This is our sixth installment of an eight-part roundtable discussing the Mavericks offseason, and today, our writers tackle this question: What is the Mavericks' biggest weakness with this roster?
There’s a unanimous decision among our writers that it’s the playmaking and dribble creation. Instead of creating a total echo chamber, we talk about some ways the Mavericks should try to fix this at the end of the piece.
Before we start, here are links to the other roundtables we’ve published.
- Players we’re excited to watch
- Best value signings
- Grading the offseason
- Ranking offseason since 2011
- Biggest strength this year
Doyle: Can anyone create off the dribble? Other than Williams and J.J. Barea, the Mavs really don't have anyone who can spark the offense off the dribble and/or create their own shots. I think this is where the team will really miss Chandler Parsons' playmaking abilities. Maybe Seth Curry can slide into that role. He did well towards the end of last season in Sacramento as a starter. I suppose time will tell but this offense might not have as much "flow" as previous Rick Carlisle teams.
Ian: Sticking with the focus on the starters, I think playmaking is going to be an area of weakness for Dallas. This is where the Parsons-Barnes swap will hurt most. There's not a quality secondary ball handler out there anymore, which puts a greater burden on Deron Williams to stay healthy and create for others. You also don't get to take advantage of D-Will's prowess playing off-ball, since Wes Matthews and Harrison Barnes haven't demonstrated the ability to drive and kick like Parsons could. I suspect Carlisle may try to use Bogut as a high-post passer even more than they used Pachulia last season, because Bogut is easily the second best passer among the starters.
Kirk: The utter lack of dribble penetration. Dirk can still take guys off the bounce, but at 38 the Mavericks want to save his body. Deron Williams can still get to the rim as well, but hasn't been that guy for years. Wes Matthews is a good post up threat, but he's never been a player to take guys off the dribble. Harrison Barnes cannot dribble. Repeat after me: Harrison Barnes cannot dribble. He's pretty good in the post too but a drive with him after a ball reversal is a wild adventure. That leaves the bench as having the best dribble penetrators in Devin Harris and J.J. Barea. That's going to cause some problems for the Mavericks on offense this season.
J.C.: Ball handling and playmaking. If Curry develops into a driving force with passing vision, then that's all well and good, and if Anderson becomes the next Jimmy Butler than things are looking up, but neither of those are the likeliest outcomes, and while J.J. Barea is great with Dirk and Harris is a good caretaker, Deron Williams is the only guy with true point guard skills. Rick Carlisle will need to be very creative to manufacture some offense with this team.
Josh: Playmaking and it's not even close. Replacing Parsons with Barnes creates a huge playmaking void on the Mavs roster that only has maybe three perimeter playmakers on it, all over the age of 30. Williams can't consistently get to the rim over the course of a full-game, J.J. Barea has to prove his three-point shooting last year wasn't a mirage and I fully believe Devin Harris turns into dust if he plays more than 30 minutes in a game. Those are the Mavs three-best pick and roll ball-handlers.
There's hope that Seth Curry can help fill that void but even then, the Mavs are barren on creating from outside and might be forced to play a slower, post-up style to compete on offense.
Here’s how the Mavericks can solve this problem
Tim: Since I put this post together, I have the advantage of reading everyone else’s answers first. I agree — playmaking is by far the biggest problem on this roster. (Injury-prone starters are also a big concern for me, for what it’s worth.) Instead of talking about how problematic it is, I’ll talk about a few ways the Mavericks can circumvent it.
Dirk Nowitzki is more important to this version of the Mavericks than he has been in years. Dallas has always needed him to play like an All-Star, but this year, they truly need him to command a double team consistently. An isolation scorer who can consistently hit shots and make the correct pass when teams apply extra pressure can have a similar effect as a really good penetrating point guard.
Rick Carlisle isn’t a “scheme guy,” not in the sense that he has one way of playing basketball that he rigidly applies to every group of 15 that comes his way. The upcoming 2016-17 team will likely rely on off-ball screens and movement even more than others have. Harrison Barnes is the prime candidate for that — he’s a solid slasher and if you can get him curling towards the lane, he has the size and athleticism to finish strong. (How good of a finisher he actually is is some matter of debate, but there’s no doubt situations like I described are great for him.)
Beyond that, expect the Mavericks to run a lot of two point guard lineups, just like they did last season. Carlisle prefers to two ball handlers, which is why I have always been a fan of Chandler Parsons — he can do that from the three or the four without forcing Dallas to play small (which hurts them defensively). But that never materialized consistently, which — like it or not — is a big reason why the Mavericks moved on from him. Raymond Felton may be gone, but Dallas will still frequently use combinations of Deron Williams, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea and Seth Curry in the backcourt. In fact, replacing Felton with Curry, a much better off-ball player, will make those lineups much more flexible than last year.
It’s worth mentioning that Andrew Bogut is also a good passer, and there’s no doubt the Mavericks will have him initiate some offense from the high post.
The overall lack of playmaking is still a problem, and I’m particularly worried about how the starting lineup will fare when Deron Williams is the only player I trust to consistently run pick-and-rolls. (I wonder if we’ll see games where Harrison Barnes is benched in crunch time in favor of a three-guard unit for the exact reasons detailed above.) Dallas will be able to find ways to score, even if it takes more work than it did in years past. It just may come at the expense of the defense.