Every team has a weakness, even the champions of the past have had their bugaboos. Arguably, one of the biggest weaknesses that the Mavericks have had in recent history is the lack of major support around Dirk Nowitzki. There is no doubt that over the years there hasn't been a clear-cut running mate that could be counted on consistently to run with Dirk. You've seen Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Jason Terry and Josh Howard try to fill that role but for whatever reason it just didn't work out. When you look around at the talent around the stars of the past few championship teams and then look at the Mavericks, you can definitely see a major talent drop-off. That brings us to this year and there are two specific players on the roster right now that are in the running to be the next contestant in "Who Wants to Run With Dirk?"
Some people don't believe Dirk can be the leader of a Mavericks team that can win the title. The question I would pose after listening to that statement would be: There is no question in these players level of greatness, but out of this group of Jordan, Bird, Magic, Shaq, Kobe and Duncan: which of those actually won without significant help? The superstar can be glamorized in a major way but there is no question that they had major help around them to really take that team to another level.
There are two specific references I like to use when it comes to Nowitzki's situation and they both involve Superheroes. When it comes to the Mavericks, our Batman (Dirk) has truly lacked a sufficient Robin at his side to help him when things get incredibly tough. The Mavericks overall success over the past 10 years could easily be over-exaggerated due to Dirk's overall greatness. There have been numerous instances where the Mavericks were in situations where they had no business winning and Dirk jumped out of the phone booth and created the impossible.
This year, there are two specific players who could jump in and play the role of Robin. One is an established veteran looking to rebound from a down year and the other is young wild-card. The two players in question are Caron Butler and Roddy Beaubois.
He seems like the most logical choice to be the running mate to Dirk based on his experience and a variety of intangibles. Butler's numbers from last season show a pretty obvious slide compared to previous years. There are two critical things to remember about Butler from last year.
1) Up until February, he was on the Washington Wizards and that team was in disarray for a variety of reasons and many players mentioned that the outside influences really took a toll on all of the players.
2) Once he was in Dallas, he was asked to play "out of position." Everyone coming in the trade from Washington had to learn on the fly but Butler was asked to play more of a shooting guard role opposed to his natural small forward position.
Both of those issues will be corrected as he's clearly entrenched as a Maverick to start this year, there is optimism and title aspirations. Rick Carlisle has emphasized that he plans to move Butler back to his natural position on the wing. It still remains to be seen if that will be in a starting capacity or coming off the bench. Over the years, players such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have had nothing but praise for Butler's ability saying that he is tough and is a solid player that can compliment star players. Caron has been highly motivated this summer, promising a slimmer and quicker version of himself, and he's playing for arguably his last big payday. All of the signs seem to suggest that he's ready to be the running mate.
The young guard has a skill-set that would make any GM salivate. His athleticism and shooting is a combination that the team must have to keep defenses honest. His long wingspan also makes him a threat as a defender. At his age, Roddy's ability to stay cool under pressure is incredibly impressive. The Mavericks were hoping to develop Roddy into more of a point guard over the summer as he's established he can play as a shooting guard. That did not come to fruition after an up-and-down performance in the summer league in Vegas and an unfortunate left foot injury while he was participating with the French National Team. He had surgery to insert a pin in the bone and should be ready to go as the season begins. The question becomes how much did the injury set back Beaubois? All indications seemed to be pointing towards Rick Carlisle pushing Beaubois into the starting lineup. It's understood that he was underutilized last season and that plans to be rectified. If he recovers properly, he should be able to take that spot and it's very critical for him to do so. Outside of acquiring Tyson Chandler and drafting Dominique Jones, this roster is basically the same as last year. So why is there optimism that this team can be dramatically better: Beaubois. An increased role for Roddy is believed to be the final piece to really put the Mavericks over the top.
Can either of them emerge as Robin? If I was forced to pick one that would emerge as the running mate, it would have to be Butler. There is much more upside with Beaubois but Butler is determined to show that his career isn't beginning to trend down. Caron did show that he could develop some range beyond the arc, if that can continue and his overall shooting efficiency can improve then things will look up for "Tough Juice." It would be truly be welcomed for him to return to his 20 ppg average versus the 16 he had this past year. I really don't think that is absolutely necessary, if he can get to 18 or 19 and keep solid shooting percentages, that will work just as well.
That prediction doesn't lead to me believe that Beaubois will suffer a sophomore slump, I just think there is much more progression Roddy has to make before he can get to that level versus what Butler needs to do.
I think there is a good chance one of them will be able to rise up but in my opinion, the Mavericks are going to need both of them to rise to the occasion to make it a power trio. Again, the Mavericks can look to their rivals and see the new trend is you need more than one running mate. The Spurs in their prime had Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. The Celtics have Pierce, Rondo, Garnett and Allen. The Lakers have Kobe, Gasol, Artest and Odom. It's no longer good enough to have just one running mate, you now need at least two. If Butler and Beaubois can take significant steps forward, that is a definite game-changer for the outlook on the Mavericks. If neither are able to step up and they believe they will be able to truly compete for the title...well Einstein said it best, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".