Dallas Mavericks: Backcourt Out to Prove They Can Compete Among West Elite
For years now, one of the big question marks amongst those in Mavs-land has been the play at the guard positions.
Since the collapse against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, the recurring theme in every playoff series since has been, without question, the lack of depth and talent at the guard spots.
Will this problem arise again come late April? Only time will tell, but for the first time since that mop-headed guy named Steve Nash left, there is reason to have optimism in the Mavericks backcourt.
With a full training camp as a Maverick under his belt, Jason Kidd has the tools around him to have a strong season.
He will thrive in the fast break, motion oriented offense implemented by new Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry around him.
Not only that, but his experience and leadership will only help a Mavs team which has melted down at crucial points of playoff games the last few seasons.
Also, his ability to hit the three-ball has improved over his career. When Kidd can set his feet and fire, he is lights out.
The major knocks on Kidd are his pull-up jumper, defense, and age.
Shooting after setting your feet and off the dribble are two different things. Kidd hits most of his jumpers after setting his feet, but when defenses make him shoot off the dribble, he is sketchy at best.
Along with his age, there has been a steady decline in his defensive abilities over the last few seasons. Entering his 15th season, many doubt that Kidd can endure the war of an NBA season and play at a high level.
So this begs the question: Can a 35-year-old point guard keep up with all the top guards in a stacked Western Conference?
The arrival of Jason Kidd at last season’s trade deadline definitely gave the Maverick's doubters reason to come out of the woodworks and throw in their two cents. Not even the future Hall of Famer was going to bring a title to Dallas last season.
The true verdict on the Kidd deal cannot be cast until after this season, but with the window of opportunity closing, anything short of a championship will be viewed as a disappointment.
Considered to be a “throw-in” of the Jason Kidd trade, Antoine Wright had an impressive preseason, essentially earning himself the starting job at shooting guard alongside Kidd.
His youth, athleticism, length, ball-handling ability, and defensive skills give the Mavs a player that they have sorely needed in previous postseason appearances.
With all this in mind, the key concerns with Wright will be his poor shooting percentage from the charity stripe and a lack of experience. For someone who can get to the line on a consistent basis, he must improve his stroke.
Look for Wright to have his breakout season this year.
Another elder statesman on the Mavs roster is Jerry Stackhouse.
In the last year of his contract, Stack has extra incentive to come out of the gates and have a strong season.
Nagging injuries over the past few seasons have limited his production, but he came into training camp this year in the best shape he has been in during his tenure in Dallas.
Being in the best possible shape should aid in keeping Stackhouse healthy throughout the season.
Although his jumper isn’t as reliable as it once was, Stack can still get to the line with regularity.
And like Kidd, the Carlisle offense should only boost his game. Being able to run the wing and attack the rim will help his field goal percentage and get him to the line more than ever before.
The passing bug seems to be contagious since Kidd arrived last spring. Stackhouse looked to be more of a passer at times during the preseason by averaging 4.4 assists a game.
With all things considered, look for Stackhouse to have a solid year off the bench.
A player expected to play a big part of the Mavs offense this season is Jason Terry.
Dubbed by Rick Carlisle as the new sixth man of the Mavs, Terry should provide instant offense off the bench and keep him fresh come playoff time.
The versatility of Terry should be a huge benefit as well when you consider that he can relieve Kidd at the point or sub in as the shooting guard, but expect him to spend a lot of time at the two spot with Kidd running the show. Kidd should make life easy for Terry by finding him for open jumpers.
The big concern with Terry, now 31, is that he has lost a step of his quickness. We’ll see how “the Jet” fairs at attacking the other elite guards out West.
If he comes off the bench throughout the season, don’t be surprised if Terry is in the running for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
A not-so-highly touted free agent pick up during the summer was the signing of Gerald Green to a one-year contract. The former Slam Dunk champ was stellar in the latter half of the preseason with his crowning moment being the 29-point outburst off the bench against the Kings.
The one thing that is known about Green is his limitless potential. This guy has the ability to be something special.
The only problem, though, is that he has yet to truly learn how to play the game of basketball at the NBA level. He will get his chance to shine right off the bat with the hand injury sidelining Devean George for the first few games.
If the Mavs coaching staff can somehow develop his game and raw talent, Green could be a “diamond in the rough” for this franchise.
The last player in a long list of guards on the Mavs roster is J.J. Barea.
Barea provides an instant spark off the bench and energizes the fans inside the American Airlines Center each time he enters the game.
The up-tempo game the Mavs intend on playing this season will definitely play to the strengths of Barea and will help him see more playing time.
The big liability with Barea though is undoubtedly his size. Despite his speed, he lacks the height and strength to guard the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams out West.
He also lacks the experience of quarterbacking an NBA team, but Jason Kidd should be a good mentor in helping Barea become a better court general.
Expect J.J. to average a career-high in minutes this season, but don’t count on him being one of the top backup guards in the game.
What to Expect
The overall depth of the Mavericks at the guard positions is very diverse and will allow them to play a number of different styles.
With Kidd at the helm, he can initiate the break and get his teammates clean shots if they run the wing with him.
If the game slows to a half-court style, the Mavs have the length, athleticism, and defensive principles on the perimeter to get to the hoop on the offensive end of the floor and slow down some of the premier guards of the league on defense.
If this team, the guards in particular, has good chemistry and can get a strong grasp on the game plan that Rick Carlisle wants to employ throughout this season, the Mavs could very well spoil the plans of the West elite and make a push towards the Finals.
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