There was nothing exactly surprising about this week's report that Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews won't be ready for the start of Mavericks training camp next Tuesday. Both are making comebacks from significant injuries and there's no reason for either to rush their return.
But their absence will highlight the biggest hole on this oddball roster -- the almost complete lack of depth on the wing. When the Dallas roster is totally healthy, Parsons and Matthews will absorb most of the minutes at shooting guard and small forward with rookie Justin Anderson backing up both players.
With the two starters possibly (likely?) out to start the season, Anderson will get a trial by fire, holding down the small forward spot until Parsons returns. After that, Rick Carlisle will have to get creative. That's nothing new to the Mavericks coach. In Games 4 and 5 of the first round against Houston, with Rajon Rondo banished and players like Richard Jefferson struggling, Carlisle rolled out a smallball backcourt of Monta Ellis and J.J. Barea. The lineup change provided a spark, at least for one night, as Barea posted a double-double and helped blow out the Rockets with the starters on the floor.
Whether or not Barea ends up starting many games this year, he'll get plenty of chances to justify his $16 million contract by playing off ball with another high profile guard in Deron Williams. Like Barea, each of the team's other options on the wing have flaws that could make them unusable on some nights -- too small, too old, can't defend, can't shoot. Devin Harris will get minutes at both guard positions, just as he has the past two seasons in Dallas, but the team clearly prefers him coming off the bench. And his age and injury history mean the team won't want to overextend his role.
The only other natural wing option on the roster with the starting lineup depleted is the latest Mavs reclamation project, former Hawks shooting guard John Jenkins. His stint in Atlanta was derailed by injuries but the former first round pick was an elite three point shooter in college and has showed off that skill in the NBA when he's been able to stay on the floor. Jenkins isn't known as a lockdown defender but his length at least gives him the tools to compete on that side of the floor.
He fits the mold of shooters that have passed through Dallas like Anthony Morrow and Wayne Ellington -- guys who looked like good fits for the roster but couldn't crack the rotation playing behind Ellis and Vince Carter. The difference now is the rotation on the wing will be so thin to start the season, Carlisle might not have a choice except to put Jenkins on the floor. The Mavericks will have to hope he doesn't have the same bad luck with injuries he experienced in Atlanta.
Jeremy Evans, an offseason acquisition with a stronger NBA resume than Jenkins, could play some spot minutes at small forward. But he poses many of the same challenges as Al-Farouq Aminu last season. Evans has the size to play either forward position but his poor outside shooting abilities mean a lineup needs four other above average shooters for him to be effective on offense. Nearly all of his minutes have come at power forward the past two seasons and, like Brandan Wright, most of his shots come at the rim. In today's NBA, it makes more sense for a play a guy like Evans up a position and have him do his best B-Wright impersonation than watch him gum up the offense at small forward.
After Richard Jefferson also reneged on his verbal agreement and bolted for Cleveland in the wake of the DeAndre Jordan fiasco, it seemed safe to assume Dallas would add another veteran wing like Dorrell Wright, who can shoot the three and has the size to defend the position. That never happened this summer. If the team is serious about staying afloat without its two starters, it may still make such an addition.
But Cuban and the Mavs front office may just ask their coach to embrace the weirdness of his roster for the opening stretch of the season.