Tyson Chandler- The veteran center is undoubtedly the most important of the newcomers. First and foremost he looks perfectly healthy to me after playing in only 95 games the last two years. He did need his right thumb stitched up after a cutting it on the rim Wednesday night in Orlando but I doubt that is a factor when the season tips off next Wednesday.
The Mavericks really seem to be looking for lobs whenever Chandler is in the game and he has shown plenty of ability to go get those alley-oops and finish them. He doesn't seem quite as forceful of a finisher as he did in his heyday in New Orleans, but that might be a function of preseason. He is running the floor well and his rebounding and shot-blocking skills seem on par with what I remember. He has shown a propensity for picking up fouls in bunches but Haywood's presence on the roster of course helps offset that. In talking with him, he is engaging and positive and by all accounts is fitting into the locker room very, very well. I think Mavs fans will like the passion and exuberance I have seen out of him after some big plays this preseason.
Dominique Jones- I'm not much of a predictor but I could very easily see him being the starting shooting guard come opening night. Rick Carlisle has said the job is open and Jones has st arted three games there in the preseason (no one else has more than one start at the 2-guard). Starting him and trying to milk a few minutes at the beginning of each half from him with Kidd and Dirk on the floor to help and protect him (somewhat like what the Mavs did with Roddy B early last year) makes sense as well.
So here's what you need to know about DoJo:
He's a slasher who can get into the paint. He isn't finishing the way he did in college because of the bigger, athletic bodies to guard the rim but he has the ability to get there and the finishing skills should come over time. He also isn't getting the calls he got in college so he'll need to improve on looking to score and not just looking to draw contact when he goes to the hole.
Jones has the strength, tenacity and desire it would appear to defend well at this level, although he has been caught reaching a few times this preseason rather than playing solid defense by using his feet. The weakest part of his game right now is definitely the outside jump shot. Improving that doesn't appear to be a mechanical issue, but more about spending time in the gym working on it and developing confidence. I've seen some good decisions from him with the ball when he drives in terms of passing. I don't think that makes him a point guard, but its good he can make smart decisions if he is going to be getting down into the paint with regularity.
Ian Mahinmi- First off its pronounced (YON Muh-hee-mee). I was under t he impression you pronounced the N but he says you don't. Mahinmi comes here after playing 31 games in three years with the Spurs, having one full year wiped out due to injury. Shawn Marion told us on the broadcast Wednesday he is calling him "Taz,'' short for the "Tasmanian Devil'' and I see where it comes from because when Ian gets on the floor he has shown his going to try and do something to get noticed.
Now sometimes what he does to get noticed may not be a good thing but he is trying to make something happen far more than just out there being a passenger, and I like that.
His per minute rebound rate in the preseason is barely below Haywood and Chandler. He doesn't look quite as fluid as I expected out of someone with his obvious athleticism but in the limited time he has played this preseason he has for the most part produced. He range looks like it doesn't extend much past 15 feet so I see him more as a center than a power forward and based on the preseason he seems capable of handling the job as the third center.
Alexis Ajinca- Now I admit that even though he has been in the league for two years, I k new next to nothing about this guy at the start of camp other than his name is pronounced (uh-LEX-ee uh-GIN-suh). He's played 49 preseason minutes and I see a player who is still very much a project after only 37 games with Charlotte in two years. You can see talent when he is on the floor, though.
He has much more range on his jumper than Mahinmi, reliable out to 20 feet, it appears, and thus in my mind making him more of a candidate to play minutes at 4 than 5. He's also obviously quite skinny and doesn't have the base that Mahinmi does… again a reason I see him as more of a stretch 4 than a 5.
He is freakishly long… listed at 7-feet tall with a wingspan reported to be anywhere from 7-6 to 7-9. Whatever it is, it's impressive and he isn't shy about going after blocked shots. Of course, with a young player that also means fouling a lot and his per minute foul rate was eighth-highest in the league among those who played more than 40 minutes so far in the preseason (through Wednesday's games).
Like Mahinmi, he seems like a nice young man and he is more than willing to engage in a chat about soccer so I like that, even though he is a Chelsea man.
Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak- I thought I'd combine these guys because they do have in common making the team as non-roster invitees. Both players won't see their contracts become fully guaranteed until early January so who knows if they are here the whole year but they are breaking camp with an NBA team and I'm sure they're thrilled about that and the Mavs are happy to have them.
Both players have the temperament to fit in well in the locker room despite knowing their opportunities to play will likely be limited barring something unforeseen.
Cardinal is 33 years old and is pretty much the "New Najera.'' He is willing to sacrifice his body to draw a charge and does other dirty work. He played some 3 and 4 in the pre-season but didn't shoot well, only 29 percent. Novak was a longer shot to make the team at the start of training camp but his long shot ability probably earned him a spot. Novak hit 41 percent from the arc in exhibition games and kicked Dirk's butt in a 3-point shooting contest at practice last week by going 18-for-20.
Shooters have a way of hanging around this league, especially when they are 6-10 and this is a shooter who drilled 119 three-pointers just two seasons ago with the Clippers.
So now you know the new guys. You are already familiar with the work of the incumbents. It's time to see them all together. … Come on out and see the fellas when the Mavs and Bobcats tip it up for real next Wednesday!