODCAST
    Chuck Cooperstein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about who he would rather have if forced to choose between Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

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  • The salary cap for next season, which will be announced June 30, is expected to be somewhere between $58.5 million and $60 million.
  • The Mavs currently have $41,811,829 committed to next season’s salary cap: the guaranteed contracts of Nowitzki ($22,721,381), Marion ($9,316,796), Carter ($3,180,000), Jared Cunningham ($1,208,400) and Jae Crowder ($788,872); a cap hold of $1,655,300 for the 13th overall pick (pending lottery results); and six $490,180 cap holds to fill the required 12 roster spots.
  • That means the Mavs would have between $16,688,171 and $18,188,171 in cap space – not including the non-guaranteed $788,872 salaries of Bernard James and Josh Akognon – without any maneuvering.
  • Howard’s first-year salary for a max contract: $20,513,178.
  • Paul’s first-year salary for a max contract: $18,668,430.

So how can the Mavs create enough cap space to sign one or the other without losing Marion or Carter?

SCENARIO 1: Move their young assets.

This could cover Paul. The Mavs would still need to do more to create room for a non-discounted Howard, who is eligible for a higher salary because max deals can be 105 percent of what the player made in the previous season.

If the salary cap is set at $60 million, the Mavs could create room for Paul simply by finding a team with cap space or a trade exception to take Cunningham off their hands. That would create an additional $718,220 in cap space, the difference between Cunningham’s salary and a cap hold.

A similar salary dump of Crowder would create $298,692 in cap space.

The Mavs also could create $1,165,120 in cap space by moving their first-round pick for no immediate return.

The sum of all three moves would be $2,182,032, so even if the cap is set at $58.5 million, it’s feasible for the Mavs to carve out enough room to sign Paul to a max contract without making any moves involving their veteran core.

Of course, the Mavs would much rather not give up all of their young assets, particularly a lottery pick and Crowder, a rotation player as a rookie.

SCENARIO 2: Stretch and re-sign Carter.

With contracts signed under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams can waive players under the “stretch provision,” spreading the cap hit paying the remaining guaranteed money on the deal over twice the number of years left on the contract plus one.

In this case, with Carter entering the final year of his contract, that would be a three-year period ($1,060,000 per year).

Add the cap hold, and stretching Carter would create $1,629,820 in cap space. Depending on where the cap falls, that could be enough to give Paul a max offer. Carter also could be stretched in addition to moves made to dump young assets to clear enough space to sign Paul or possibly Howard.

Renowned CBA expert Larry Coon confirmed that Carter would be eligible to return to Dallas if he cleared waivers. Theoretically, if Carter signed for the vet minimum, he’d essentially get a $1.4 million raise.

The decision to stretch Carter can be made at any time, so the Mavs could wait until they had a commitment from Paul or Howard.

The risk: Any team with enough cap space or a large enough trade exception could claim Carter, whose salary has been a bargain the past two seasons. He also could explore other options in free agency. (Think the Thunder would be interested in Carter as a much cheaper replacement for Kevin Martin?)

SCENARIO 3: Marion exercises his early termination option and re-signs for a reduced salary.

Call this the “Richard Jefferson scenario,” as he set the precedent by opting out and re-signing a four-year deal with the Spurs in 2010.

This could be the simplest way to create enough cap space to sign Howard to a max deal. It’s convenient that agent Dan Fegan represents Howard and Marion.

Marion’s ETO deadline is believed to be June 30, which would mean this decision must be made before the Mavs could meet with either of the superstar free agents. The Mavs also wouldn’t be able to agree to an extension with Marion at that point, although there could be expressions of a mutual interest in his return with an, ahem, unspoken understanding of what that might entail.

Say the cap is set at $58.5 million. Marion could sign a three-year deal worth $16.77 million, starting with a $5.35 million salary, to create enough cap space to give Howard a max deal.

