As the Dallas Mavericks look to enter the season with a clear outlook for the team, the starting lineup looks different from the current trend of the more athletic small ball lineup. Could the Mavs defying a trend elevate the team?
Without a first round draft pick as a result of the Luka Doncic-Trae Young trade, the Mavs only draft night acquisition was Nebraska power forward Isaiah Roby. In free agency, the Mavs re-signed Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and completed a sign and trade deal with the Memphis Grizzlies for point guard Delon Wright.
None of these players mentioned above are shorter than 6’5″. In fact, the only player on this list considered short for his position is Roby who is 6’8″, but he has a crazy 7’1″ wingspan. Even with players like Seth Curry and Jalen Brunson who notably aren’t tall or long, the Mavericks as a team have outstanding length at all positions.
Of course, having length and height is great, but one must use those physical attributes for something worthwhile. The starting lineup of the Mavs will have a unique opportunity to become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA as a result of their length.
Having the necessary athleticism is advisable, but odds are if a player is in the NBA they are athletic.
Wright stands tall at 6’5″ with a 6’6.5″ wingspan. Wright is a slashing point guard; someone who scores by playing closer to the rim. His height and length allow him to beat smaller point guards to the rim while also dealing with contact better. I guess general athleticism would also help?
Defensively, Wright uses his length and athleticism to pick pocket opposing point guards. Wright also possesses good instincts to intercept passes in lanes. When starting for Memphis, Wright averaged over 1.6 steals per game. While his length hasn’t translated to many blocks, he was 62nd in the league in contested shots with 374.
Wright averaged 22.7 minutes per game for the entire 2018-2019 season. He only played 75 games, starting a grand total of 13. In that limited time, Wright still totaled more contested shots than Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Austin Rivers, and Terry Rozier.
MFFLs saw it first hand how great Luka Doncic played last season. Doncic uses his length really well. As a positionless player, Doncic had the offensive skill to score against anyone. Everyone loves his step back three point shots to win games. His floater game is impossible to stop and when you think he’s guarded tightly he’ll rise up for a dunk shocking the entire arena. No matter the opposition’s size, he got it done.
This is excluding Doncic’s passing which is sublime. His court vision and long arms allow him to get the ball where he wants it to without hesitation. Flashy or fundamentally sound the ball was where you expected it.
Defensively, Luka was a bit pudgy compared to his current leaner frame. Even so he wasn’t a bad defender. Doncic still averaged over a steal per game and was 34th in the league in contested shots. Luka’s defense was a known weakness but he wasn’t an extreme liability; the length may be the biggest reason for that.
Jackson’s role with the team is currently unknown, but last season he started 11 of his last 29 games at SF. Jackson is 6’8″ and was listed as 230 pounds. However, this offseason he has put on around 20 pounds of muscle. A 6’8″ and 245 pound small forward with 6’11” wingspan has the ability to be quite productive in a defensive minded team.
Jackson is the description of 3 and D. Offensively, Jackson is becoming a consistent 3 point shooter. Defensively, Jackson has shown he’s capable of guarding players of all different lengths and athleticism. Jackson may need more time to show off his skill but even in a limited role Jackson has shown he’s a quality defender. With added mass, he could provide more positional versatility.
It’s fair to say thus far that Powell is not a great defensive player. His game is predicated on efficient scoring near the rim and off of pick-and-rolls. Even so, if Powell were to start at power forward, that would mean a 6’11” player with a 7’0.5″ wingspan is playing the position in a day where being 6’8″ is good enough.
Powell is quite athletic for his size as he can run the floor and wreak havoc scoring transition basket after transition basket. However, Powell’s defensive game is about gaining the advantage in positioning meaning he isn’t super aggressive closer to the basket. Odd considering he’s well built.
When playing defense on the perimeter, he’s proven he’s adequate. That’s encouraging in the modern day NBA.
The Mavericks are familiar with a 7 foot European who is really good at shooting from all areas of the floor. Porzingis stands at 7’3″ and has a 7’6″ wingspan. He has really good mobility for his size and uses his length in order to block shots at a high rate. In the 2017 season, Porzingis averaged 2.4 blocker per game in 32 minutes.
Early in his career Porzingis has had the length to be a rim protector but lacked the bulk to defend centers or bigger opposition. This offseason he’s continued to get bigger after having not played an NBA game in the 2018-2019. The Mavericks are comfortable putting Porzingis at the center position, which probably means he’s bulked up enough to play against the bigger guys of the league.
None of these players in the starting lineup are under 6’5″ and all of them adequate wingspans for their height. Not only do the Mavericks have several members of the bench who are long, but also they have really good defenders.
Kleber has been impressive ever since he’s joined the Mavericks. The Wurzburg, Germany native has been an incremental part of the defensive frontcourt. Kleber has the athleticism to play the small forward, power forward, and center position. His defensive instincts are exceptional moves really well when guarding smaller players.
Having a consistent 3 point shot is also great for the Mavericks offense but Kleber’s biggest impact comes on the defensive side.
The Florida Gator is loved by the Dallas organization because of his defensive tenacity. The 4th year vet is a 6’8″ small forward with a 6’11” wingspan. He possesses good athleticism to guard anyone on the perimeter and displays excellent hustle and aggression on the court.
Currently slated to be a backup small forward, Finney-Smith provides a defensive cushion for the Mavs second unit. A unit that has an excellent front court with Kleber, Finney-Smith, and…
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I don’t expect Kleber, Finney-Smith, and Roby to share the court together because that isn’t a great offensive pairing. However, I do expect Roby to play with Kleber and Finney-Smith all throughout the season.
Roby is a 6’8″ power forward making him small or normal size for a power forward, but he has a 7’1″ wingspan. While he doesn’t have the bulk to defend bigger guys in the post, he has a knack for blocking shots in the area. His mobility and athleticism do allow him to guard smaller people on the perimeter. (This is a consistent theme with how the Mavs are signing big men)
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Roby isn’t expected to play many minutes this season but he is an intriguing player because his length and defensive awareness is something valued highly by Rick Carlisle. Adding mass can be done in the future, but you can’t add length.
In all, the Mavericks starting lineup is bucking the small ball trend that is taking over the NBA with tall and long guys playing major minutes in the rotation. Of course, the Mavericks still have Seth Curry, Jalen Brunson, and JJ Barea, but even these guys will be paired with someone who is over 6’5″ for most of the season.
The Mavericks have been a good defensive team for the greater part of the last three seasons. With the way the team is constructed and with the team not currently dealing with injuries, Dallas could be looking at one of the most complete and dominant defensive teams in the entire league. That would be quite fun to watch.
- Published on 08/14/2019 at 12:00 PM
- Last updated at 08/14/2019 at 09:01 AM