The Dallas Mavericks have more talent unavailable to play than available to play right now. Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr, Josh Green, Reggie Bullock, Trey Burke, JaQuori McLaughlin and Maxi Kleber are all in health and safety protocols relating to COVID-19. Willie Cauley-Stein is out for personal reasons and Eugene Omoruyi is out with foot surgery. That is nine players who are unavailable, seven of whom are due to COVID.
As a fan, it can be easy to forget that these players are actual people rather than just basketball assets. But, the most important thing is hoping and praying for these players to heal and get back to full health. COVID is still a very dangerous disease. Many have wondered about Cauley-Stein failing to return, but in the same vein, it is important to remember that there are many reasons he might not want to be around a hotbed of COVID activity.
In addition to all of these players being out, Kristaps Porzingis is questionable with right toe soreness. There is again a temptation to lay blame on the unicorn for not gutting it out through something perceived as minor as a toe injury. However, for the most part Porzingis is forced to sit by the training staff rather than by his own decision. Also, an injury to his toe could very easily throw his bio-mechanics off, resulting in a much more severe injury.
All is not lost. These issues are being felt league wide. Consequently, the league has enacted replacement player protocols which the Mavericks have taken advantage of. The Mavericks have signed, Theo Pinson, Marquese Chriss, George King, Carlik Jones, Charlie Brown and Brandon Knight. Knight is the most accomplished NBA player of this group as he has averaged 14.1 points in 446 career games. He is a 6’2 combo guard who could score like a microwave, though he has not been in the NBA since the 2019-2020 season.
Chriss is an energetic big man who was once a lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings. Energetic is the most important word to describe him and it is his biggest difference from Cauley-Stein whom he is replacing. He is nowhere near as tall or long nor is quite as athletic as Cauley-Stein. Yet, he always plays hard and that can be more fun for fans to watch then wondering why a player fails to take advantage of his prodigious physical gifts.
George King is a 6’6 wing who has shot the ball incredibly well in the G-league. Quite honestly, this is the type of player the Mavericks should have been churning through the roster prior to the COVID outbreak. A modern NBA team can never have too many wing size players who can shoot the lights out.
Jones was a preseason standout for the Mavericks who has finally received the call to play for the big club. He also provides microwave scoring ability. Perhaps more importantly, he provides the ability to simply handle the basketball at an NBA level which the Mavericks, and the league as a whole need right now.
Pinson is a 6’5 shooting guard who plays very hard but can’t really shoot. He had a major impact in the Mavericks win over the Timberwolves as he played 22 minutes and provided seven points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals. As with Chriss, the most important talent he brings is energy.
Charlie Brown is also a 6’5 shooting guard. He averaged 19 points a game in his final season at St. Josephs. I wish I could tell you more about him, but honestly the only Charlie Brown I knew about before the Mavericks signed him was in Peanuts. He has played a total of 192 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder over the last two seasons.
Even with all of these replacement players, the bulk of the work of replacing the missing players will fall to the remaining healthy Mavericks. Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson both played at least 40 minutes against the Timberwolves. The skills that we admonished the Mavericks for stretching Finney-Smith to develop are going to come in very handy now. Sterling Brown and Frank Ntilikina both played over 30 minutes on Tuesday. If you are a fan of any of the Mavericks who have gotten spot minutes, now is the time to watch them. These Mavericks may lack the talent common in the NBA but they are different and energetic which can absolutely be fun to watch.