That’d be a win-win situation. The Mavs would get their cap space, and Marion would nearly double his guaranteed money and get the comfort of knowing he’d likely finish his career in Dallas.

“There are a thousand different ways,” Mark Cuban said in April when asked about carving out enough cap space to sign one of the max-caliber players on the market.

But there aren’t that many that would allow the Mavs to keep their veteran core together, which directly affects how attractive a destination Dallas might be for a superstar this summer.

Jared Cunningham sent back to D-League

January, 28, 2013
1/28/13
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DALLAS -- Rookie guard Jared Cunningham has been re-assigned to the D-League's Texas Legends, the Mavericks announced.

It will be the first-round pick's second stint in the D-League. Cunningham averaged 18.1 points, 3.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 37.0 minutes in seven games with the Legends earlier this season.

Cunningham has played sparingly for the Mavs, averaging 2.0 points in 3.3 minutes in eight games. His assignment to the D-League means the Oregon State product and Oakland, Calif., native won't make a homecoming trip when the Mavs play the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors this week.

Legends coach Eduardo Najera will have to split point guard minutes between Cunningham and Delonte West, who joined the team this week.

Can any of the rumored teams in the mix for DeMarcus Cousins make a better offer than the Mavericks?

Not according to the numbers crunched by ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton, who ranked potential trade packages based on Wins Above Replacement Players (WARP). His suggested proposal from the Mavs:

Mavs: Darren Collison, Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright
(35.2 WARP)
The framework of a possible deal with Dallas would include Wright as a replacement for Cousins, a choice between guards Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois and one of the Mavericks' rookie wings (Crowder or Jared Cunningham). On paper, this version comes out best of all trade options, though there's a significant catch: Either Beaubois or Collison would become a restricted free agent this summer, while Wright is unrestricted. So there's no guarantee Sacramento would get anyone besides Crowder for the long term, and both Collison and Wright are likely to command raises on the open market. This deal also isn't a particularly good match for the Kings' needs. Crowder, a favorite of statistical analysts in last June's draft, could help out at small forward if he improves his outside shooting, but Collison essentially duplicates what Sacramento already has at point guard, and Wright isn't the defensive anchor the Kings require in the middle.


The Mavs don't have the assets to make an offer that makes perfect basketball sense for the Kings. That's why the Mavs would have to make it about dollars, taking back a bad contract or two, as mentioned here last week.

Mavericks recall Jared Cunningham

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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The Dallas Mavericks recalled Jared Cunningham from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Monday.

Cunningham had been assigned to the D-League on Dec. 11 and played in seven games, averaging 18.1 points, 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds. In seven games with the Mavericks earlier this season, Cunningham averaged 2.3 points per game.

Jared Cunningham assigned to Texas Legends

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
1:06
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The Dallas Mavericks assigned Jared Cunningham to the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League on Tuesday. The guard has averaged 2.3 points and 3.4 minutes in seven games with the Mavericks this season.

Cunningham will join the Legends for Saturday's game against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at 7 p.m. at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco.
You’d hope that young legs wouldn’t be bothered by a back-to-back at the beginning of the season.

But the Mavericks’ 25-and-under members seemed to run into a brick wall after a spectacular first half, fading badly after the break during as the Jazz roared to a 113-94 rout.

Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Brandan Wright, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jae Crowder combined for 49 of the Mavs’ 63 points in the first half, which they finished with an eight-point lead. They were 18-of-28 from the floor at that point, including 8-of-11 from 3-point range.

That quintet combined for a grand total of 11 points in the second half.

Mayo, Crowder and Beaubois all went scoreless in the second half. Beaubois didn’t even attempt a shot after the break, while Mayo and Crowder combined to misfire eight times. Collison wasn’t much better, scoring four points on 1-of-6 shooting in the second half.

As a whole, the Mavs shot 54.2 percent from the floor in the first half and 20.9 percent in the second half.

A few more notes from the ugly end of the Mavs’ 1-1 road trip.

