Opportunities are rare in this years training camp and preseason. In fact, the Mavericks already finish their exhibition campaign tonight with a visit at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. With the drastically shortened training camp and the lack of Summer League and an extended preseason, it's hard for non-established players to prove themselves for a more significant role in the rotation.
It's especially hard in Dallas, where experience and consistency are more appreciated than the possible upside of a young player. The Mavs traded away Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer and while this was mainly a cost-efficient move to provide more cap-space next year, it also spoiled the hopes that the franchises first championship finally would soften that stance, that the Mavs would just a bit try to build up younger prospects for their future. Instead, those ones still have to earn their minutes rather than given opportunity to naturally develop on the court. It took Jose Barea five years within this philosophy to become the player he is today and he is kind of the sole exception in recent years.
In 2009, the Mavs traded away Devin Harris, 24 years old, for Jason Kidd, 34 years old. After the season, the refused to commit long-term to Brandon Bass, 24 years, and instead signed Drew Gooden, 28 years, to a one-year deal. Add Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to the list and also Barea, who learned it the hard way that the Mavs won't hand out long-term deals to younger players if they are in "contender-mode" (although that wasn't the main reason, but still...). They rather brought in veterans, namely Lamar Odom and Vince Carter on short-term contracts.
Click through to read what they have to do tonight to make a step into the right direction.
- Jerome Randle
He's got nothing to lose. The Mavericks might pick him up for the season but probably they won't. Behind Jason Kidd and Delonte West he has the most pure point-guard skills and looks like he could be a poor-man's Jose Barea (Randle is even smaller at 5-10), but as I've pointed out it took JJB five years to develop into the role he played last year. He will need nothing less than a stellar performance tonight to have any shot of making the roster, which means penetrating on the pick and roll, shooting lights out from three and flop all over the court and draw a dozen offensive fouls at minimum.
- Dominique Jones
From the young players he had the best showing in Game 1 Sunday night. He was aggressive, advertised some play-making abilities and finished with 17 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. He went to the line nine times and shot 4-from-9 from the field. A reliable jump shot is what separates him from more playing time so that's something to monitor. But he passed Roddy as the most probable guy to get playing time behind the vets and if he continues to demonstrate that he's able to create for himself and others, that should not change. Coach Carlisle also praised his defense, which is always an indicator for a more consistent role.
- Rodrigue Beaubois
He has that "soft"-tag, not because he appeared to never heal completely again, but because he never quite showed that guts on the floor (like JJB i.e.). So they challenge him, treat him like a Rookie and hope he will toughen up rather sooner than later. He was the perfect side-kick for DoJo on Sunday and in fact he boosted DoJo's boxscore on both ends of the floor in converting assists and team-working on steals, but it seems no matter how much the Mavs would like him to develop into a point-guard, he's more of a scorer. His legs are back and his jumpshot looked sharp (7-13 from the field for 17 points), but scorer or point, he is just too talented and too athletic to only be a spot up shooter. He has to create off the dribble and use his quickness to get past his opponents. That said, a solid 'J' will help him a lot in that regard. Defense backs way of off him and once they have to respect his range, it gets so. much. easier. And after spectacular finishes at the rim he should be fist-pumping all over the floor ending up in front of Terry saying: "Who's the Rookie now?" That'll be hard, because Terry did not travel with the team due to illness, but you get the idea.
- Ian Mahinmi
Mahinmi might be in the most comfortable position. The Mavericks need him behind Breandan Haywood, but on the other hand they don't. His backup job is far from guaranteed. Dirk and Odom can play at that position, but they surely don't want Dirk to take too much punishment as a center consistently. To avoid that, they brought in Sean Williams, who should compete with Mahinmi for backup minutes at that spot immediately.
His performance in Game 1 was disappointing. Like Williams, he played overseas during the lockout, so he really should be the one to be in shape the most. Yet he finished with only five rebounds and five fouls (8 points, 2 FTA) in 24 minutes. He's an athletic big-man, has range on his jumpers, but he absolutely has to stay away from these silly fouls. Otherwise nothing would have changed from last year. He also has to improve on the glass or else there won't be much playing time behind Haywood, (Williams), Odom and Dirk.
Williams is not yet with the team, so Mahinmi will get his opportunities tonight. Also Jason Terry and Delonte West won't be able to play, which means solid minutes for our guard trio, too. Although the tough schedule indicates an off day for Kidd, Carter and others here and there and the Mavs at some point might just have to trust their young players, all four better make the most out of their playing time tonight.