The Bucks welcome Monta Ellis back to the Bradley Center tonight, and for a more in-depth look at the Mavs we were fortunate enough to do a Q&A with Rebecca Lawson from our friends at Mavs Moneyball. Check out Rebecca's answers below and head over to Mavs Moneyball for my answers to her Bucks questions.
1) The Mavs are clearly going for it with Dirk back and a group of proven veterans around him, but they seem far short of contending material on paper. How good can this team realistically be? Are Mavs fans on board with the strategy, or would some prefer a rebuild sooner?
Realistically, the Mavs added pieces to address positions that were wildly inconsistent last season, which was the best they could do after the quest for Dwight ended. Jose Calderon (and Devin Harris, when he comes back) to keep the point running smooth are probably the biggest and most welcome additions, and they have a stable of talented shooters to compliment Dirk. The problem is, the rest of the West (other than the Lakers) also got better. The Mavs barely missed the playoffs last year, so a full season of Dirk and a more competitive team will help. But a couple quiet comparisons to the 2011 Championship team notwithstanding, the reality is that the Mavs are competing for a 7 or 8 seed at best and would be wildly lucky to win a playoff series.
On rebuilding, we've definitely seen a few of the "trade Dirk now"/"let Dirk walk" comments - he's on the last year of his contract but expected to re-sign - but I think the vast majority of fans are on board with keeping the team as competitive as possible to enjoy Dirk's final years, while adding a couple young prospects/projects along the way.
2) While Monta's play has surprised some, who else has been a surprise (good or bad) in the early going?
Jae Crowder has probably been the most pleasant surprise. Crowder is in his second year, and saw a lot of minutes as a rookie - unusual for Rick Carlisle, who does not generally give rookies a lot of leash. Last season, Crowder showed he could do a lot of things pretty well - making the right pass, generally hustling and knowing where to be on defense. But he developed a wildly frustrating reputation for taking (and bricking) unwise shots.
After an atrocious summer league, Crowder has started the season on fire. He continues to do those "little things" pretty well. But he's also top five in both field goal percentage and three point percentage, and his true shooting percentage leads the league. He started out well last season too, so I don't expect the shooting display to continue, but considering expectations coming into the season, it has been a very nice thing to see.
3) What should be the Mavs game plan against a team like the Bucks?
The Mavericks are on the second night of a back-to-back where they took it four quarters in a close loss to the Timberwolves last night. But Dallas does like to push the pace, so with a Bucks team that has second lowest pace in the league, the Mavs would be wise to get the Bucks running early if they can.
Dallas is atrocious on defense, same as the Bucks -- fifth worst and seventh worst defensive ratings, respectively. But the Mavs also have a varied offensive attack with a LOT of shooting at their disposal. On any given night, Dirk, Monta, Calderon, Vince Carter and Wayne Ellington (and now apparently Jae Crowder) can hurt you with their accuracy. Vince Carter should be rested and ready after his one game suspension. And assuming a Gary Neal/O.J. Mayo primary backcourt, and maybe a little "playing against his former team" factor, Monta could and should have a big game.
More from Brew Hoop:
- Bucks vs. Mavericks Preview | Monta Ellis returns as Milwaukee goes for 2nd straight win
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- Bucks 109, Cavs 104 Recap: Bucks shoot the lights out, hold on against Kyrie Irving and co.
- Bucks 109, Cavaliers 104 - Mayo, Neal shoot Bucks to first home win
- Larry Sanders being investigated for nightclub incident over the weekend