A while back, I wrote that Dirk's current production was perfect to what the Mavericks needed to be ready for the playoffs. It centered on the fact that the rest of the team could make do without Dirk making a significant impact on each and every game through scoring. Well, I've changed my mind just a little, and I do see it as "making do" anymore, because the non-German Mavericks have begin to show they're a force all by themselves.
Before I get too far into this, let's make one thing clear: this team does nothing and goes nowhere without our seven foot German MVP candidate. He won't end his career with the most points in NBA, but he is one of the most efficient scoring machines ever. People compare his phenomenal shooting touch to other big men, but really, it shouldn't be limited to just big men, but to every NBA player ever.
But this isn't about Dirk, even though it'd be easy to dazzle at his abilities for hours. One ability he still does lack, though, is unlimited stamina. Just like the mortals, Dirk must rest, and so far this year, he's been doing a lot more of it. With his minutes per game down to 34 a game, the second lowest of his career, the Mavericks are being put in this situation more and more.
In past years, those situations without Dirk have been the downfall. Dirk has been one of the top +/- guys in the league for years; the Mavericks play fantastic with him on the court, but struggle without him. This is no obscure fact -- the demand for a second scorer, a second superstar, a consistent option besides Dirk, was so that the team would stop crashing and burning when Dirk hopped off to get a breather, and despite all the others to fix it, nothing really would.
There's still no superstar. After Dirk, the Mavericks don't have a player that can be given the ball and told to create a good shot and score, a role Caron could fill. But is it really crucial? People say it is. Fans do. I remember hearing people saying that nothing would change until a such player was required. Donnie proceeded to go acquire Butler, and after a month or two, people began to complain, wanting a "real" superstar. Butler's loss definitely hurt, but its time to realize that even without him, the Mavericks have finally been able to find the right balance among its players.
Barea and Beaubois bring penetration, with a knack of getting past their defender some way or another. Peja and Terry spot up, getting open shots because the guards can drive the lane. Marion, Chandler, and sometimes Haywood all show they are strong finishers, and great at cleaning up or exploiting a defensive break down. Wildcards coming off the bench in Mahinmi and Stevenson add further potency. And, of course, there is Jason Kidd, running the show, conducting the orchestra, writing the script of the drama which unfolds each and every night. Dirk is the foundation and the cornerstone of the offense, but right now, the pieces are so intricately woven that a few minutes here and there without Dirk is not causing a massive collapse. One or two pieces may wobble, but the support is there.
The Mavericks have depth in their scoring. Its not just Dirk anymore, shooting or creating seemingly all the good looks, while possessions not involving him invariably ended in a Josh Howard step-back or a contested Antoine Wright three pointer. Its easy to see as the Mavericks regularly are having seven, sometimes eight, players score double figures, or when four different players get to twenty points, at least. But the depth for the sake of depth is irrelevant. The depth that sustains this team for stretches without their superstar? That's a champion's depth. That's how elite teams win games. That's just what the doctor ordered.