PG: Jason Kidd, 02-03. 18.7 PPG, 6.3 REB, 8.9 AST
SG: Caron Butler, 07-08. 20.3 PPG, 6.7 REB, 4.9 AST
SF: Shawn Marion, 05-06. 21.8 PPG, 11.8 REB, 1.8 AST
PF: Dirk Nowitzki, 10-11. 23 PPG, 7 REB, 2.6 AST
C: Tyson Chandler, 07-08. 11.8 PPG, 11.8 REB, 1 AST
Bench (of note)
J.J. Barea, 10-11. 9.5 PPG, 2 REB, 3.9 AST
Jason Terry, 06-07. 16.7 PPG, 2.9 REB, 5.2 AST
Peja Stojakovic, 03-04. 24.3 PPG, 6.3 REB, 2.1 AST
DeShawn Stevenson, 06-07. 11.2 PPG, 2.6 REB, 2.7 AST
Brian Cardinal, 03-04. 9.6 PPG, 4.2 REB, 1.4 AST
A total cop out, I know.
But hear me out—slotting this Mavericks team in at No.1 isn’t as crazy as you might think.
In his prime, Jason Kidd was one of the most complete point guards in NBA history.
He led the Nets to consecutive finals appearances in 2002 and 2003, with a supporting cast essentially limited to Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin.
The only problem with choosing the younger Kidd is that he had not yet developed the jump shot that consistently buried the Heat in this year’s finals.
But in every other phase of the game—rebounding, defense, speed, ball handling, etc.—the younger Kidd is superior. Besides, this Mavericks team has enough jump shooters already.
Interestingly, of their five best 3-point shooters (Barea, Terry, Stojakovic, Stevenson, and of course, Nowitzki), four come off of the bench.
I think Terry would make more sense in the starting lineup, to balance that discrepancy out a little bit. He is also the only pure shooting guard on this team.
However, the Mavericks have been consistent in using him as a sixth man, so that is what he is here.
At the very least, such versatile options off the bench would give coach Rick Carlisle plenty of options and the ability to adapt to any situation.
It’s easy to forget, but Stojakovic was the leading scorer (and arguably the best player) on the Kings team that lost to the referees in the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
Did I say referees? I meant to say Lakers.
Aside from Stojakovic and possibly Kidd, the player receiving the biggest boost from this exercise is Shawn Marion.
There’s a reason he was picked in the first or second round in every fantasy draft from 2002 to 2007. Every year in that span, he averaged nine or more rebounds, two or more steals and one or more blocks.
He could do anything—that’s why they called him “The Matrix.”
He also put up points (16.8 per game for his career), but more importantly, he did so while maintaining a high shooting percentage. In the 2005-2006 season, for example, he shot 52.5%.
Of course, as the steals and blocks suggest, Marion was also a dominant defender.
He showcased that ability against LeBron on the way to the championship this year (which, by the way, he still doesn’t get enough credit for). But he would have been even more of a nightmare for LeBron with a younger set of legs.
Is that all? I feel like I’m forgetting someone…
Oh, right. Dirk.
Yes, the man has reached “first-name recognition” status. The basic test is that if you mention someone’s first name, regardless of the context, almost everyone in the room will know who you are talking about.
I realize that this is unfair for those with common names (Michael, Bill, Larry), but I like the test because it is completely unscientific yet works pretty well.
Think about today’s stars. Kobe. Shaq. LeBron. Carmelo. And now Dirk. That’s the list.
You could be talking about anything. If someone drops one of those names, you assume he or she is referring to the basketball player unless they specify otherwise.
With the possible exception of Carmelo (who gets in because of a cool name, marriage to TV personality LaLa Vasquez, impressive stats, and a memorable championship run with Syracuse in 2003), everyone on that list will undoubtedly go down as one of the top 25 players of all time.
Also interesting is that each player on that list has gained pop culture recognition. Everyone knows who these names refer to, whether they watch sports or not.
It clicked that Dirk belonged in this group just the other day. I was at the gym on Sunday evening, prior to game six, and the pre-game show was on TV.
Everyone, myself included, was more interested in the game than working out, and a small crowd had formed around the TV.
I overheard a girl and her boyfriend having a conversation about the series. They seemed very earnest, but it was pretty clear that neither of them knew much about the NBA—“Who’s winning the series?” was one of the questions asked.
When the screen showed LeBron’s way overused “we’re a desperate team” speech, the girl said, “LeBron seems so fake."
But in the first quarter, when Dirk fired up a jumper, she said, “Ohhh! I like Dirk, I hope he wins.”
Someone who knew almost nothing about basketball knew two names: LeBron and Dirk. Doesn’t that say all we need to know about the man?
You know, besides the fact that he's an incredible basketball player.
His biggest numbers may not have come in 2010-2011, but you can’t possibly tell me that any other version would be better than this year’s Dirk.
It goes without saying that Dallas' title hopes rest with him, both in real life and here.
So there you have it. The end result is the same, the Mavericks over the Heat in a nail-biter.
But the journey would be a little different, and the quality of play would be oh-so-nice.
We can only wish.