The Dallas Mavericks Might Have Too Much Talent for Their Own Good
It's a nice problem to have, too much talent. It's a problem that I dare say the Dallas Mavericks are facing this season.
They've faced it for the past few years, one might argue that the Mavericks have had a habit of unearthing talent at the power forward position.
The problem there is that Dirk Nowitzki is going to get most of the minutes there, so people like Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries, and James Singleton have always been let go to other teams in trades and such.
This year it's become readily apparent that the Mavs do, in fact, have too much talent. They have two All-Star small forwards in Caron Butler and Shawn Marion, and they have two legit NBA centers in Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood.
Notice anything about those four names above? Yeah, one center and one small forward came over in a trade, meaning the Mavericks (while upgrading the talent of Josh Howard and Drew Gooden), took on more of a logjam.
Those four, combined with Dirk, Jason Terry, and Jason Kidd form the best seven players on the Mavericks. Sure, we all love us some Rodrigue Beaubois and Eduardo Najera, but if the Mavericks are going to go deep into the playoffs, it depends on those seven players.
So you'd think, that when the Mavericks have all hands on deck, that talent-wise they can compete with anybody.
But the numbers don't back that up.
Consider this: those seven players has missed a combined 45 games, and the Mavericks are 38-7 in those games.
With every player's missed games, the Mavericks are better when that player is gone.
Now, clearly the Mavs aren't better without Kidd (he rested the one game he missed, and it was against the lowly Timberwolves) and they beat the Cavaliers without Dirk after his elbow was full of Carl Landry's teeth.
But are they better without Erick Dampier? It could be suggested as much, given that the entire 13-game win streak took place sans Dampier, and it ended when he came back.
And during the win streak Haywood also went down for two games, and Eduardo Najera was playing center for the Mavs, and they still won.
So why do they seem to stumble when they have a full roster?
Those teams all feature wing players who are high-volume scorers, the type Marion was brought in to stop. But aside from Tyreke Evans twice (29 on 13-of-21, 27 on 10-of-21), those wing players haven't hurt the Mavs much.
Manu Ginobili went 1-3 with 2 points, O.J. Mayo went 5-8 for 11 points and Brandon Roy went 4-14 for 13 points.
Some of this can be attributed to the Mavs' depth, as DeShawn Stevenson has filled in well of late, but he hasn't been there that long.
The problem the Mavs seem to have with everyone there is the uncertainty brought on by Rick Carlisle's rotations.
I do like what Carlisle has done with the Mavericks, but his "be ready" philosophy when it comes to passing out minutes seems to be having a negative effect.
For instance, the center position has been constantly in flux since Haywood and Dampier both got healthy, with Dampier getting most of the starts, Haywood getting most of the minutes and Najera getting extended stretches at odd times.
While it clearly hasn't hurt the Mavs in the big picture over the course of the season (or even post-All-Star break), it can't be good heading into the playoffs, where riding a hot player is sometimes the key between victory and defeat.
The shooting guard/small forward crunch time position is also in flux. You know Jason Terry is getting minutes at the shooting guard to close out close games, so that leaves one spot for Butler (tough, hustle player, but hot and cold on the offensive end) or Marion (finesse defensive specialist, can get offensive boards, but tends to miss chippies) at the end.
It doesn't seem to be clear as of yet who will draw that assignment, and if Carlisle prefers to make a decision based on the situation, it's hard for any player to get a sense of his role.
And it's important for championship teams to have clearly defined roles.
The Lakers, flawed as they are, have clearly defined roles on the team. You know Kobe is getting that last shot. You know Gasol is staying close to the basket to try and convert offensive rebounds to points. Artest is there to be threats from the perimeter.
The Mavericks just seem to have too many square pegs for the round holes in their rotation. Neither Butler or Terry is a true shooting guard, but one of those two will be filling in.
If you're a fan of a team like Detroit, or New Jersey or Toronto, I'm sure the Mavs' situation isn't bringing tears to your eyes. After all, a lot of teams would love to have the problem of dealing with that much talent.
But in the playoffs, where talent can win the day or go to waste, the Mavs and Rick Carlisle are playing a dangerous game by not giving players definite roles so late in the season.
And I'm sure the Mavs faithful doesn't want a crucial, late-game possession to come down to a player who has any speck of uncertainty in his mind as to his role and the consequences of a screw-up.
Because that could end up being the difference between holding up the Larry O'Brien trophy, or going home early, like every summer before.
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