With the Mavs starting lineup looking to remain flexible, the key to success next year might end up being the second unit.

Rick Carlisle took in a few games of Mavs Summer League this past week and sat down with Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News for his thoughts on the upcoming season. While there was some talk about Luka Doncic’s fitness and Kristaps Porzingis’ health, there was some loose & preliminary discussions of what the starting lineup might look like next season with the newly acquired PG, Delon Wright mixed in.

With 4 spots in the starting lineup spoken for, the last spot with some wiggle room seems to be primarily defense focused with Finney-Smith and Jackson being 2/3 of the option at the position. This would leave a myriad of scoring that can come off the bench if Hardaway is slated to come off the bench as has been previously discussed here on Mavs Nation. As the Western Conference is so ridiculously loaded, the Mavs starting lineup might not be enough to put them in a winning position and the second unit might be called upon to pick up the slack.

Looking at it through the lens of competitive duos in the West, would KP & Luka truly be enough to outdo Paul George and Kawhi Leonard outright? How about LeBron and The Brow? How about a healthy pair of Splash Brothers? Probably not, but with all of these high priced contracts that go with these tandems, the second units for these teams might not be as deep as they would like anymore. And that might be where the Mavs differ from these other teams the most. This offseason, the Mavs acquired depth and versatility, in addition to securing a Unicorn to pair with Luka.

The Mavs might theoretically have a second unit of JJ Barea (10.9 ppg) and/or Jalen Brunson (9.3 ppg) running the point for high scoring Tim Hardaway Jr. (18.1 ppg) and sharpshooting Seth Curry (7.9) with excellent roll men like Maxi Kleber (6.8 ppg) and Boban Marjanovic (7.3 ppg). While none of those individual numbers truly blow your mind, they add up to a projected 53-ish point per game off the bench, which should stand up quite well to opposing bench units.

Of course, Tim Hardaway’s numbers are likely subject to change with a potentially non-starting role. However, he might not see a massive drop in minutes as Carlisle likes to blend the transition from starting to bench to starting to never have a real weakness on the floor. Just look at Lou Williams for the Clippers. He won the 6th man of the year for the third time and played 26.6 minutes per game last year averaging 20 ppg while Timmy started, playing 29.3 minutes per game and averaging 18.1 ppg. Shifting the role HOPEFULLY helps Timmy be more efficient with less intensive defenses on him in shorter minutes. Mavs fans have seen something similar in the past with Jason Terry who was our 6th man and played 31.3 minutes per game and scored 15.8 ppg. Sounds like a reasonably similar role…

With Tim Hardaway potentially positioned to shine on the second unit, the rest of the team might bring their numbers up against the lighter level of competition. Seth Curry is capable of scoring more than 7.9 ppg if he is given more than 6 shots with his accuracy. Maxi has shown flashes of outside shooting and Brunson only projects to get better headed into his sophomore year. This bench unit might be what keeps us in games against some of the hardest of the West.

Picture this scenario: Luka and KP check out halfway through the second quarter against the Warriors when Steph and Draymond and Russell check out with the Mavs down by 12 (not an unlikely situation). The Mavs second unit comes in and scores what they are capable of in 10 minutes (25-27 points) against the GSW bench of Shabaz Napier, Treveon Graham, Jordan Bell, Jonas Jarebko, and Kevon Looney’s points (14-16 points). When the starters begin to rotate back in, the Mavs would theoretically be up by 2 or 3. While this is a controlled experiment, the point still stands that the Mavs bench have a viable edge to keep them in competitive games.

Without question, the Mavs got better this offseason, if by no other metric than adding Kristaps to the team, but they are not immediately a contender with his addition. The Mavs have a bevy of role players who all can contribute, but few stars who are guaranteed to start. As Carlisle told Brad Townsend, lineups will be “fluid” and will be matchup driven. Couple this thought with the team trending towards more “positionless” basketball and you have the makings of a team looking to shed labels for the betterment of the team.

Everyone contributes. Everyone grinds. In the 2019-20 Western Conference, there’s no place for anything except team basketball and the Mavericks are looking at players 1-15 to help win as many games as possible.

Featured Image: Clutch Points via Getty Images
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