The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks will once again take center stage on Thursday night. Two years since their most recent finals matchup, we look at both teams now and what has changed.
Jonathan Tjarks, a great writer for SBNation Dallas and analyst for RealGM, took the time to answers these questions about the Dallas Mavericks. You can follow him on twitter here @JonathanTjarks.
1) With O.J. Mayo's impressive progression as the Mavericks volume scorer and league leading 3-point shooter, are there any concerns that he and Dirk will struggle to Coexist once he returns?
Not really. He's much better getting shots in the flow of the offense and transition than he is creating off the dribble. He's really an ideal second option and he isn't a selfish player, despite his reputation. While his efficiency numbers (48/52/85) are off the charts this season, he can still struggles when good teams make him the focus of the defensive game plan. Not only is he averaging 3 turnovers a game, but he's had four games with more than 6, including 8 against the Knicks and 9 against the Celtics. If there's a bright spot for Dallas this year, it's what Mayo can do in the Jason Terry role whenever Dirk comes back.
2) The Mavericks are currently 11-13 on the year and one game out of the playoffs. Barring further injuries or setbacks, what expectations do you have for them this year and how far of a playoff run do you think they could make?
My expectations aren't very high. Dallas has had 3 big problems all season -- turnovers (particularly poor play at PG), rebounding and interior defense. Dirk will help a lot with the first one since he can bail out an offense at the end of the shot clock, but those other two will be Achilles heels regardless. At this point, I think the best Mavs fans can hope for is if Dallas can play a competitive first-round series. They might be able to sneak into the second round if they could get into the 3-6 range, but given the hole they are likely to be in when Dirk gets back in a few weeks, that's pretty unrealistic.
3) Brandon Wright is leading the Mavericks in PER (21.8), shown flashes with his athletic potential but only averages 17 minutes. Do you think he should see more minutes, and if not him, is their anybody else you like to see play more?
I've been on the Brandan Wright
bandwagon since last year. He's an athletic 6'10 with a 7'4 wingspan and a soft touch, so he can be pretty unstoppable on the pick-and-roll -- he just jumps over people and scores over the top of the defense. That's how someone shoots 66% from the field. He does have some serious flaws in his game -- his defensive awareness is iffy, his energy level is inconsistent and his rebounding is terrible: he averages 6.5 rebounds per-36 minutes, which is awful for a "big man". That being said, Dallas is 8-3 when he plays more than 17+ minutes a game and is 4-9 when he plays less. I don't think that's a coincidence.
4) This year the Mavericks have waived Delonte West, claimed and waived Eddie Curry, acquired and waived Troy Murphy and signed Derek Fisher. What do you make of the front office decisions to evaluate and acquire talent to build this Mavericks roster?
I wrote an article about that over at the Two Man Game -- http://www.thetwomangame.com/2012/12/lessons-of-youth/
-- The Mavs have been making the same mistakes Miami made back in 2011, when they signed a bunch of washed up old guys (Dampier, Arroyo, House etc.) to fill out their bench. Experience is great, but that's only if you can still play: it does no good to know where you need to be on the court if you can't get there in time.
Delonte West is an excellent player, but I can't really blame Dallas for that one since no other team has signed him. There are reasons for that which go beyond basketball. Strictly from an on-court perspective, he'd be useful to pretty much any team in the NBA. He wouldn't look bad in Miami really.
5) The Mavericks have played a lot of small ball lately, with Dahntay Jones at the 3 and Marion at the 4. What do you make of this strategy and do you think it's something the Mavericks will continue to do?
It's a smart move given the limitations of this roster. Marion has been an absolute rock for this team; he's consistently been one of the most underrated players in the NBA since he entered the league. He's a better defender and rebounder than any of the Mavs big men, so you're not losing anything by going small and you're becoming a much faster and better shooting team. If Dallas had a quality PG, he would still be able to give you a nightly double-double at the age of 34. Pretty incredible.
6) Who do you think are the top 3 teams in the Western conference and which would provide the biggest challenge for the Mavericks in a possible playoff matchup?
That's a tough question. I'm not as down on the Lakers
as everyone else; when you look at how thin their roster is, you have to reserve judgement until all 4 of their stars are healthy. For now, I'd say Oklahoma City is the class of the West followed closely by Memphis at #2 and then San Antonio/Clippers
in the 3-4 range. I don't see the Mavs giving either the Thunder
or the Grizzlies
too much trouble in a seven-game series. For Derek Fisher's
sake, let's hope he doesn't have to defend Russell Westbrook
in a playoff game.