Mavericks must improve defensively, add depth around Dirk Nowitzki

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks will again seek another star to pair with Dirk Nowitzki, but more realistically, Dallas needs to get better defensively and find bench depth without any first round picks in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The Mavericks did everything they could to make the playoffs in 2013-14, and boy did they make the most of it. After finishing with a regular season record of 49-33, the Mavericks took the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round.

The addition of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis last summer proved to be a turning point for Dallas. Many had felt they had missed their ship after their biggest targets of the last few years — Deron Williams and Dwight Howard — made moves to Brooklyn and Houston, respectively. But a consolation prize of the pass-first Calderon and the lightning-quick Ellis turned out to be a perfect backcourt pairing with Dirk Nowitzki.

Save for the lack of a defensive stopper in the middle and a spark off the bench, last season's iteration in Dallas was built largely like the one they took to the Finals in 2011, with Calderon as Jason Kidd and Ellis as Jason Terry. Now, the Mavericks will be looking to shore up their defensive presence as they make one final run with Nowitzki.

The assets

Picks: Nos. 34 and 51
Free Agents: Dirk Nowtizki (UFA), Shawn Marion (UFA), Vince Carter (UFA), DeJuan Blair (UFA), Devin Harris (UFA)
Cap space: $31.1 million

Depth chart

PG: Jose Calderon, Devin Harris (UFA), Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel

SG: Monta Ellis, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo

SF: Shawn Marion (UFA), Vince Carter (UFA), Jae Crowder

PF: Dirk Nowitzki (UFA), Brandan Wright

C: Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair (UFA), Bernard James

Team needs

Nowitzki's contract is likely to be short-term from here on out, but if the Mavericks are going to keep him, the only reason would be to add pieces around him.

The first thing they need is a defensive center. Opponents shot a league-best 67.4 percent against the Mavericks on shots 5 feet and under, while Dallas was in the middle of the pack when it came to defending the three-pointer. Getting a big man to help control the paint so Mavericks defenders don't have to collapse and leave the arc is key.

Another piece of the puzzle will be a younger wing defender. Even if the Mavericks bring back Shawn Marion, the aging vet is now 36 years old and will need some rest soon. Dallas was 22nd in defensive efficiency last year, and they need someone to guard the league's best scorers.

Targets

At this point, what the Mavericks need is defense first and foremost. Adding that to their existing starting lineup is going to be difficult, since neither Calderon nor Ellis are particularly staunch defenders. The most likely move, given the team need and history of owner Mark Cuban, is to nab a center.

Several have mentioned former Maverick Tyson Chandler. How Dallas would pry Chandler away from the Knicks isn't abundantly clear, given the lack of useable pieces necessary to complete the championship run and less-than-enticing draft picks to offer. The Mavericks could do what the Blazers did last year in the Tyreke Evans trade that netted them Robin Lopez, assisting in a multi-team trade on draft day to get their man. Other candidates might include a run at Pistons center Greg Monroe or Wizards big man Marcin Gortat.

Getting another ball handler to come off the bench in place of Devin Harris if he doesn't re-sign also will likely be a priority. Ramon Sessions or Patty Mills might be a good fit.

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