1. Kidd you not: Collison finished with 17 points for the second consecutive night despite fading so badly in the second half. It was expected that he’d provide a scoring punch that the Mavs were missing from their point guard last season. To put his back-to-back 17-point games in perspective: Predecessor Jason Kidd’s high point total last season was 15.

2. Wright a bright spot: In his first two starts for the Mavs, Wright produced 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting and blocked five shots. He’s given coach Rick Carlisle reason to keep Wright in the rotation even when 7-footers Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman return to a crowded frontcourt. But rebounding remains a weakness for Wright, who has eight boards in 46 minutes so far this season. He had only three rebounds in 26 minutes against the Jazz, who dominated the glass by a 61-40 margin.

3. Welcome to the NBA: Rookies Jared Cunningham and Bernard James made their NBA debuts against the Jazz. They didn’t exactly have the kind of performances that they’ll end up telling their grandkids about. Second-round center James had eight points and six assists, but the Mavs were outscored by 27 during his 16 minutes on the floor. First-round guard Cunningham went scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting in six garbage-time minutes, recording one steal and one turnover.

Rookie Jared Cunningham sprains thumb

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
2:08
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DALLAS -- Rookie first-round pick Jared Cunningham sprained his thumb during Monday's practice and might not be available for the beginning of the season.

It's unlikely that Cunningham would have seen significant minutes anyway, although the Mavs have a glaring need at backup point guard with Delonte West suspended and probably hours away from being removed from the roster.

Cunningham struggled in the preseason, recording more turnovers (nine) than assists (six) and shooting 8-of-28 from the floor. Rodrigue Beaubois didn't have a good preseason, either, but the four-year veteran is the lesser of the evils unless the Mavs can acquire another point guard.

Cunnighman's development was slowed by hamstring and knee problems that prevented him from playing in the summer league.
DALLAS -- With Delonte West out of the mix, who is going to be the Mavericks' backup point guard?

"Somebody that's playing good," coach Rick Carlisle said before the preseason finale. "I have no [expletive] idea."

That cloudy picture didn't exactly get cleared up during the Mavs' messy win over the Charlotte Bobcats. Asked to analyze the situation after the game, Carlisle didn't exactly exude sunshine.

"I could ... if there was anything," Carlisle said. "Our backup guard position struggled tonight, but we've just got to stay at it."

One thing is painfully clear about the backup point guard situation: Dominique Jones is at the end of the list. He got a DNP-CD on Friday night.

It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots about the decision the Mavs have to make by the end of the month on whether to exercise next season's team option on Jones' contract. The 2010 first-round pick understands that his days in Dallas are numbered.

"Whatever happens happens, and I'm prepared for it all," said Jones, who had 20 points, 17 assists and 11 turnovers in 79 minutes this preseason, shooting 25.8 percent from the floor. "I don't want to be a distraction. I'll be a good teammate, focus on the things I need to concentrate on and things I can control. I'll just practice hard."

With Jones on the outside looking in, it's a battle between Rodrigue Beaubois and rookie first-rounder Jared Cunningham for the minutes behind Darren Collison.

Neither guy seized the opportunity this preseason, to put it kindly.

Beaubois went scoreless in 16 minutes against the Bobcats. He had 21 points on 7-of-21 shooting with 10 assists and five turnovers in five preseason games.

Cunningham went 1-of-7 from the floor in 13 minutes against the Bobcats. That made him 8-of-28 in the preseason, when he had more turnovers (nine) than assists (six).

"Roddy's ankle is still bothering him a little bit," Carlisle said, referring to the injury that caused Beaubois to miss a few preseason games. "This is all new to Cunningham. ... It's a huge learning situation for a rookie, but the thing I like is he goes hard on everything. That's something we can build on."

As far as the backup point guard spot goes, the Mavs don't have much else to build on at this point.
DALLAS -- Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Mavericks believe this will be Rodrigue Beaubois’ breakout season.

