1) The Dallas Mavericks are a playoff team if the dance started today, sitting in sixth spot in the West. Has their play so far this season surprised you and do you think they can sustain it?
All the preseason predictions had the Mavs battling for one of the last playoff seeds. That is still within the realm of possibility but their play to this point hasn't been remarkably surprising.
Coming in, we knew that this team would be able to score in droves. They have done just that to this point. Their defense was also supposed to be bad. It certainly is. At this point, I don't see a reason that the Mavs cannot sustain their early season playoff push. The West, though no where near as bad the East, has its fair share of let-downs. Memphis is struggling, Minnesota is mediocre, New Orleans is dealing with the Brow's injury. A playoff spot is there for the taking and Dallas will gladly grab it after missing out on the post season last year.
2) The Jose Calderon-Monta Ellis duo has been a pleasant surprise as well. How do these signings look now?
I would say that most Mavs fans are more than happy to have Calderon and Ellis on the team. Sure, there will always be some nitpicking about certain aspects surrounding their signing, but overall there is not much to complain about when it comes to their performances on the court.
Ellis was especially vilified when Dallas signed him. He was heavily criticized for his shot selection in his previous years in the league. Often times, he was the only offensive option on those teams and had to take questionable shots. In Dallas, though, he plays alongside some guy named Dirk Nowitzki. Last time I checked, Dirk was no slouch. The two have developed a nice two-man chemistry as well. Ellis compliments Nowitzki's play in many ways. Monta likes to get to the rim and collapse the defense. This frees up his teammates for open looks and Ellis is more than adept at passing. (His passing skills are rather underrated.)
Ellis' propensity to work with the ball in his had has also benefited Calderon. While Calderon is a more than capable floor general, his greatest asset this season has been his shooting. With Ellis as the ball handler, Calderon has hovered around the perimeter looking to get open. When the ball finds him, defenders scramble to close out but it is often too late, Once the shot goes up it will likely go in. He is shooting a remarkable 47 percent on both field goals and 3-point attempts.
3) To beat the Raptors tonight, what should fans expect to see from the Mavs?
Lots of Dirk. The Raptors really don't have anyone who can defend Nowitzki. Toronto will throw Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Jonas Valanciunas at him but that will take them away from other duties on the court. If this happens, Dallas, namely Ellis, Vince Carter, and Brandan Wright to exploit the Raptors' defense.
It would also behoove Dallas to limit points in the paint. They simply give up too many points from that area, especially at the rim.
Maybe Dwane Casey still has a few tricks up his sleeve on how to defend Dirk from the time he spent in Dallas. If he does there is no better time than the present to dust them off.
A big shout out to Doyle and the crew at Mavs Moneyball for the insight. Head on over to their site to check out the best Dallas Mavericks content on the web!