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A wrinkle, in time

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New things are on the horizon

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Our time of day dreaming about what the Mavericks could look like is quickly coming to a close. With training camp on the horizon, what new wrinkle are you most excited to watch?

Doyle: This is a good question. And a tough one. I don’t know that I’m “excited” per se, but I am extremely curious about how head coach Rick Carlisle will roll out his rotations. I think we have a fairly firm grasp on who at least three or four of the starters will be. Of course, that’s likely change as players are swapped in and out along the wing. Rick likes to tinker. Looking at the roster, the bench is the biggest unknown.

In years past, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris were stalwarts of the Mavericks’ second unit. Now, Harris is no longer with the team--and not signed anywhere in the league--and Barea is 35-years-old and coming off of a torn right Achilles. If he isn’t able to handle the duties of the team’s primary backup point guard, that leaves a big opportunity for Jalen Brunson.

Brunson stepped into the backup (and starting) role amicably last season. He’s coming off of a summer where he spent time scrimmaging against the worst USA Basketball team assembled in recent history, so he’s likely kept fresh. With a slew of new faces, he could see his role shift this season. I won’t be surprise if he gets some starts early on.

Then there’s Seth Curry. The other Curry rejoins Dallas after some time away in Portland. His offensive firepower makes him a prime candidate for the role of sixth man. Yet, will he remain on the second unit if the starters get off to slow starts time and again?

Dorian Finney-Smith potentially has the most to prove. He’s attracted a lot of naysayers thanks to his streaking (at best) outside shooting. In the locker room, though, he emerged as the team’s dogged, reliable defender. Carlisle even heaped enough praise on him to say he was worth of a top-15 in the draft in 2016.

Maxi Kleber role seems to be the most predictable. What isn’t predictable is if he’ll make the move to starter thanks to his defensive presence in the middle and ability to knock down threes consistently--two traits Dwight Powell lacks.

Will Ryan Broekhoff’s flamethrower shooting touch be used more this year?

Boban Marnjanovic is a legend. We didn’t need to worry about how he will fit in. Although, I wonder if he’s accepting script pitches...

I fully expect to see a wide range of lineups early on in the season. There’s no reason to settle on one and ride with it from the get go. Carlisle is known for analyzing lineup data and this year might see him achieve galaxy brain status. That’s a good thing. This is an entirely new roster. Plug and play like it’s an iMac. But it’s the bench that poses the most questions. I await the answers.

Christian: The first thing that came to mind when thinking about this new Mavs’ team is height. In the past decade, Dallas has thrown out many small ball or 3-guard lineups as the NBA has trended in a new direction. However, Carlisle finds himself in a new situation this season after almost becoming known for trotting out groups including small guards JJ Barea, Yogi Ferrell & Devin Harris at the same time. In 2019, the Mavs roster the two tallest players in the NBA (Porzingis & Marjanovic both at 7’3”) & could potentially have a starting lineup in which no player is under 6’6”. I can’t help but believe this was no accident.

A projected starting five of Wright - Doncic - Jackson - Porzingis - Powell would see an average height of over 6’9 1/2”. With towering players and long wingspans, the Mavericks have the intangibles it takes to be a disruptive defensive team for the first time in many years. Dallas believes Wright can be a player up to the challenge of guarding the opponent’s best scorer night-in and night-out, while Porzingis offers the Mavericks their true rim protector. Not to mention both are immediate upgrades defensively over last season’s “premier” defenders Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan.

Another past issue that height looks to solve this season is rebounding. In the past three seasons the Mavs have ranked 16th, 27th, and 30th in total rebounds per game. A back-court of Wright and Doncic instantly offers two guards who average 5.2 and 8.7 RPG per 36 minutes respectively. A massive upgrade of the past season’s starting back-court of DSJ and Matthews only averaging close to a combined 7 RPG per 36 minutes in their time with the Mavs.

This new season is exciting and filled with new faces and many questions frankly. And while we will most definitely see Carlisle’s signature 3-guard lineups at some point in the season, the Mavericks will frankly have the opportunity to be the tallest team in the league if they choose to be.

Kirk: From a high level, the Mavericks have a clear hierarchy of offensive importance before the season starts. So the idea of pairing Rick Carlisle with defined and tiered talent is really intoxicating. It’s not a new wrinkle, but Doncic and Porzingis on a high pick and roll is something I need to see already.

Also, while I think the notion that Luka should have the ball is largely correct, the Mavericks have to use him off ball more and find ways to get easy baskets. Most of Luka’s scoring last year was self-created and that’s just not fair to ask when there are ways of getting him the ball in different situations via his movement without the ball.

Lastly, I want to see Porzingis-Dwight Powell pick and rolls. Four-five pick and rolls are deadly and both those guys can handle the rock.

Jordan: The wrinkle I’d be most interested to see is using Luka Doncic as the screener. I understand the hesitation in taking the ball out of the hands of the Mavs’ best playmaker. But I’m also interested to see what open looks he’d get, and how it would open up driving lanes for others.

I’m sure the Pick & Roll stats provided at nba.com are incorrect in not even logging a single possession for Luka as the Roll Man last season. For the Mavericks, the only non big men that logged possessions as the screener are Harrison Barnes and Dorian Finney-Smith. That aside, it seems like a missed opportunity to keep defenses on their toes by using Doncic in that role in specific moments. It’s what I was really hoping to see early between Dennis Smith Jr and Luka.

I’m not sure who the ball handler should be this season in that set, which may be why we don’t see it. But I’m interested in the open shots and skip passes Doncic could get rolling off his own screen.