Or maybe that’s just hope. It’s hard to really buy in to the Roddy B hype after it fell flat the last two years and the Mavs stocked up on other backcourt alternatives this offseason.

Heck, hope was so alive that the Mavs put Beaubois on billboards with a bold prediction from coach Rick Carlisle that the kid would become a superstar.

That was two years ago, when he was fresh off a rookie campaign that featured several flashes of brilliance highlighted by a 40-point performance. Beaubois has been much more miss than hit since then, with injuries and inconsistency the two major storylines of his last two seasons.

So ... anybody really believe that this is the year Roddy B will finally be the impact player the Mavs envisioned when Mark Cuban labeled him essentially off-limits in trade discussions?

[+] EnlargeRodrigue Beaubois
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesRodrigue Beaubois vows to do everything he can to make an impact for the Mavericks this season.
“I’m going to do everything possible to make sure that it is,” Beaubois said.

That’s not just talk. Beaubois, the shy guy from Guadeloupe, doesn’t do a whole lot of talking. He has been putting in a lot of work, however.

Beaubois is consistently the last man off the practice floor, often joined by new starting shooting guard O.J. Mayo. They competed in shooting drills for an hour after Monday’s practice ended.

It’s been that way since the summer. It’s gotten to the point that Mayo can actually understand Roddy B’s thick-accented trash talk.

“We’ve been here for about a month and a half, so I’m starting to catch on to his lingo,” Mayo said, laughing. “He’s got to get his R’s together, but he’s good to go. He’s my man. He’s a workaholic. He’s always down to get in the gym, get some shots up and get to work.”

This was Beaubois’ first NBA offseason with a clean bill of health. The foot fracture he suffered two summers ago while practicing with the French national team is no longer a factor.

“Right now, we’re through that,” Carlisle said. “One of the curses of having his kind of athletic ability is you show these flashes of brilliance. That can be difficult to sustain on a consistent basis. He’s just got to play his game and he’s got to stay healthy.”

Carlisle’s confidence in Beaubois dipped so low last season that the combo guard played a grand total of a dozen minutes while the Mavs were swept out of the first round in four games. Carlisle says the Mavs need Beaubois this season, but he’s also quick to point out that they have a glut of guard options behind starters Darren Collison and Mayo, including solid vets Delonte West and Vince Carter and first-round pick Jared Cunningham.

However, Carlisle does seem truthfully optimistic that Beaubois has turned a corner. The coach points out that Beaubois, who implemented boxing into his offseason workout program, has never been stronger or in better shape. Carlisle says he thinks Beaubois’ work this summer is “going to bear fruit for him.”

Beaubois is injury free and has three seasons of experience. There are no excuses for him not to establish himself as at least a reliable member of the Mavs’ rotation.

“It all adds up to this is his time to make a statement,” Carlisle said.

That’s not quite billboard material, but the Mavs aren’t ready to give up on Roddy B.

Mavs rookies score in NBA peer survey

August, 23, 2012
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Dallas Mavericks rookies Jae Crowder and Jared Cunningham are among a group of NBA rookies selected by an expert panel deemed to be most overlooked in the 2012 draft class.

So who are these supposed experts? Thirty-nine NBA rookies.

NBA.com surveyed the players this week at the annual rookie photo shoot. The survey asked the rookies to rate their peers in categories such as who will be the 2012-13 rookie of the year (Anthony Davis, New Orleans), who will have the best career (Davis again by a wide margin) and who's being most overlooked.

Crowder, the physical forward and second-round pick out of Marquette, and Cunningham, the athletic combo guard and first-round selection out of Oregon State, each received 5.9 percent of the vote for being most overlooked, as did Kim English (Detroit), John Jenkins (Atlanta) and Tyler Zeller (Cleveland). They were behind a group that garnered 8.8 percent of the vote and included Draymond Green (Golden State) Duncanville's and Baylor's Perry Jones (Oklahoma City), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando) and Tony Wroten (Memphis).

Mavs second-round pick Bernard James also received votes in this category.

