The door may not be completely shut on the Mavericks championship hopes, but boy oh boy is it getting close. The team attempted to bolster its lineup this past mid-season by bringing in Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood for the perpetually injured Josh Howard. But instead of the trade taking them to the next level, all they got was another early round playoff exit at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Now the team has an $84 million payroll and a core of players aging faster than the cast of Friends. The team’s best six players last season are all on the wrong side of 30 – Jason Kidd is 37, Jason Terry is 33, Dirk is 32, Marion is 32, Brendan Haywood is 30 and Caron Butler is 30. I applaud Mark Cuban and Mavs for the way they have gone all in financially for a championship, but the end result leaves something to be desired.

From a fantasy perspective, the fact that the Mavs are both old and established makes them a fairly boring team to review. GMTR EXPERT ANALYSIS – that Dirk fellow is going to be a talented basketball player!!! Jason Kidd is old!!! Jason Terry is one of the best 6th men in the league!!!

Unless Chris Paul magically finds his way into a Dallas uniform, Rodrigue Beaubois is the only young guy with a good chance of making some noise in this veteran lineup:

The Depth Chart

PG Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jose Juan Barea
SG Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Dominique Jones
SF Shawn Marion, DeShawn Stevenson
PF Dirk Nowitzki, Alexis Ajinca
C Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler, Ian Mahinmi

In looking for any sign of age-related decline in the 32-year old Dirk Nowitzki, the only two negative things  about his game is that his rebounding rate and threes have been on the decline for a few years now. The rest of his stats remain as strong as ever – including 25 ppg with great percentages, low turnovers and still decent rebounding and block numbers. We seen at this point that Dirk is not the type of player who can lead an NBA team to a championship, but he will grow an evil goatee on command and continue to be one of the great regular season players and a mid first round fantasy guy.

What the hell do you do with Jason Kidd in fantasy leagues? We could just run the same prediction as the past 4 years:

“Kidd is old and this will finally be the year that his decrepit body falls apart”

Ok, lets look at Kidd’s numbers more objectively. While his overall fantasy game is as strong as ever, his game has had some minor age-related decline over the past couple of seasons (although he’s held up amazingly for his age). His rebound, assist and steal rates are now below his career averages and they all saw a small, but distinct drop off starting around 2008-09. However, Kidd has been able to maintain his fantasy value despite this decline by becoming one of the best three-point shooters in the league (43% from behind the arc last season). So as long as Kidd continues to hit 2+ threes a game at a 40% clip, he’ll be no worse than a second or third round player even if the rest of counting stats decline again this season (which is likely). But if he has a bad three point shooting season, or if he takes lesser role due to the rise of Rodrigue Beaubois (or arrival Chris Paul), then the gradual decline is going to turn into a cliff.

Caron Butler started the season on a disappointing note with the Wizards. Then he was traded to the Mavs and fared even worse statistically – averaging 15 points, 5.4 boards, and 1.8 assists in 35 minutes a game for Dallas. The problem for Butler is that Dallas is a fairly deep team at the SG/SF positions, so while he was pushing 40 minutes a game on a shallow Wizards team, 35 is the ceiling for him on the Mavs. Overall, don’t expect Butler to return to his second-round fantasy value days, but a full season in Dallas’ offense should help him mesh better with his teammates and improve his scoring numbers slightly.

Jason Terry has made a career out of being an underrated fantasy guy because he’s merely good in a lot of categories. And ‘good’ is a pretty boring thing in fantasy drafts. Not much will change for Terry this season, he is still going to be the team’s 6th man and net you some points, threes, steals with a great free throw percentage. He’ll also continue to inexplicably have PG eligibility in Yahoo leagues. One thing not to worry about: Terry’s numbers were exactly the same pre and post Caron Butler trade (I checked), which means that the team did not alter the way that they used him after acquiring Butler. Instead, the most likely scenario that could bring down Terry’s numbers is the emergence of Beaubois this season, but that is a big ‘if’ at the moment.

At this point, there are no illusions that Shawn Marion is anywhere close to the multi-category beast that he was in his heyday with the Suns. His rebounding and blocks are way down from their peak in the mid-aughts; and for a guy who use to average well over a three a game, the fact that he was only 3-19 from three all last season is the strongest sign that he’s in the Matrix Revolutions point in his career. But Marion is still worth picking up at the end of drafts and can contribute to teams as a passable rebounder and shot blocker who is running on the fumes of greatness.

Brendan Haywood was getting some fantasy attention at the beginning of last season, thanks to the fact that he was averaging a double-double on the Wizards. Then he was traded to the Mavs, split time with the succubus known as Erick Dampier, saw his minutes drop by 6 per game and his stats drop by 20% across the board.

The Damps departure could have meant good things for Haywood this year, but the Mavs used Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract to pick up Tyson Chandler (because there is nothing Mark Cuban loves more than a good center platoon). Chandler is coming off an injury plagued life, but has already expressed his willingness to come off the bench for the Mavs in a backup role. So while Chandler won’t get enough minutes to have any fantasy value this season, he’ll also take a good chunk out of Haywood’s value as well. Haywood should at least put up similar numbers to what he did last season with the Mavs – and his 8 points, 8 boards, and 2 blocks a game will play as a low-end starting center.

Rodrigue Beaubois is the Mavs best sleeper candidate. The speedy 22-year old combo guard has already shown he can score in bunches (witness his 40 point game against the Warriors last March), but for now he slots in as the teams 4th guard. Or it’s possible that Marion moves to the bench, Butler to the 3 and Beaubois could start at SG. Keep an eye on the situation as we get closer to the season. If Beaubois is the starter, you are going to want to draft him.

The rest of Dallas’ bench isn’t going to have any fantasy relevance. Jose Juan Barea will play minimal minutes behind Kidd; DeShawn Stevenson averaged 11 minutes of run with the team last season; and Alexis Ajinca and Ian Mahinmi are both tall.

So, for the guys we want to draft… Here’s your official GMTR Guidance (for a 12 team league):

Dirk Nowitzki: Mid 1st
Jason Kidd: 2nd if you believe/3rd would be better value
Jason Terry: 5th/6th
Caron Butler: 6th
Brendan Haywood: 8th/9th
Shawn Marion: 10+
Rodrigue Beaubois: 10+

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