Opportunity and flexibility best describe this year’s Mavericks’ roster. They’re all tasked with some level of expectation awaiting immediate validation.
Rather it is due to injury, respect around the league, more minutes on the floor, or a future payday the whole team has alternate means of motivation. Rick Carlisle won’t be coaching effort this season and it’s by design.
For most of the Mavs starting nightly will be a secondary focus. Preseason suggests the only certain starters are Luka and Kristaps. The remaining spots have been filled according to scouting, player development, or match-ups. So far this preseason the Mavs have used as many roster combinations as games played (4). This establishes a pattern the team could lean on. Implementing this type of rotation helps curve role complacency.
Each team member is faced with the same uncertainty of being relied upon for big minutes any given night. This essentially reinforces team accountability understanding a locked-in focus on the nightly game plan is crucial to the teams winning column.
In this league, bench production is celebrated but not synonymous with championships. The 2018-19 Toronto Raptors and the 2011 Dallas Mavericks buck this trend and are prime examples of organizations utilizing a more well-rounded attack. They both slightly manipulated their rosters to reach the NBA’s pinnacle. Creating a deep competitive roster is difficult and requires continuity between the organization’s head coach and its front office. The Mavericks clearly have that box checked so the progression to this point is palpable.
Last season among bench per game scoring only four of the league’s top ten teams finished the season above .500 (Clippers, Nets, Celtics, Pacers). The Mavs finished 14th. Their bench averaged 37.7 ppg and ended the season with a 33-49 record. This highlights the make-up of a top-heavy NBA shuffling to adjust to guarantee wins. As players get younger and the game becomes more global teams are sure to copy the Mavs methods in the hopes of avoiding extended losing streaks like the one Cleveland is about to begin.
In most cases, offensive production is done via the starting 5. When this norm is disrupted it’s considered a luxury. For what it’s worth the Mavs have enjoyed this perk. Prior to tonight’s match against the Clippers, 83% of the team’s points (240- 439) have come from the bench. Mind you four different starting lineups have been used in as many games.
The Mavericks roster flexibility should be embraced and will be an essential part of their success. Players on this roster are multifaceted and can play multiple positions fueling the Mavs progress towards a position-less squad. Grit, length, and shooting seem to be traits of this current team. The effortless scoring prowess of Luka and Kristaps is obvious. Couple that with the length of Delon Wright, Justin Jackson, and Boban Marjanovic and the upgrades from last year’s roster are clear.
Wing/ perimeter depth is a team strength the Mavericks can utilize to fatigue opponents. Delon, Justin, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Courtney Lee all have the capacity to influence the game in multiple ways. Categorically these guys are known as 3&D rotational cogs even though some have the ability to provide more. This gives the squad relevant balance and flexibility kin to previous successful Maverick teams.
Post/ interior depth could be a sore spot this year. Finding consistency from newly signed big-men Boban, Maxi Kleber, and Dwight Powell are central themes. Unlike their perimeter counter-parts, this group lacks depth in numbers and talent. Keep in mind Boban achieved a career-high in minutes per game last year with a low mark of 11.7. Expecting extended minutes from him on a nightly basis would be futile. His scenario only adds to the team’s interior depth issue.
Regardless of who it may be the talent differential between Kristaps and his substitute is considerable. This is why a few wings (DFS, Justin Jackson) will provide some interior relief. Its a fair assumption considering last season DFS logged 30% of his minutes at power forward while Justin logged 17%. In previous years coach Carlisle has always played a lengthy wing at the four spots. Before he was traded Harrison Barnes played 82% of his minutes at power forward.
The hope is both Maxi and Dwight validate their off-season contracts and become the team enforcers with solid outside strokes. This allows KP to play his natural position of power forward offensively while being able to roam the paint and impact shots defensively.
At Rick’s disposal is the ability to deploy a lengthy perimeter centric squad that can athletically compete with any roster in the NBA. This is why starting the game won’t matter to most of the team.
Instead, the focus will shift to match-ups, scouting reports and game detail. The Mavericks flexibility allows them to really create strategic advantages. This organization is ambitious enough to believe their strategy will work. The only real question is how soon?
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