Baylor's duo of Jones and slam-dunk artist Quincy Acy finished at the top of the voting (17.6 percent) for most athletic in the class. Cunningham is fourth, tied with the Andre Dummond (Detroit) at 11.8 percent.

Crowder and Cunningham finished tied for fifth in the category for best defender with three other players.

Cunningham also received votes for best playmaker and Crowder was in the mix, and this is an important category for locker-room impact, as funniest rookie.

The 39 rookies were also asked to name their favorite NBA player. There was no surprise in the top three with LeBron James getting 31.0 percent of the vote, Kobe Bryant garnering 18.0 percent and Kevin Durant getting 10.0 percent. Tied with 5.7 percent of the vote is Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki -- beating out the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade.

Vince Carter takes reins as old man of the squad

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
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Vince Carter used to leap the tallest centers in a single bound and dunk on their heads. Those days are long gone except for the occasional rev-up Carter can still breathtakingly pull off in any given game.

"I’m not really into trying to jump over people anymore," Carter said in December shortly after joining the Mavericks. "Over the years, with experience, you don’t really realize the risk of doing some of that stuff, and it takes a toll on your body so I save it for special moments, whenever that is. I can still do it. I think now, particularly some of the young guys in here now, they feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get there first, I don’t want to be on the poster of an old guy.’ I get that, so now I just figure, when you get there, two points is two points."

Carter, set to enter his 15th season, is indeed the old guy. He's 35 and turns 36 in January. With 39-year-old Jason Kidd moving to New York, Carter takes over as the Mavs' eldest statesman. Jason Terry's exit elevated Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki to next in line, both having turned 34 a few months ago.

Whatever you think of Carter at this stage of his career, the stats, according to 82games.com, show that the Mavs were a better team offensively and defensively with Carter on the floor.

The Dallas Mavericks opted to fully guarantee Carter's $3.1 million salary for next season at the deadline, just hours before the start of the free agency period. After Deron Williams committed to the Nets, Dallas acquired point guard Darren Collison and shooting guards O.J. Mayo, a lock to start, and defensive-minded Dahntay Jones, and re-signed Delonte West. Combo guards Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and draft pick Jared Cunningham cram both guard spots. Including Carter, eight of Dallas' 15 roster players are guards, suggesting Carter is likely to play much more small forward next season.

According to 82games.com, Carter ended up playing more at small forward last season and essentially was equally effective at either wing spot. The difference is that early last season when he played more at the 2, the savvy Carter took advantage of posting up smaller shooting guards. As as the season wore on he became more of a spot-up shooter.

But he shot just 41.1 percent from the floor -- his lowest percentage since 2004-05 -- and below 40 percent from 3 feet from the bucket out to the arc. His 3-point percentage, a respectable 36.1 percent, dropped off significantly in the second half of the season and he was just 3-of-10 from beyond the arc in the four playoff games against Oklahoma City, slightly better than his perplexing overall shooting percentage in the series (29.3).

As Carter has acknowledged, his game has changed with age. He ranked 122nd in the league last season in dunks. As his drives have diminished so have his trips to the free throw line. He took just 115 last year, an average of 1.8 a game. In 2005-06, Carter took 601 free throws, 7.6 a game. By 2009-10, his attempts dipped to 306, 4.1 a game.

Carter averaged a career-low 25.3 minutes last season. With the current roster, that number can probably drop further, which could serve to maximize his still valuable assets.

Eight newcomers sure to spark rotation competition

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
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Earlier I took a look at where Brandan Wright will fit into the Dallas Mavericks' revamped roster. That question leads to a larger one of which players will ultimately be on the outside of coach Rick Carlisle's rotation.

The mantra under Carlisle in Dallas has been depth, depth, depth, and Dallas believes it will again boast a broad and versatile roster. During the championship season, 11 players averaged at least 16.1 minutes a game (which included Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois, both of whom played only a quarter of the season due to injuries) and nearly every player contributed along the way to the championship. Last season, Carlisle also employed 11 players for at least 16.1 minutes a game (with a minimum of 44 games played).

