I thought it would be interesting to go back to one of those Don Nelson-coached Mavs teams from the early 2000s and compare to our 2009-2010 W's. Specifically, I want to look at the 2002-2003 Mavs, which ended up losing in the Conference Finals. That team was clearly designed by Nellie to play his preferred style of small ball.
The top scorers for the Mavs that year were Nowitzki (25.1), Michael Finley (19.3), Steve Nash (17.7), Nick Van Exel (12.5), and Raef LaFrentz (9.3). The leading rebounders were Nowitzki (9.9), Shawn Bradley (5.9), and Michael Finley (5.8). Somewhat surprising, eh? Nash led the team in assists (7.3), followed by Van Exel (4.3).
Looking at that group of players, some interesting comparisons can be made to the W's. Curry and Ellis can be compared to Nash and Van Exel. To all those who say a small backcourt can't work, I cite this as an example where it clearly can and did work. Good news for the W's, is that Curry and Ellis are combining for 10+ more points than Nash/Van Exel. Ellis is much better than Van Exel ever was, and the Curry/Nash comparisons have been made by Nellie, himself. Advantage: Warriors.
Ok, let's turn to the forwards. Maggs is clearly the best approximation the W's currently have to Michael Finley. Morrow has the shooting skills, but lacks the strength and athleticism. Azabuike has the strength/athleticism, but he's not a great shooter/playmaker. Advantage: Mavs.
Raef LaFrentz. Ok, this one is easy. Biedrins should be able to, at the very least, replicate the role of LaFrentz on that Mavs team. Biedrins can be a 10/10 guy, which would give the points of LaFrentz and rebounding of Dirk. Notice that LaFrentz wasn't even in the top 3 of rebounders on that Mavs team. Advantage: Warriors.
So, what about Dirk? Well, clearly, that's the big question. How does Nellie fill that point-forward role that he loves so much? Is it through the draft? I don't think so. There are no Dirks in the draft. The only other player in the NBA, aside from Dirk, who would fit this role perfectly on the W's is Kevin Durant (could you even imagine?). Ok, so that' not going to happen. Could Brandan Wright+Anthony Randolph = Dirk? Anything is possible, but that doesn't seem likely. Advantage: Mavs.
Curry/Ellis > Nash/Van Exel
Finley > Maggette
Biedrins > LaFrentz
Dirk > anyone on current W's.
The bottom line here is that the W's definitely have some of the pieces of that 2002-03 Mavs team that reached the Conference Finals - a place I'd love the W's to aspire to. The important question is - the one that management should be primarily concerned with - in the absence of a forward filling the role of a Dirk or Durant on the current team, does the current lineup make sense going forward? I don't see any Dirks or Durants coming out of the draft this year. Drafting John Wall wouldn't really change the above comparisons. Clearly, I don't have the answer. However, I hope through this comparison, I have elucidated and focused some of the questions, so that we can understand the core issues that the W's face. Please discuss (it's my first article here, so take it easy on me!).
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