It's pretty amazing what a game like the Saturday night win over the Rockets can do to my mood as a fan. I can't imagine what the Mavs must be feeling after a rough last month. That win, against a good team, was big. Monday night Dallas (10-10) hosts the Sacramento Kings (7-12), who are in the middle of a three game win streak after a frustrating start to the year.
The Kings had a quiet off-season; after watching Kansas forward Thomas Robinson fall to them at the 5th selection, the Kings resigned forward Jason Thompson. They also signed Aaron Brooks and traded a future draft pick to Toronto for James Johnson. With so much youth and talent, there wasn't much room on the roster anyway.
That returning talent includes all-world talent DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thorton, Isaiah Thomas, and veteran John Salmons. Cousins is often framed in a poor light by the media. He's young, huge, and talented in a way that's hard to describe on paper. Before Mayo decided he was excellent at basketball, Evans was a guy who I thought the Dallas front office might consider making an offer to this off-season. Thorton and Thomas are each very talented scorers, if a bit undersized for their respective positions.
So how does a Dallas team, the 5th oldest in the league, match up against a bevy of youth? It's been impossible to predict Carlisle's starters as of late, as he's rotated eight guys in and out of the lineup. Additionally it's unclear whether Marion will be available to play. Same goes for Chris Kaman, who seemed to re-injure his ankle in the third quarter against the Rockets.
I believe the Maverick point guards are better, or at least more savvy than those of the Kings. Aaron Brooks is fairly good if his outside shot is falling, but he's not the traditional set up man like Dallas has in both Fisher and Collison. In fact none of the Kings are really good at setting up teammates for shots with consistency. Mayo is a better offensive player than either Francisco Garcia or John Salmons, though his focus will again need to be sharp defensively if Dallas wants to take control of this game. Either player is capable of putting up points for the Kings. Dahntay Jones will get the assignment of Salmons, I assume. I'd like to see Jones not look for his shot quite as frequently as he did against the Rockets.
The front court matchups will be worth watching. I assume Brand and Wright will get the start just because Brand is a better defender than Kaman and preventing Cousins from getting off to a good start will be hugely important. If Brand can hit a 15 footer it will make a world of difference in his game early; seeing his shot fall short time and again is starting to get frustrating to watch. Wright should get the start again and hopefully will continue to be an effective cog; I'll always worry about his skinny frame in relation to the big guys he has to rebound against, but these last few games he's done just enough on the boards.
The benches are an interesting mix. I believe the Kings don't always play their youthful talent in Thorton and Thomas enough. Robinson also hasn't seen a ton of time, but a rookie on a young team means he's just another guy who needs to earn his playing time. Carter and Crowder will need to be solid contributors off the bench.
Dallas is older and wiser, though not more talented. Strong games from Mayo and Collison will be required, with the latter seeming to find his groove again after a rocky month. The Kings are dangerous, but their youth is as much of a burden as it is an asset. Look for Dallas to win tonight, bringing their current win streak up to three games.
Also be sure to check out Sactown Royalty to learn more about the Kings!