With 15 players on the current roster, including eight being new to the team, there should be multiple competitive battles brewing when training camp opens in less than seven weeks. It could then take some time for Carlisle to settle on a rotation. With five new additions last season and injuries a constant theme, Carlisle never found a consistent rotation.

So let's begin this exercise with the known, or at least what we suspect to be the known: The five starters will be Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. There was some early politically correct whispering within the organization that Beaubois would compete with Collison for the starting job, but that is more likely wishful thinking. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has said Collison is "penciled" in as the starter.

Those figuring to have clearly defined backup roles include: Delonte West, Elton Brand and Vince Carter.

Those figuring to have less defined backup roles include: Dahntay Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois and Brandan Wright.

That's already 11 players and we've yet to mention rookie Jae Crowder, who's looking to have a legitimate shot to break in at small forward, and rookie center Bernard James, who's also seeking to find time.

Two others yet to be named are third-year guard and 2010 first-round draft pick Dominique Jones, and June's 24th overall pick Jared Cunningham, the 6-4 combo guard out of Oregon State. So it's hardly unfair to begin the outside-looking-in list with DoJo and Cunningham at the top, which also means those two are the most likely not to be among the 13 active players when the season opens Oct. 30.

From there it gets a bit more complicated, especially at the guard positions. West is best-equipped among the plethora of guards to handle the point and the Mavs still hope to develop Beaubois there. At 6-6, Dahntay Jones offers little offensively, but brings size and stingy defense. The dynamic hardly affords the 6-2, 185-pound Beaubois guaranteed playing time and reinforces his need for a standout training camp.

Wright is another veteran who needs an impressive start or risks being squeezed.

With hungry rookies, veterans like Beaubois and Wright who need to produce and others like Dahntay Jones looking to create a niche with a new team, Carlisle's rotation could be as fluid as ever.

Positional breakdown: O.J. Mayo is served

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
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Second in a five-part series examining the re-tooled Dallas Mavericks position by position.

SHOOTING GUARD
Since the days of Michael Finley, the Mavs have mostly lacked size and athleticism at the 2-guard. Jason Terry, of course, is a tremendous shooter and fourth-quarter scorer, and he served proudly as sixth man for his last few seasons in Dallas. There is genuine excitement brewing over the possibilities with the 6-foot-4, 210-pound O.J. Mayo starting at shooting guard. At 24 and four years into his NBA career, Mayo remains a hotly debated player in regard to just how good he is and his potential. Was he overrated as the No. 3 pick in 2008 out of USC? Is he still overrated? Why did Memphis try to trade him more than once? Why didn't they make a $7 million qualifying offer to keep him? Why did he fall through the cracks of free agency and sign with Dallas for less money than he made last season? All are legitimate questions. How highly the Mavs have valued Mayo over the years is even up for debate. Still, there is genuine excitement brewing over the possibilities with Mayo starting at the 2-guard. The position is backed up with good size and defensive chops of Dahntay Jones, plus Vince Carter, who could ultimately see more time at small forward.


How it came together
[+] EnlargeVince Carter
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezVince Carter needs to reward the Mavs for exercising his option by coming through with versatility off the bench.
The Mavs exercised the option on Carter's contract June 30, making it fully guaranteed for $3.1 million for next season. The Mavs liked Carter's contributions last season at both wing positions, and he'll probably need to show that versatility again off the bench. Dallas pulled off the two-for-one sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers July 11 that netted the defensively durable Jones and Darren Collison, who figures to take over at point guard. The Mavs still needed an upgrade at shooting guard and with the choices drying up, it wasn't certain Dallas would come away with the type of player they needed after losing the 3-point shooting of Jason Terry. But O.J. Mayo continued to dangle on the market. The Suns were interested, but Mayo tweeted on July 17 that he was signing with the Mavs. He comes on a friendly two-year deal, with the second year being player option. But at about $4 million for next season, Mayo is a bargain and brings needed youth, athleticism and firepower.

