So if we all understand and accept that the starting line up this season is likely to be fluid, make the case for your preferred starting line up this season.
Ian Cobb: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Dwight Powell
Jalen Brunson has looked really strong this preseason, but I think I like him leading the second unit, being a calming presence for guys like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Justin Jackson. Seth Curry, meanwhile, is indisputably the team’s best shooter, and will help make defenses pay for sending extra defenders at the Luka/Kristaps two man game. Along with Doncic and Delon Wright, Curry provides a third ball handler for Rick Carlisle’s offense, and at the other end, Curry’s active hands and ability to anticipate and jump passing lanes will create extra possessions.
Dwight Powell’s health is major question mark for this team, as we’ve yet to see him on the court with the other starters. When healthy, Powell’s activity and rim-running will be sorely needed. Porzingis is not as adept at rolling to the rim as he is popping, and with Luka’s prodigious ability to read and react off ball-screens, you want a vertical spacer to catch lobs and convert easy looks. Like Brunson, Maxi Kleber will surely get plenty of run with Dallas’ Big Two, as well. I lean slightly in favor in Powell as the primary starter because I think he makes the offense that much more efficient. Dallas’ recipe for success will be in outgunning teams more often than it will be shutting them down defensively, so bring on the points.
Matt Gilroy: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Justin Jackson, Delon Wright, Dwight Powell
League-wide, teams search high and low for the coveted 3&D wing player. A guy who can defend multiple positions, hit threes and generally just be a solid dude who doesn’t complain about not being a star player. Enter, Justin Jackson.
He’s certainly a wing. He can guard multiple positions, though it certainly would not be described as “lock down.” And much of the discussion surrounding his offensive potential has been punctuated with “ if his shot starts to fall.”
Shoveling all the necessary “it’s only preseason” caveats aside, Jackson simply showed that he’s good enough to root for to succeed. In the preseason, he shot 60% from the field. He shot 45% from three, and he attempted four triples a game. None of that is sustainable in the regular NBA season. He didn’t get enough rebounds, but he still got more than Tim Hardaway Jr. and he’s 6’8. He should just start getting some by accident. And you know what? He’s big, he can cut and finish around the basket, and gosh-darnit people like him.
His numbers are very comparable to Hardaway. They played very similar minutes and both scored just under 12 points a game in the preseason. But, all else being equal, if those two players are neck and neck, who would you rather give the first chance to succeed? I feel like it’s pretty obviously Jackson. Plus, THJ ran a backdoor cut with J.J. Barea last night, and he’s now permanently cemented in to the “new Devin Harris” role in my mind. (And then you have your Dorian Finney-Smith, but to me he’s a bit of a known quantity who, if he’s going to start, will be due to defensive match ups, or because he’s simply shown he can hit threes consistently.)
There is a case to be made for Seth Curry. Yes, Seth is a dead-eye shooter, and you can never have enough shooters. But in my heart, I’m fully committed to a starting lineup full of big boys who can just score a ton of points. I fully expect that Dallas will once again be towards the top of the list when it comes to teams with the highest number of different starting lineups, but for opening night? Why not just throw Justin Jackson out there?
Kevin Stump: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Justin Jackson, Delon Wright, Maxi Kleber
I like this lineup a lot. If Justin Jackson can continue to score while being out of the way, this lineup could be a whole hell of a lot of fun. I feel like Delon (which my phone still auto-corrects to ‘felon’ and I love) is penciled in as a starter in as heavy as a pencil can write. I have no problem with that at all. I think as the season progresses he’ll become a really valuable complement to Luka and KP. Maxi over Dwight may ruffle some feathers, but it’s nothing against Dwight. I just believe in Maxi a little bit more as a shooter and as a defender.
But I chose this starting lineup not only for how much I like it, but also for how much I would enjoy the corresponding bench unit. A lineup of: Jalen Brunson, Seth Curry, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, and Dwight Powell would be a buzzsaw. Well in this case, maybe not. Hardaway probably assumes he is Harden in that lineup, and might play like it. But if everybody plays to their strengths they would be a great watch. (Also who are we kidding, Carlisle will probably start J.J. Barea in a game or two).
Christian Urquhart: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright, Dwight Powell
Rick has been very vocal that this team’s starting five will be fluid and match-up based, as displayed in the preseason. In the four games Doncic and Porzingis played in, we saw a rotation of four different players filling in the fifth and final slot of the lineup. Luka & KP will start every game they play in - there’s no discussion here obviously. Delon Wright started each preseason game, alluding to him also being a starter in the back court this season. Dwight Powell’s hamstring kept him out of the entirety of the preseason allowing Maxi Kleber to start in his place. Maxi was more than adequate the past two weeks and will be vital to early-season success if Powell isn’t ready October 23 but the Mavericks desperately missed Powell’s movement on offense. So with that being said, I believe there is only one spot in the lineup that I expect to be “fluid."
That fifth and final spot should belong to the Mavericks’ third-best player, Jalen Brunson. Most fans believe it makes more sense to plug this fifth slot with a player fitting the 3&D archetype such as Justin Jackson or Dorian Finney-Smith, allowing Brunson to run the second unit. I think that’s a great idea too - it’s just Rick has other ideas. J.J. Barea looks to be the back-up point guard and will be completely ball-dominant while running the bench mob. In recent years, the Mavericks have often ran two and sometimes three-point guard lineups off their bench, but J.J. is kind of a ball hog (sorry). Tim Hardaway Jr. seems to be an ideal sixth man, but again he’s kind of a ball hog too. Then there’s Curry, who is paid to catch-and-shoot and will also be coming off the bench this season as well. Where does Brunson fit? As long as Barea is in control of the backup point guard duties there is no extended role for Brunson available. In a league that is becoming increasingly position-less every day, it is VITAL to get your most talented players on the court. The Mavericks cannot afford to give minutes to players only due to fitting a position narrative or certain physique.
The truth of the matter is Jalen Brunson is the Mavericks’ third-best player on the roster and his skill-set must be utilized this season - not to mention he looked pretty damn good in the preseason finale last night against the Clippers.
Jordan Brodess: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Dwight Powell
After seeing Jalen Brunson alongside Luka and KP Thursday night, I almost wanted to slot him in. But I also really like the idea of him running a second unit that needs some composure and stability (and somehow the second year player should provide that).
Up to this point I had also been pro-Justin Jackson as a starter, liking the size he provides, as well as giving Seth Curry a chance at a JET sixth man role.
HOWEVER, two thoughts: the starting unit needs a knockdown shooter to receive weakside skip passes from Luka. Wright hasn’t shown enough consistency yet to fulfill that. Powell won’t in his return. And while Jackson had a solid preseason, Curry has the track record.
Second, I’m not in love with a defensive front of Wright, Doncic, and Jackson. More specifically, I don’t want Doncic or Jackson guarding shooting guards. Curry can hold his own, has sneaky hands in passing lanes, and can compliment Wright on the perimeter. Curry fills a vital role on both ends.
I also must say, Maxi Kleber has looked good with the starters. Enough to make me consider keeping him there and letting Powell destroy second units, alongside what should be an athletic bench crew in Dallas. The Mavericks may not have a clear third best player, but they have a large collection of intriguing pieces. And that’s fun.
Kirk Henderson: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright, Dwight Powell
ALL OF THE POINTS. And it doesn’t include Seth Curry. I think starting a bigger guy at small forward will be an outdated idea eventually, since the best Maverick path forward is scoring 130 points a game.