The NBA Bubble is weird situation for everyone involved. While the idea of playing basketball should bring a sense of normalcy to life at Disney World, that won’t necessarily be the case. As Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tells it, even the basketball could get weird.
Dallas came to Orlando with a depleted front court. The team will be playing without two of it’s key members for the remainder of this season. Dwight Powell ruptured his right Achilles in January, putting him in rehabilitation for the remainder of the season. Powell still traveled with the team despite it being made clear he would not return to play this season, regardless of how far the Mavericks go into the playoffs.
The other player they’re missing is Willie Cauley-Stein. He decided not to join the team in Orlando as he is caring for his newborn daughter. Without these key players, the Mavericks are down to just three true big men: Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic.
There has been speculation for weeks of what the Mavericks can do to combat the lack of depth, and today, Rick Carlisle began experimenting. When asked about the front court's lack of depth, Carlisle emphasized the importance of versatility.
“So many teams play five on the perimeter where all spots are interchangeable, and we’re similar,” Carlisle said. “With Powell unable to play and Cauley-Stein not being here, we’re going to have to be ready to be creative.”
During Sunday’s practice, Carlisle said that Dorian Finney-Smith spent some time playing center. This isn’t the first time, Finney-Smith has shifted into the five spot. He guarded Karl-Anthony Towns and others before the NBA’s hiatus.
“He’s got a good feel for it, [a good feel] for rolling and popping,” Carlisle emphasized. “He was shooting the ball really well.”
Moving Finney-Smith to the middle isn’t Carlisle’s only outside-the-box strategy moving forward. He may even decide to go as small as possible.
“Who knows,” he speculated, “maybe we’ll get an alignment out there with all guards.”
Donnie Nelson hinted at a smaller lineup heading into Orlando, with Finney-Smith projected to be starting at the four slot over Maxi Kleber. Yet a five-guard lineup would be unlike anything we have seen all season from this team. It does not sound like the small-ball lineup will be something the Mavericks start or even frequent, unlike the Houston Rockets, who run their entire offense without a true center.
This lineup could prove to provide a nice scoring boost, generating almost all of their offense from the perimeter. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (who is now in Orlando) and Finney-Smith have seemed to be the two players who could come in and run the five at times. It will be interesting to hear if Coach Carlisle allows MKG to get reps in at center when he practices tomorrow.
We will wait and see if the Mavericks roll out this all-guard lineup in their first scrimmage against the Los Angeles Lakers on July 23rd.