The upside
The days of being undersized at shooting guard are over. The biggest development is likely to come on the defensive end where the Mavs no longer have to mix-and-match to cover opposing backcourts. Mayo brings strong perimeter defense and a knack for stepping into passing lanes and making the steal. He's quick and is good in transition defense, an area that particularly dogged slow-footed Dallas last season. Offensively, Mayo will look for his shot. He can get to the rim with decent regularity and he will always look for his 3-point shot, an area of particular need with Terry's departure. Although his 3-point attempts and percentage dropped with his playing time as he moved to the bench, he still shot it at 36.4 percent in each of the last two seasons. That mark would have been third on the Mavs last season, just behind Dirk Nowitzki and Terry. ... Jones will give small forward Shawn Marion someneeded defensive relief on the wing. He won't be counted on as much of a scoring option, although he shot better than 42 percent from beyond the arc last season on just 77 attempts. ... Carter gave Dallas a post-up dimension last season and he was the team's best 3-point shooter for the first half of the season. He was probably overextended during the prolonged period that Delonte West missed with a fractured finger, so the Mavs believe the savvy Carter, who showed he can still on occasion get to the rim and leap over everybody, can be a significant asset off the bench and with managed minutes. ... We covered combo guards Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and rookie Jared Cunningham under point guards on Monday, but all could also see time at shooting guard.

The downside
Mayo
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Mavs won't be undersized at shooting guard with O.J. Mayo, but his dipping shooting percentage is cause for concern.
When the Memphis Grizzlies chose to start defensive-minded shooting guard Tony Allen and move Mayo to the bench two seasons ago, the young guard's scoring average and his shooting percentage plummeted. As a reserve, Mayo averaged about six fewer points than he did as a starter, but that makes since he averaged about 12 fewer minutes again. However, the drop in shooting percentage is curious. Never a great shooter (45.8 is his career best from the floor), Mayo has shot 40.8 percent and 40.7 percent in each of the last two seasons. That is a significant concern for a team that could be looking to Mayo to be its second main scoring threat behind Nowitzki. For a player who can create his own shot and get to the rim, Mayo doesn't get to the free-throw line all that often. While his 172 attempts would have ranked second last season on the Mavs, who ranked near the bottom of the league in free throw attempts, Mayo ranked 41st among guards averaging 2.6 free-throw attempts a game. He ranked 49th in free throws made at 2.0 a game and 48th in free-throw percentage at 77.3 percent. ... Jones provides little offensive upside and Carter, who will turn 36 in January, has remained rather durable, although managing his minutes will become more of a priority.

Positional breakdown: Starting over at PG

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
12:01
AM CT
First in a five-part series examining the re-tooled Dallas Mavericks position by position.

POINT GUARD

Talk about out with the old and in with the new. It wasn't without trying to keep the status quo; the Mavericks thought they had Jason Kidd locked up with a three-year, $9 million deal once Deron Williams decided to stay with the Brooklyn Nets. But at the last minute Kidd decided he wanted to finish his career in the Big Apple and try to conquer the dysfunction that defines the New York Knicks. This actually might have been a blessing for the Mavs, who were fully prepared to send the declining 39-year-old back on the floor as the starting point guard for another season, if not more. Once Kidd made up his mind up to flee and Steve Nash, another former Mavs point guard, remarkably joined Kobe Bryant, the Mavs' front office set out to find the point guard of the future -- or at least the point guard for next season.


