This is the third of a three-part series. Here are links to part one and part two. This is also a contributed article. Mavs Moneyball is accepting story pitches all throughout this offseason.
Ricky Kemph / Contributing Writer
To be a fan, we must willingly abandon some of our rationality so that we can make a greater emotional investment in our team. The bigger the fan, the greater the delusion. More simply: fans be crazy.
But is there anything wrong with that? Does being a fan go against social norms? Would your neighbor hide her kids every time you come around if she discovered you were "diehard fan"? I doubt it.
So as a pretty serious Mavs fan myself, I am not ashamed to admit that every year around this time, I like to indulge in a fantasy of my own: a Mavericks title run. I like to imagine how the pieces all fit together before I get to see them with my own eyes. I have unrealistic expectations for players that I have never even seen. And I like to imagine Dirk getting back on the microphone for another rousing version of "We are the Champions".
So how do the Mavs win a title this year ... in my head? Well I'm not much of an X's and O's guy, which is to say that I don't run pick-and-rolls or isolations in my brain. When I envision a Mavs title, I like to apply the same formulaic approach we see in classic underdog stories such as Miracle on Ice or The Bad News Bears. This year I went with another personal favorite: The Mighty Ducks.
Quick synopsis: In The Mighty Ducks, coach Gordon Bombay is able to transform a rag tag group of misfits into the eventual (SPOILER ALERT!) champion youth hockey league team. We learn that hard work, team chemistry, confidence and a little luck are all it takes to beat a much more skilled opponent that has dominated its competitions for decades. Easy as pie.
So without further ado, here is how the 2016 Mighty Mavs win the title.
Les Averman: Just so you know, we really suck.
Gordon Bombay: Hey, I'll decide who sucks around here.
Like Gordon Bombay, Rick Carlisle has one season to transform an eclectic group of questionable talent into world beaters. To do so, he must work them harder than they've ever worked before, while both earning and maintaining their respect. He must also find a way to creatively utilize their individual talents in order to confound opponents and delight the audience.
Carlisle can achieve these results by implementing a competitive system whereby each player must participate in a position battle in order to earn his role on the team. Beginning in training camp, every player should be given an equal opportunity to compete for starting and backup roles, with starters to be named upon the completion of camp. However, roles will be subject to periodic change from throughout the season, so players that continue to develop will be rewarded accordingly. Any player that is not consistently in the rotation should be able to clearly communicate the aspects of his game he must improve in order to earn more time.
This type of system aims to eliminate egos and entitlement, while keeping players motivated to put in the extra work needed to compete at the highest levels. It also establishes a de facto pecking order amongst the team. For a player like Deron Williams, it could hopefully be a catalyst for a return to top form. Meanwhile, Justin Anderson could benefit by avoiding Carlisle's notorious rookie bias. And players like Raymond Felton, John Jenkins, and Jeremy Evans -- who didn't get much playing time last year, and may not this year either -- would at least have the peace of mind that they were given a fair shake.
In a sense, Rick Carlisle would have to swallow his pride, as this system requires a more objective, pro-analytics approach. In order for players to remain highly motivated, they must feel like their playing time isn't based solely upon Carlisle's whim. Applying these principles in an even-handed manner will help all players buy in, and will earn Carlisle the same type of respect that the Ducks had for Gordon Bombay- respect that is critical for a championship run.
Finally, Carlisle should play inspirational music should during all practices and drills, to simulate the feeling of the all-important sports movie montage.
Gordon Bombay: A team isn't a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.
Gordon Bombay: Did you really Quack at the Principal?
Gordon Bombay: Are we Ducks or what?
Chemistry is another major theme in The Mighty Ducks, and will it likewise be essential for the Mavericks to win a title this year. The team must learn to genuinely like each other, and be prepared to go to war for one another.
In The Mighty Ducks, Charlie was the team captain, and although he wasn't the most gifted player, he was the glue that held the team together. He was the most level-headed, well-respected, and least eccentric of the group. He acted as the bridge between Coach Bombay and the rest of the team, although maybe that was because Bombay had the hots for Charlie's mom.
On the Mavs, this role is perfect for Chandler Parsons, who has proven adept at forming the kind of relationships with players that could that help the team come together like in the movies. Although there still may be individual cliques within the team, Parsons should make sure that there is harmony between them. He also should take the initiative in arranging group outings for the team, so that the new players will quickly feel at home.
Parsons should take it upon himself to establish harmony between the team, and could also be the players representative of an issue with the coach or management arose. Like Charlie, Parsons is also good player that could hit a game-winning shot if called upon, but shouldn't be expected to carry the team night in or night out. He's better suited as a captain, and as Dirk approaches his twilight years, he has shown that he is willing to take a backseat for the good of the team.
Gordon Bombay: You may make it. You may not. But that doesn't matter, Charlie. What matters is that we're here. Look around. Who ever thought we'd make it this far. 1 2 3 Triple Deke. Take your best shot. I believe in you, Charlie. Win or lose.
Charlie Conway: Thanks coach!
Gordon Bombay: Go get em.
Confidence is an essential element in The Mighty Ducks, as the team starts to have faith in the skills they have learned throughout the season, and eventually comes to believe they can beat their nemesis, the Hawks. Coach Bombay also begins to appreciate the fruits of his labor, and gives Charlie the confidence he needs to make the game winning shot.
This Mavs team will have to put a lot of new pieces together, and to win a title, they must quickly develop the confidence to play with the big boys in the West. First and foremost, they must figure out who is best suited to replace Monta as their go-to closer in tight games. They may decide to use a committee approach, with Williams acting as the primary ball handler until he passes it to a teammate for a final shot. In this scenario, it is especially important that someone step up and take the winning shot with confidence.
It would help if Rick Carlisle gave an inspirational pep talk like Coach Bombay gave to Charlie, but I don't really see that happening.
Adam Banks: Do me a favor. Kick some Hawk butt.
A little luck never hurts in a title run. In the movie, the Ducks discover that Adam Banks, a key player for their rival Hawks, actually should have been a Duck due to redistricting rules. It works out well for the Ducks, as he quickly fits in and helps them win some key matches. Although he may be the most skilled player on the team, he is injured in the final game, and the team must win without him.
If the Mavs are in the playoff hunt as the trade deadline approaches, adding the right player could put them over the top. It doesn't have to be a marquee name, but at least should be someone that meshes well and can contribute immediately. It's hard to speculate what that piece would look like, but it's nice to imagine the Mavs being a buyer at the deadline.
Now you have a glimpse of what a Mavs title looks like in 2016 (in my head). Nothing too complicated: all it takes is hard work, chemistry, confidence, and a little luck. Please join me again next year as we apply the lessons from the sequel D2: The Mighty Ducks.