#1: There was a lot of turn over from last year’s squad that won the Championship. Some observers were worried about the defense getting worse; however, this year the Mavs are surrendering less points per game, and have a better Defensive Rating as well. How do you account for this?
Make no mistake about it: losing Tyson Chandler was a devastating blow for this team. It's been hidden somewhat by the increased amount of athleticism on the perimeter as well as the compressed season which is hurting everyone's offense, but as the string of centers putting up 20+ points in the last four games (Andrew Bynum, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Chris Kaman) has shown, none of the three Dallas centers currently on their roster (Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright) have anywhere near Chandler's overall package of skills, especially defensively.
#2: Dallas rolls the dice a lot more than extra conservative franchises do, like Utah for example. Sometimes you get greatness; and sometimes you get a head ache. Which move this year has paid off the most? Which move this year has paid off the least?
What's paid off the most this year has been Donnie Nelson's (one of the most underrated execs in the game) ability to find and identify veteran free agents off the scrap-heap who will be able to contribute. Without Delonte West, Brandan Wright and Vince Carter, all of whom signed at or near the minimum, this team is fighting for a No. 8 seed.
As for the move that's paid off the least, I can understand the logic behind letting Chandler walk to be aggressive in 2012 but I don't agree with it. In baseball they have a saying "flags fly forever" and the duo of Dirk/Chandler would have been a legit title contender this year. I have a hard time agreeing with forgoing another chance at a title.
#3: Jason Terry and Jason Kidd come off the books after this season. Both are making over $10m this season. Do both of them get "golden handshake" deals, or will the Mavericks come to terms with re-signing only one of the two?
The Jasons are pretty instrumental in terms of the locker room culture in Dallas, but the Mavericks focus next summer is going to be on the Dwight Howard and Deron Williams sweepstakes. They're not going to do anything to jeopardize the salary cap space to make a play at both. After that, I imagine if either player is willing to play at the minimum they'll be welcomed back.
#4: Dirk Nowitzki is one of the best players to play the game. He’s still playing at an elite level but could probably enjoy some more rest during the regular season. This year he’s playing his lowest MPG since his rookie season. Is this by design? Do you support Rick Carlisle’s handling of a banged up Dirk this year, or would you change things?
Dirk is the franchise and no regular season game is worth risking his health. I have no problems with what Carlisle is doing and I think it's reasonable to begin transitioning Dirk into a Tim Duncan elder statesman role to prolong his career as much as possible.
#5: I have to ask – on a scale of 1 to "Yeeeeehaw!" how likely is it that Deron Williams is going to be a Mavs player next season? If he joins, how open does your window for championships become?
It's hard to even put a number on it because there are so many variables affecting the decision. The biggest one is Otis Smith in Orlando: by all accounts, Williams is trying to team up with Howard in free agency so as a Mavs fan what I'm really watching is to see whether Smith bites the bullet and deals Howard to LA or New Jersey now. If he doesn't, I like Mark Cuban's chances of getting both to take smaller money to come play in Dallas. If the Mavs could somehow get both players to play with Dirk then, yea, I'd be pretty excited to say the least.