The Dallas Mavericks completely overhauled their bench during the offseason. Other than the acquisitions of Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler, addressing Dallas' bench was probably the most important need. It goes beyond losing Vince Carter to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Mavericks needed depth at every position, and got it. That's what we talk about this week in the latest version of our roundtable. This week's roundtable, Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace), Hal Brown (@HalBrownNBA) and Tim Cato (@tim_cato) talk all things Dallas bench. Thanks to them for participating.
1. Overall impressions on Dallas upgrading its bench? It appears the Mavs did almost everything right.
Kirk: In a word: pleased. When we consider the additional training camp invites that have gone to guys like Ivan Johnson and Charlie Villanueva, the coaching staff has a lot of solid options to choose from. Nearly all the forwards on roster are the kind who can play and guard both positions. Aminu and Richard Jefferson in particular look pretty good after two pre-season games. My only concern at the moment is guard depth; last year the Mavs had a number of solid guards and this year, outside of the three guard rotation of Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, and Jameer Nelson, things don't look good. I know folks are hopeful for Raymond Felton, but I am not. And let's not even talk about Gal Mekel.
Hal: Devin Harris is still Devin Harris (that is, he's amazing), Jae Crowder is still on the team, Raymond Felton — for all his bugaboos — is still better than Shane Larkin, Al-Farouq Aminu is probably better than Marion playing the 4 at this point in his career, Greg Smith is better than Sarge by a lot, and Charlie V, if he makes the team, is just kind of icing. The bench is decided better. The big concern for me is increasingly replacing Vince Carter's production. Vince was a hell of a sixth man, and it's looking increasingly like Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva are not going to replace his production. Even if Devin Harris gets more looks, Vince just gave this team so much that the Mavericks can't replace. It's probably fine, because the rest of the bench is such an upgrade, but still a mild concern.
Tim: The offseason will be remembered for Chandler & Chandler, and understandably so. However, the most impressive part of the season was the job Dallas did filling out its rotation on the back end and grabbing a number of very quality players on the cheap. Aminu, Nelson and Jefferson probably all could have got higher market value elsewhere, but were convinced by Cuban that this was the best basketball fit for them. As a result, this team has more depth and flexibility than I've ever remembered the Mavericks having headed into a season. The Championship roster, before Caron's injury, probably comes closest, but the sheer number of different lineups that Carlisle can use with this year's squad could be devastating. Whatever the Mavericks need -- defense, rebounding, scoring, ball movement -- there's a player they can sub in.
2. There's still a question lingering regarding backup shooting guard. Rick Carlisle has mentioned he'd like to rotate the three point guards between both spots. Who would be the best fit to play behind Monta Ellis?
Hal: I think Devin Harris is the logical fit behind Monta because 1) he gets more minutes that way, and 2) he's very similar to Monta in the sense that his contributions to the team largely come from his slashing, pick and roll passing, and occasional gunning. He's a good passer and has made his career as a point guard, but is probably the closest thing to a "spiritual shooting guard" of the crew. Raymond Felton is an ok shooter (in theory, but he was awful last year), so he could always fit in there, but I just hope Felton gets so few minutes overall that it's a moot point.
Tim: Positions are just structure we assign to the game when the actual play on the court is much more simple (or complex, depending on how you look at it). The Mavericks will play two point guards, and both will handle the ball a lot. Beyond that, it's just basketball.
Kirk: Ugh, is none of them an answer that's acceptable? I really don't think any of the point guards beyond Harris can steal minutes at shooting guard. Carlisle will have to get creative and I suspect he'll try Jae Crowder there for a while, though I reaaaaaally hope Ricky Ledo gets a chance or two. So, Devin Harris is probably the best bet. But at the moment he's also the back up point guard. I'm really not sure what's going to happen with the guard rotation because it's easily the Maverick's biggest concern at the moment.
3. Greg Smith gives Dallas something it didn't have last year — a true backup center. What do you expect of Smith backing up Tyson Chandler?
Hal: I expect greatness. I'm envisioning Ian Mahinmi in terms of impact. That's a very good thing, I think.
Kirk: He's going to have to earn minutes, because I'd wager that Brandan Wright gets the immediate back up center minutes. Wright has Carlisle's trust (relatively speaking). That said, I have high hopes for Greg Smith but low expectations. I don't know a ton about him, but folks I respect say he'll be a lot of fun if he gets touches around the rim. For the first 20-30 games, I don't expect much at all.
Tim: I'm worried. Not because I don't love Greg Smith, but because I don't think he's a starting-caliber center for any stretch of games, and Tyson Chandler is injury prone. As a backup, I think he'll quickly make fans in Dallas. I'm just a little concerned about the potential "what if's."
4. Who will be the x-factor for Dallas this year?
Kirk: I've seen a single pre-season game, so this is a total shot in the dark: Jae Crowder. The player I like least (right now), is the player I think could make the biggest non-star impact for the Mavericks. As mentioned previously, if he's able to steal minutes at shooting guard, hit some shots, and defend for 15 minutes a game, he could have a huge impact on the rotation as the season slogs along. Of course, if he doesn't make a leap and effect the rotation, I'll just continue to irrationally whine about him.
Tim: Give me Richard Jefferson, because I know nobody else is going to name him. He's got a nice stroke that the Mavericks really need off the bench and he's a savvy vet, so you know Carlisle's going to love him. I think he'll be a really solid rotation player throughout the season.
Hal: Given that I have no idea what the team dynamic will be like yet, I have no idea who will be capable of coming in and altering that dynamic, so I'm gonna plead the fifth on this one.