Depth Chart and Rotation
The Mavericks look a little thin in the creation and ball handling department this year, as the departures of Parsons and Raymond Felton leave Dallas with Deron Williams, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, and Seth Curry to handle the ball. With this year’s market, Williams came back to Dallas at a surprisingly low contract.
You can no longer separate an NBA depth chart by PG, SG, SF, PF, and C—too many teams have stocked up on players that are versatile, multi-positional threats. Dallas is no different on the wing, where Wes Matthews, Justin Anderson, and Harrison Barnes can move around. Matthews can guard 1-3, Anderson and Barnes can guard 2-4 and switch onto the point guard if the situation calls for it. Quincy Acy can play a bouncy forward role, though he is better suited to the 4, where he can use his energy and quickness to beat bigger defenders.
The bigs are much the same as last year. Dirk Nowitzki remains the franchise legend, while Andrew Bogut starts at the five. Dwight Powell stands in as a backup at the four, but can play the five in smaller lineups and brings more youth and energy to the floor at all times. Finally, Salah Mejri enters his second season and rookie A.J. Hammons rounds out the big men. With Bogut’s injury history, expect limited minutes for him and some playing time for all three of Mejri, Powell, and Hammons night-to-night.
A few key substitution patterns will likely remain, and new ones are sure to emerge as Rick Carlisle experiments in his chemistry lab to create offense and find a way to clean the glass. Dirk is likely to check out mid-way through the first quarter, as usual, returning at the 9- or 10-minute mark with J.J. Barea to make their sweet pick and roll music as always. Look to see Justin Anderson be the one in for Dirk at that time, allowing Dallas to blitz with their Barnes-at-the-four lineup for a few minutes early before Dirk carries a bench unit.
As games progress, expect to see Barnes as the primary creator on at least a couple of five-man units, likely surrounded with Seth Curry to provide some shooting and potentially Dwight Powell at the five to open up the lane a little bit as well. Here are some of the key lineups we’re likely to see.
Starting Lineup: Deron Williams-Wes Matthews-Harrison Barnes-Dirk Nowitzki-Andrew Bogut
This is the high-priced starting lineup the Mavericks have put together. Dirk Nowitzki returns for his 19th season as the old faithful fulcrum of everything Dallas does on offense. Once again, word from the team is that they’d like to reduce his minutes, but they’ve been singing that tune since 2011 and it has yet to materialize. With Harrison Barnes able to slide to the four on both sides of the ball, maybe this is the year.
The two former Warriors make up the new additions over last year, replacing the oft-injured Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia. Bogut’s injury in the Finals could be seen as the biggest factor allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to make a historic comeback, but the key to this Mavericks season will be the performance of Barnes. If his playmaking can match his pedigree as a secondary creator in Dallas, this team can be a dark horse for the four seed. If he’s not better than a spot up shooter, the Mavericks could be in for a rough year.
All-Defense: Devin Harris-Matthews-Justin Anderson-Barnes-Bogut
The most exciting lineup is swapping out Williams and Nowitzki for two more plus defenders. Although Harris and Bogut are getting up in years, the wings in this lineup could be bursting with athleticism and lockdown potential with switchability all around. Even Harris can stand his own against twos and many threes in the NBA, allowing this group to swarm, blitz pick and rolls, and envelop opposing players with wingspans galore.
Shooters Everywhere: Curry-Williams-Matthews-Barnes-Nowitzki
Many variations of offensive firepower exist for this team, but Williams at the two is one of the few options they have to get two creators on the floor, and all five of these guys are plus three-point shooters from their positions. If Curry picks up where he left off in Sacramento and Matthews returns all the way to form this season, this lineup could be deadly. Defensively, it won’t be pretty, but 120-118 is still a +2 rating.
Overall, Dallas has a lot of options and more youth than they’ve had in a long time. This could be the beginning of a core for the next great Mavericks contender, but as Dirk’s twilight moves slowly towards an end, they’ll continue to compete for playoff spots.