Back in July, I took a stab at trying to decipher the code that is the Dallas Mavericks Rotation. The emphasis was heavier on the starting lineup, focusing on the debate on who should be the starting shooting guard and small forward.
We are now in October, just a couple of weeks away from the start of the regular season, and coach Rick Carlisle is buckling down and experimenting in order to find the best starting five. He was able to dig out quite a statistical nugget that indicates it's crucial for the heavy lifers to improve: Post All-Star Break (when Dallas acquired Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson), the Mavs ranked 23rd in the league in point differential in the first six minutes of games. The starting five put the bench, which was lacking consistency, in a hole and that lead to everyone involved enduring numerous uphill battles eventually leading to the Mavericks holding the 12th best point differential in the league.
Now, there are a few more things that we know but we still don't have an end result. Let's take a look then and now to see what may be the best starting lineup and bench rotation for the Mavericks.
Shooting Guard - My opinion then:
Beaubois as the shooting guard?
Some wonder how a player who was barely on the court over the course of last season can now instantly jump into the starting lineup. The answer to that is based on the fact that Rick Carlisle didn't properly utilize Beaubois over the course of the season. Maybe Carlisle was protecting Beaubois or picking his spots to guarantee success but that move ultimately bit him in the end. Jason Kidd will naturally help improve Beaubois and they play off each other very well. Beaubois can guard the quicker guards while Kidd can work on the more physical players. Both players will bring contributions in terms of perimeter scoring and Beaubois can bring a slashing presence the Mavericks have lacked for quite some time.
My opinion now:
The requirements at shooting guard position are pretty universally recognized and accepted with offensive play-making ability in the half-court and the ability to keep up with quick guards on the defensive end the essential characteristics.
Once he recovers from a broken foot, I still believe Beaubois will emerge as the starting shooting guard for this team. In regards to the previous starting five of Kidd, Butler, Marion, Nowitzki and Haywood, "That lineup lacks playmaking," Carlisle said. "Kidd is really the only guy that's a put-it-on-floor, make-a-play kind of guy. That adds to the challenge. Chances are we're going to go away from that." Beaubois has shown that he can be a play-maker and bring unique energy to the lineup.
Based on his starting nod against the Bulls, where does Dominique Jones fit in the starting shooting guard equation? Attacking the lane against Big East competition is a different beast compared to attacking the lane against NBA competition. That will continue to be a learning experience for Jones but he continues to show he can use his aggression to create for his teammates. The court vision Jones is showing is proving to be a nice dynamic in his game. When he attacks into the lane and things look bad, Dominique is finding the open man and setting up a nice opportunity. He was given the defensive assignment/challenge of guarding Derrick Rose and "DoJo" was up to the task. Jones gave space to Rose, which was smart, but he also showed solid recovery skills and held his own against one of the premiere point guards the league has to offer. Dominique as the starting shooting guard doesn't look like a fit right now but he has a potential role in this rotation which will be discussed further down.
Small Forward - My opinion then:
Caron versus Marion - who is the better fit?
With a backcourt of Kidd and Beaubois you have versatility and scoring available in different forms and Marion would bring an added defensive anchor to go along with Haywood. I believe there is enough perimeter scoring with that unit to where Marion holds value with additional defense. You don't need to run set plays for Marion to be effective scoring the ball as well. Shawn can still run the floor and bring hustle points with rebounds. To extend off the rebounding point, Kidd and Beaubois would be a smaller backcourt so the inclusion of Marion and his length would prove to be another positive.
My opinion now:
If Beaubois emerges as the starting shooting guard, which appears to be the case, I believe Marion is best-suited to be the small forward. Roddy has the ability to be a solid perimeter defender but he still has to show he can do that on a consistent basis, that creates a need for a solid perimeter defender: Enter Marion. Despite his offensive limitations, "The Matrix" performed at a high level as a perimeter defender against the best the league has to offer. It would make sense to keep him in that current role opposed to him working with the second unit.
Caron can provide more than capable defense on the perimeter but he is known more as a scoring threat. Butler to Jason Terry provide a solid scoring duo off the bench. It appears that Tyson Chandler, providing he stays healthy, will be a solid anchor on the defensive end and bring energy on both sides of the court. You want your second unit to be a spark and those three pieces together definitely can fulfill that requirement.
As we discussed earlier, Dominique Jones is impressing the coaching staff with his tenacity on the defensive end of the court. His impression is strong enough to potentially earn some minutes off the bench. Carlisle could facilitate minutes for Jones and Terry by having Terry hit the rewind button back to 2005 and handle some point guard responsibilities. Jones' defensive prowess could help Terry out who isn't know as a defensive stopper but has worked over the off-season to improve that facet of his game. This experiment actually played out in the second half of the game against the Bulls and it led to mostly positive results. This kind of move would help out those two guards but it would be at the expense of J.J. Barea. Terry and Barea are in the same mold: undersized shooting guards with defensive limitations, the thing that sets them apart is experience - Terry has more than Barea.
What is Going to Happen?
There is a reason I am just a columnist and not a head coach, Shawn Marion appears to be 'cool' with the idea of coming off the bench. The reasoning does make sense, Butler and Beaubois as your wing players do provide some defense but they're going to provide a solid punch offensively and hopefully improve that point differential in the early stages of the game. What does that do for the bench, it makes the group extremely energetic and tough. Chandler and Marion should provide solid defense and work on maintaining a lead for when the first unit comes back on. If the first unit can build up a lead and the second unit can lock things down, it's a perfect set of circumstances. Marion would still be able to get his fair share of minutes, coming off the bench will allow him to work off either forward position. You still have that potential of Terry/Barea and Jones to run from the guard positions. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Ian Mahinmi will fill out the back end of the roster with any survivors out of Alexis Ajinca, Dee Brown, Brian Cardinal, Adam Haluska and Steve Novak filling out the 15 man roster.
I probably would've gone the other way though with Marion but I can see the reasoning to potentially run Butler with the first unit. There are still more than a handful of preseason games left and I'm sure that the lineups will be frequently tweaked, but I think we've got a pretty good idea of how the starting lineup and rotation will work itself out.