Entering the offseason, the Dallas Mavericks organization preached transition toward a new defensive-oriented mindset in an attempt to forget the horror show that was the Mavericks' 2012-13 defense.
Then, they contradicted themselves by adding Jose Calderon—an offensively talented point guard whose inability to put forth the slightest defensive effort is an enigma to all who try to dissect the otherwise efficient player.
Next, they added Monta Ellis—one of the only other guards in the league whose defensive incompetence overshadows that of Calderon.
I know what you're thinking: What were they thinking?
Combined, the duo represents a potent backcourt on one end of the floor, but a complete liability on the other. On a team that is looking to rebuild, the combo's defensive ineptitude makes it difficult for the Mavs to re-establish themselves as playoff contenders.
If, however, the team takes the necessary precautions to ensure that its inability to defend is concealed, then there is hope that Dallas doesn't become the laughingstock of the Western Conference.
Such precautions seemingly all stem from the team's newest post presence—Samuel Dalembert.
Signed to the roster somewhere between the two guards, it will be Dalembert's duty to anchor a defensive effort that has shown little promise.
Dalembert brings to the team 11 years of NBA experience, career statistics of 8.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks as well as a physical stature of 6'11" and nearly 250 pounds.
He'll join the roster as the primary rim protector, a position that has been unfilled since former Defensive Player of the Year winner Tyson Chandler left the team. Chandler's defensive prowess was a primary factor in the Mavericks' 2011 championship, and the team has spent two seasons looking for someone to fill his role.
Dalembert may be the answer.
He's old, but he has the track record to prove that he's defensively sound. He can block shots, guard strong players and maintain an overall presence in the post that will set the tone for the rest of the defense.
However, he alone cannot save a seemingly lost collection of defensive misfits.
While other players may be able to step up, it isn't until something is done with Ellis and Calderon that results will reveal themselves.
But what could possibly be the solution to the problem? After all, this is the Monta Ellis that we're talking about:
And this Jose Calderon:
If not apparent enough, the duo's primary issue is a collective laziness and inability to stick with their opponent.
The answer, though more common in high school basketball than in the NBA, is the zone defense—the ultimate solution for lazy defenders.
Though Ellis and Calderon are incompetent when it comes to shadowing others, maintaining a zone and using their speed and peskiness to disrupt offenses could be quite effective.
Beyond the backcourt, the team has the necessary facets to run a strong zone.
Dalembert will anchor the effort, but he won't be alone. Joining the team's resident rim protector will be Dirk Nowitzki, who—despite being mainly applauded for his scoring abilities—has proven to be beneficial to his squad's defensive effort. Their defensive rating and defensive rebound percentage are both higher when he is on the floor.
Rounding out the frontcourt is Shawn Marion, whose infamously ugly jump shot is offset by the overall tenacity that he brings to the defensive effort. He can guard multiple positions, crash the board and lead a perimeter defense or provide assistance down low.
Depending on the opponent, Marion can either assist the guards up front or help Nowitzki and Dalembert underneath. Either way, through the use of trapping and zone coverage, the team should be able to hide the backcourt's collective deficiency—at least to an extent.
However, a zone offense is easily figured out, and while it can be effective from time to time, the Mavericks cannot rely solely on it to prevent complete disaster.
They say the best offense is a great defense.
But in Dallas, a strong offense could offset the defensive issues, just like the Houston Rockets in 2012-13. Their defense was ranked 28th, allowing 102.5 points per game, but was compensated for by a nightly offensive output of 106 points.
The Mavericks should follow in the footsteps of their interstate counterparts and use their offensive tools to balance the numerous points that they will allow.
Ellis is a volume scorer, and Calderon is a proven distributor.
Though they present problems on the defensive end, they have the potential to be a deadly combo on offense. Nowitzki, too, is more capable than most big men when it comes to scoring, as he can do so from virtually anywhere on the floor.
Dalembert is an effective post presence, and Marion enjoys the occasional hot streak from time to time, in which his shooting—though ugly—produces the desired results.
The roster wasn't constructed to be anything different than the team's horrible backcourt defense led by O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison last year. That said, the current backcourt, along with the rest of the lineup, has the talent to excel on the offensive front and ensure that its flawed defense doesn't completely ruin the Mavericks' 2013-14 campaign.