The Dallas Mavericks have far too many big men. The Mavericks strangely also don’t have nearly enough depth in big men. Maxi Kleber is a very good big man, but he can be stretched thin at times because of how important he is. He is the Mavericks primary stretch big though that should change with the addition of Christian Wood.
He is the Mavericks best and most versatile defensive big. Javale McGee should help with some of the defense though they play completely different styles. McGee is almost pure drop and Kleber prefers to switch. Any help from another good defensive big should be a boon for Kleber though.
Can he shoot like he did in the playoffs consistently? It is tempting to put something about physically holding up, but this is more important. There is little value in him holding up if he cannot shoot despite his defense.
Kleber’s shooting is so important to the team as a whole. Even in the first two rounds when he went 29-for-59 from three, he only averaged 10.2 points per game. That is not what changed the series. What changed the series is defenses having to adjust to him which let Luka Doncic feast at the rim. Doncic shot 69.6 percent at the rim with Kleber off the floor in the playoffs last season. That is certainly not a poor number as Doncic is a gifted finisher. But with Kleber on the court, that number sky rocketed to 75.7 percent per pbpstats.com. Will Kleber be an elite shooter in the playoffs?
Best Case Scenario
The additions of McGee and Wood allow Kleber to play fewer minutes and remain healthy. He knocks down shots while providing elite floor spacing and takes a deserved place on Zach Lowe’s “Luke Walton All Stars.”
Worst Case Scenario
McGee is too old and Wood is too bad defensively to lighten his minutes load. He has to play far to much and he struggles physically resulting in a shooting slump. He can’t break out of the shooting slump and he becomes a defense only role player rather than one of the Mavericks’ best two way weapons.
Kleber’s season goal is simply to be fully healthy and hitting shots going into the playoffs. His numbers will never reflect his value to the team because of how much he helps other players on both ends. Because he is not going to put up huge numbers, there is nothing left for him to prove in the regular season.
Kleber is far too important to the Mavericks, but when everything is right with him he is one of the most unique players in the league. He can defend the rim, switch onto wings or guards, shoot the three and role to the rim selectively. The list of players who can do all of those things as well as he can is incredibly small and is comprised of very wealthy men.
Kleber signed a new contract this offseason which fairly compensates him going forward. This should make him comfortable and that can only help the Mavericks. It is tempting to worship at the altar of cap space, but the purpose of cap space is to acquire good players. Kleber is a darn good player and the Mavericks don’t have to worry about losing him.