Mavs improved despite missing on Deron Williams

The Mavericks front office swung and missed on this summer’s superstar mission but still managed to upgrade Dirk Nowitzki’s supporting cast.

Forget for a moment whether the Mavs, with Nowitzki as the lone star, can contend for a championship. Just focus on whether this team is better than the one that the Oklahoma City Thunder swept in the first round.

With O.J. Mayo joining the mix on Monday, a quick comparison of the players the Mavs added and the ones who departed Dallas this month leaves little doubt.

Mayo or Jason Terry? Chris Kaman or Brendan Haywood? Elton Brand or Ian Mahinmi? Darren Collison or Jason Kidd?

The Mayo-Jet comparison is the only one in which the stats don’t favor the new Mav. But Mayo, who didn’t live up to his promise as a third overall pick in Memphis, is a decade younger and two inches taller than Terry.

Kaman can already be called the best offensive center in Mavs history, which is pretty faint praise for the first true low-post complement of Nowitzki’s career. And there shouldn’t be any defensive dropoff. Kaman had significantly better rebounding (7.8 per game) and blocks (1.6) numbers than the amnestied Haywood did last year.

Mahinmi developed into a nice energy-boost backup big man, averaging 5.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks last season. The 33-year-old Brand is past his prime, but the 11.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks he averaged for the Sixers last season look pretty strong in comparison. Plus, Brand can give the Mavs minutes at power forward and center off the bench.

It’s almost blasphemous to call Collison an upgrade over Kidd, who deserves mention among the greatest point guards of all time. But that’s the case based on last season’s numbers. Kidd, 39, had career lows in points (6.2), assists (5.5) and rebounds (4.1). Collison, 24, averaged 10.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds. The Mavs might miss Kidd’s savvy, but Collison’s ability to create with his quickness will be a welcome wrinkle for an offense that got stagnant far too often in the halfcourt.

Dahntay Jones, who came from Indiana along with Collison in the Mahinmi sign-and-trade deal, is a solid role player. He wouldn’t be an upgrade over the versatile Delonte West, but there’s still a good chance that West will re-sign with the Mavs.

And there’s a good chance the Mavs will be better than last season, if not as good as they hoped.