5 Adjustments Rick Carlisle Must Make for New-Look Dallas Mavericks
While they missed out on signing Dallas-native Deron Williams in free agency, the Mavericks did land a handful of new pieces that will inevitably alter their style of play.
Newcomers O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Dahntay Jones will all see their share of minutes this coming season. In fact, Mayo and Collison will supply major minutes in the backcourt, and Kaman and Brand should both see plenty of court time playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
The new-look Mavs will definitely have more talent than last year's team, but the question is whether or not they can learn how to effectively mesh with one another.
This is where coach Rick Carlisle comes in.
He must make adjustments to enable this new bunch to thrive with one another. He no longer has the veteran presences of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, so he will need to get creative to get the most out of his new look squad.
Insert High/Low Packages for Nowitzki and Kaman/Brand
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Dirk Nowitzki is used to not playing with a highly skilled offensive big man.
Over the years, the Mavs have typically situated a defensive-minded center next to him (i.e. Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, Erick Dampier).
Now, Nowitzki not only has one big man with offensive talent alongside him, but he also has two in Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
Kaman, in particular, has an incredibly savvy skill set in the low post, and the Mavs would be foolish to not utilize him. Brand, while past his prime, is still more than capable of hitting the mid-range jumper and finishing around the rim.
Therefore, Carlisle must implement offensive sets where the Mavs' big men can work off each other. A general play would feature Nowitzki catching the ball at the high post, with Kaman and Brand flashing across the lane for a quick post up.
Such plays must be used more often, as the Mavs are wasting quality skill sets if they don't.
Allow Darren Collison to Create off the Screen and Roll
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Darren Collison's strength is his quickness.
This is best utilized in screen and roll scenarios, where Collison can sneak his way into the lane and find open teammates.
Collison is a much different point guard from Jason Kidd, and Carlisle must make the appropriate adjustments to best complement his new floor general.
If Collison can get plenty of opportunities to come off ball screens, he should find his assist numbers steadily increasing. What's more, he has a respectable mid-range pull up jump shot that defenses can't ignore.
He can simply penalize the defense in an array of ways if he's used in the right manner. Carlisle must find how this right manner looks, and a good bet is to insert a bevy of screen and roll sets.
Make O.J. Mayo into a True No. 2 Option
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O.J. Mayo averaged 18.5 points per game as a rookie in just 2008-09. Though he hasn't been able to take his game to new levels since then, the talent is still unquestionably there.
It's now up to Carlisle to figure out how to unleash the potential in Mayo. This means featuring him more in the offense—allowing him to create off isolations, having him run off screens for open jumpers and simply playing him 35+ minutes a night.
Mayo surely wants to reveal his superstar caliber potential, and he has a great opportunity to become a true No. 2 option alongside Nowitzki. Carlisle must use Mayo in a fashion similar to how Jason Terry was used (except Mayo figures to start).
Mayo must have opportunities to reveal his talent, and this starts with Carlisle giving Mayo freedom to become an offensive spark plug.
Figure out the Best Defensive Lineup
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Last year's Mavs missed the presence of Tyson Chandler, a member of the 2010-11 Mavs who won the NBA crown.
Chandler was an intimidator, and the Mavs didn't have that last season. They must reestablish a defensive tenacity this season, and that begins with Carlisle figuring out who his defensive stalwarts are. Late in games, certain players will most likely play in crucial moments down the stretch to tally defensive stops.
A couple of these players are likely newcomers.
Dahntay Jones is known for his defensive energy, and Brand is an underrated low post defender and shot blocker.
Expect Carlisle to establish a defensive lineup that features Jones, Brand, Shawn Marion and most likely Nowitzki and Collison. Big man Brandan Wright could also see important spot minutes because of his shot-blocking ability.
The bottom line is that with a whole bunch of new faces, Carlisle is forced to consider who his best lineup is to get stops. He found it in 2010-11.
Can he make the proper adjustments with this new-look roster?
Develop Nowitzki into a Vocal Leader
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With Kidd and Terry gone, this team needs a new vocal leader.
Nowitzki has been the heart and soul of this team for years, but he's never been very animated with his teammates on the floor.
Carlisle needs to challenge Nowitzki to make adjustments in this area. He can no longer look to the intellect of a future Hall of Famer (Kidd) in pivotal situations. He must become a vocal presence that the Mavs' younger players look to in the thick of battle.
This won't come naturally for Nowitzki, and this is why Carlisle must seek to make this adjustment and chide Nowitzki in that direction. If this is successful, it will greatly help offset the veteran losses of Kidd and Terry.