At first, I wanted to write about Jason Kidd leaving players in when they are in foul trouble, and doing it often. After all it’s happened to both Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith through eight playoff games. Then I thought about discussing the unsustainable minutes guys like Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith are playing. Both have been huge problems for the Dallas Mavericks this postseason.
Then I realized both are symptoms of a larger issue. The Mavericks have the most shallow rotation of any playoff team remaining, and it’s not close.
Bullock and Finney-Smith are averaging forty minutes per game. Luka Doncic is at almost 38 per game. Jalen Brunson is at 36 per game, despite foul trouble in Wednesday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns, and missing a big chunk of Game 2 after a cheap shot from Royce O’Neale. Even Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s struggled the whole postseason and comes off the bench, is averaging 32 minutes per game. Only Maxi Kleber is playing something like his regular season average of 24 minutes per game.
The toll of those minutes was obvious in the Game 6 win against the Utah Jazz. The usually stout Dallas defense allowed easy penetration to the rim over and over again. Finney-Smith and Bullock especially looked worn out (it didn’t help that Bullock was dealing with an undisclosed illness, per Kidd). Fortunately, the Mavericks had three days off before their Game 1 matchup with the Suns, allowing some rest. But if the rotation stays so short and the minutes so heavy, it won’t be long until all the Mavericks look a step slow again.
Why won’t Kidd reach deeper into his bench to ease the load on his starters? The answer is simple: he’s got no other options.
Dwight Powell is averaging 16 minutes per game in the postseason, and at this point it should probably be less. He’s one of the Mavericks’ toughest player and always hustles, but he’s not a threat on offense and doesn’t have the size to defend a center like Deandre Ayton. Opponents think so little of Josh Green’s offensive capabilities that they act like he’s not even on the court. Davis Bertans is a potent 3-point shooter, but a saloon door on defense.
Trey Burke and Sterling Brown haven’t shown they can contribute at a playoff level. Boban Marjanovic is only good for emergency big man backup duty. Marquese Chriss isn’t skilled enough to play significant playoff minutes. Frank Ntilikina is the only option that Kidd hasn’t tried that might have some potential, but even that decision is based more on hope than data.
The Mavericks don’t have the depth to ease the minutes burden that the short rotation has to bear. Kidd is out of levers to pull, and with their backs against the wall, the Mavericks’ core players will have to up their play to have a chance against the Suns. The coaching staff will have to scheme up a miracle. There are no heroes in waiting on the bench. There’s only the hope that Luka and crew can dig deep and figure out some answers against a Suns team that seems destined for the Finals.
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