How it came together
[+] EnlargeWilliams/Kidd
Glenn James/Getty ImagesThe Mavs couldn't score Deron Williams and saw Jason Kidd get away, triggering a search for the team's next point guard.
The Mavs were talking to Ramon Sessions and a number of other players about taking over the point guard position. Darren Collison's name never surfaced until Dallas and the Indiana Pacers pulled off a surprising sign-and-trade July 11. Dallas sent free-agent backup center Ian Mahinmi to Indiana in exchange for the speedy, three-year point guard out of UCLA. This will be Collison's third team in four seasons as he enters the final year on his rookie contract. ... With a number of combo guards on the roster, including three who could see time at point guard -- Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and rookie Jared Cunningham -- the Mavs waited a few more weeks before finally re-signing Delonte West, the closest thing other than Collison to being a true point. West signed with Dallas last season specifically to back up Kidd but quickly became the starting shooting guard primarily for defensive reasons alongside Kidd. With O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones and Vince Carter, plus any of the three aforementioned combo guards, filling up the shooting guard position, West would figure to be Collison's primary backup at the point. ... As for Beaubois, his fourth season is a huge one. It is the last on his original contract and he needs a breakthrough following a two-year slide from his famed rookie season when all signs pointed to him being a budding star. With Collison and West also in contract years, it might be difficult for Beaubois to carve out minutes once again, really, at either guard spot. ... Dominique Jones and the rookie Cunningham will have their work cut out to break into the rotation. A hamstring injury kept Cunningham out of last month's Las Vegas Summer League.

The upside
[+] EnlargeDarren Collison
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty ImagesDarren Collison provides the Mavs with more scoring options, although his numbers have dipped.
Kidd will go down as a legendary player in the NBA, and he was integral in the franchise winning its first championship in 2011. While still one of the great floor generals who could see plays develop before others knew what was going on, Kidd had his limitations in other areas. In today's NBA it's very difficult to live with a point guard incapable of driving. In the halfcourt offense, Kidd mostly became a spot-up shooter, and he struggled doing that last season. Collison drastically changes the dynamic. He's excited to play the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki and his quick penetrations will be a welcome addition to an offense that rarely got to the rim the last couple seasons and one that should offer more scoring options than last season. Defensively, Kidd also posed matchup issues for the Mavs. His inability to defend many of the league's point guards forced Dallas to switch, putting Kidd on the shooting guard and vice-versa, and even at times forcing Shawn Marion to guard point guards. It proved especially problematic last season with Vince Carter as the starting shooting guard when West was injured. At 6-foot, 160 pounds, Collison will be undersized against most of his peers, but his quickness and determination on the defensive end will be an asset. With O.J. Mayo at shooting guard and defensive-minded Dahntay Jones behind Mayo, the Mavs will no longer have to mix-and-match much defensively in the backcourt.

The downside
The Pacers decided Collison had run his course with them and opted to give a long-term contract instead to George Hill and trade for Texas-ex D.J. Augustin. Collison started most of last season but came off the bench in all 11 playoff games and played well. After a fantastic rookie season with the New Orleans Hornets when he impressed in taking over for the injured Chris Paul, Collison's scoring, assists and shooting percentage have fallen off. In fact his 2011-12 PER, the John Hollinger-created statistic that measures per-minute performance while adjusting for pace, was just 13.58, below the league average of 15.00. For comparison's sake, Deron Williams' PER last season was a sturdy 20.27. Ramon Sessions was 17.32 and Ricky Rubio was 14.70. The good news of sorts is that Collison's PER was better than Kidd's 12.82. Collison has never been a terrific assist man and has basically maintained a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. ... West is a solid backup, but he's dealt with injury issues for much of his eight-year career, including last season when he gruesomely broke the ring finger on his right hand reaching for a steal and missed 22 games. West can create his own shot by either getting to the rim or pulling up for a mid-range jumper, but he's averaged fewer than four assists a game in his career. ... For all the Mavs' desires to turn Beaubois into a point guard, the jury is still out and he could be running out of time. Since his foot injury, he has been reluctant to drive and his shooting percentages have plummeted. ... Dominique Jones, another combo guard, is working at point guard and played there during Summer League with mixed results. The former first-round pick wouldn't seem to have much of a shot at cracking the rotation.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2