Time to Think
When the season ends, as it did for the Mavericks last week, you have some time to think about a lot of different things as it relates to the team, the playoffs and the league as a whole. So ten days removed from the elimination in Houston, here are some very random thoughts….
I have no issue with the Mavericks trying to swing for the fences and attempt to lure LaMarcus Aldridge or DeAndre Jordan to Dallas as free agents. You win with great players, and while both have issues to consider if they are signed to a long term deal, both would undeniably make the Mavericks a better team. The signing of either would likely put Dirk Nowitzki on the bench, a role the greatest Mav ever says he would accept even if he’s never done it in his career. Perhaps without even realizing it, Rick Carlisle moved Dirk in that direction this year. Even as he started games, Dirk would be out after five to six minutes, would sit, and then come back with about 1:00 left in the quarter. Dirk could still play the just-under 30 minutes he played this year, but just have those minutes redistributed.
As the Mavericks reconfigure the roster (something they hoped they wouldn’t have to do so thoroughly again) I’m hoping that they take a “Size Matters” approach. They’ve been a team which, except at the small forward spot with Chandler Parsons and Al-Farouq Aminu, has been undersized at most positions. You can even make the case that Dirk, despite being 7-0, plays small for his position because of his lack of rebounding (although that rebounding picked up significantly in the Houston series). Compare that to Golden State, the best offensive and defensive team in the NBA. Stephen Curry is 6-3. Klay Thompson is 6-7. Harrison Barnes is 6-8, Andrew Bogut is 7-0, 260 pounds. And while Draymond Green is small at power forward at 6-7, his long arms and quickness allow him to play bigger than his size. Obviously skill and talent matter, but big and skilled is better than small and skilled every time.
As they look to the draft as owners of the 21st pick, there’s no reason to get cute here. We are well aware of the Mavericks disdain for the draft, but this team is entering a different phase as Dirk’s career winds down. There has to be attention paid to bringing in young players who can actually play 12-16 minutes a night. The position doesn’t really matter. Nor should positions really matter when July 1 comes and free agency starts. The Mavericks might be a 50 win team, but they need shooters (preferably two of them). They need defenders. They need rebounders. They need a 30-35 minute a game floor leader at point guard. Yes, they don’t need to discriminate. They need a little bit of everything.
They need it because the West only figures to be more difficult next year. You can’t count on Kevin Durant playing only 27 games in Oklahoma City. Sacramento may be messy, but they have a master coach in George Karl who isn’t used to missing the playoffs and they have two All-Star caliber players in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Minnesota has the number one pick, on top of the reigning rookie of the year, Andrew Wiggins. As Mavs fans it’s in your DNA to hate Kobe Bryant, but if indeed 2016 will be Kobe’s last year it’s hard to imagine him being anything other than totally motivated to get the Lakers back to the playoffs. With Julius Randle re-starting his NBA career, a high lottery pick, and tons of cap room for free agency combined with the cache of the Lakers, they’re in the mix.
As for the playoffs themselves now. The opening round left no doubt the system needs to be reworked to allow the seeding to exist simply on record alone. Preferably 1-16, regardless of conference, but even if just stays within a conference it makes sense. The NBA changed playoff seeding rules after the 2006 playoffs when the Mavericks and Spurs, both 60 win teams, but seeded first and fourth respectively, wound up playing in the second round. Guaranteeing Portland a fourth seed, despite both Memphis and San Antonio owning better records simply because they won a non competitive division where most of their games took place isn’t right, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has made comments to suggest he thinks it isn’t right either. On top of that, I’ve always been a proponent of re-seeding after every round the way every other sport does. If you want to make the regular season meaningful, those who performed the best during those 82 games ought to be rewarded in the post season by playing the lowest seed possible.
Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll be bringing a bunch more random thoughts to you sometime soon. Unfortunately, with the season over I’ve got a lot of time to think about these things.