Preseason is less than a week away, we will soon have our first glimpse of the new era of Dallas Mavericks basketball led by Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Outside of the best young duo in the NBA we do not know exactly how the rest of this Mavs rotation will shake out. The Mavs have a roster stacked full of players that MFFL’s want to see on the court but there is no way to play them all in every game. How will the minutes be split up once the season actually starts?
This is a very deep Dallas Mavericks Dallas Mavericks roster which makes it very hard to build out an ideal rotation because it means you have to leave good players with little to no minutes. NBA teams, including the Mavericks, typically only use 9 guys on any given night. Trying to get too many players in the game can make it hard for players to get comfortable on the court and into a good rhythm with their teammates. On a Dallas Mavericks roster with at least 12 players you really want to get onto the court each night, there will be about 3 of these guys who may not see minutes. NBA seasons are long, and rest and injuries are just a part of playing 82 games so having great depth and a great Coach will be important when this day comes. But for now, with 12 (13 if you include Roby) that deserve minutes, this is how I see the Dallas Mavericks Rotation.
Role: Point Forward/Wonder Boy/Shot-Maker Extraordinaire
Minutes Per Game: 30-35+
Luka makes the possibilities endless when putting together the Mavs rotation. When you mix his truly unique versatility with Rick Carlisle’s willingness to experiment with unorthodox lineups, it becomes very tough to predict what sort of lineup will be deployed at any point throughout the game. Because Luka is such a good defensive rebounder (8.5 reb/36 mins) they could go small with Luka at the “4” next to any of their four primary bigs (Porzingis, Powell, Kleber, Marjanovic/Finney-Smith?). A lineup of Doncic/Porzingis/Wright/Curry/Jackson could be an absolutely deadly offensive pairing. They could also deploy Luka at the Point and make a great defensive lineup without sacrificing too much offense with a pairing of Doncic/Porzingis/Kleber/Finney-Smith/Wright. With so many interesting combinations and an experimental coach like Rick Carlisle I’m sure the rotation will change several times throughout the year until he finally settles in on exactly what lineups click the best.
Luka averaged 32.2 minutes per game last season so an average of 33 minutes per game might be a little low, but I am hoping that the Mavs depth can allow Luka adequate rest to be at his best throughout the clutch moments of the entire 82 game season. Surely there will be nights when Luka plays big minutes, he had 21 games last year when he played more than 35 minutes so he is definitely capable of playing almost the whole game if needed. By all accounts on social media Luka has been working hard on improving his conditioning this offseason to be able to take on a bigger workload.
Role: Forward/Center/DPOY Candidate/Unicorn/Closer
Minutes Per Game: 28-35
I am under the assumption that Kristaps Porzingis is healthy and ready to ball. Opening night I expect to KP out there for about 30 minutes of game time against the Washington Wizards on October 23rd. Throughout the season I could easily see that number growing at the expense of any of the other bigs listed above, KP played 28 minutes per game as a Rookie in 2015 and has averaged 31 minutes per game throughout his 186 NBA games played. With a clearly improved physique Porzingis will be able take on more minutes than he ever has before once he is conditioned to handle it. Not having played an NBA game since February of 2018 he may be limited to start the season but I would not be surprised if KP pushes 35 minutes a night when it matters most.
Even though I expect Rick Carlisle to try out several different things, I predict the typical starting lineup for the 2019-2020 Dallas Mavericks looks like this:
The real wildcard in the lineup will be what Rick Carlisle decides to do with the Small Forward position. Going into training camp I see it as a battle between Justin Jackson and Dorian Finney-Smith. I would rather start big with one of these tall, long, traditional Small Forwards rather than start small with Seth Curry or Tim Hardaway, Jr. I think the Mavericks starting lineup can be a surprisingly good defensive team and a good rebounding team when they use just two guards in Luka Doncic and Delon Wright. These two clean up misses so well from the guard position that the Mavs can be a good rebounding team without needing one player to average 10 rebounds per game. Porzingis is a shot blocking machine and surrounding him with more size, length, and defensive versatility gives the Mavs a chance to set the tone to a fast paced offense with some disruptive defense.
Big Man Rotation
My ideal rotation of the Mavs big men revolves around the pairings of Kristaps Porzingis/Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber/Boban Marjanovic. I know many people are hoping for Maxi Kleber to start alongside Kristaps Porzingis in the frontcourt but I see Dwight Powell as the better suiter next to KP.
Minutes Per Game: 26-29
I am anticipating a big year from Dwight Powell, this will be his first full year earning starter level minutes and he and KP complement each other so well. Powell’s elite screen setting and rim rolling combined with Porzingis’ smooth shooting stroke from deep will leave defenders being pulled in multiple directions at once when Luka is flying through the lane with the ball. Do you let Dwight Powell, one of the league’s most efficient rim scorers (7th in the NBA in Effective Field Goal Percentage last season), run free to the basket or do you leave Kristaps Porzingis to rain threes on you from deep? As long as they keep quality shooters on the floor surrounding this duo I see this Mavs lineup being among the most efficient offensive units in the NBA.
Defensively they will have Dwight Powell as the hustle man and rebound chaser while all drives will tried to be funneled through to Porzingis who is and will be one of the League’s leading shot blockers. I see Dwight Powell as the offensive Center, screening/rolling to the rim with the occasional three, and as the defensive Power Forward, focus on rebounding and playing solid defense without fouling. I have been a Dwight Powell hater in the past but he has continued to improve and is now in a perfect role to showcase the best of his abilities.
Role: Backup Power Forward/Center/Rim Protector/ Floor Spacer
Minutes Per Game: 22-26 Minutes Per Game
Maxi Kleber gets me out of my seat more than anyone not names Luka or Dirk over the last few seasons. When Kleber says NEIN! at the rim there is no doubt I am on my feet yelling. His rim protection and defensive versatility are great, his outside shooting is above average for a big, but there still seems to be a level of inconsistency with Maxi that prevents him from taking the next step.
Now in year 3 I hope it all clicks for Maxi. He has the potential to be an elite 3-and-D Center/Forward and he just signed a 4-year deal to stay in Dallas. He is 27 years old and hopefully just entering his basketball prime. Like some other players on the roster, Maxi has the chance to emerge as a guy you can’t keep off the floor.
I see similar synergy in the Maxi Kleber and Boban Marjanovic duo that I see in the Porzingis/Powell duo. Kleber’s most effective offense is his three point shot while Boban is at his best in the pick and roll when he can get into the paint and make other big guys look tiny. They are great complements on offense and will allow for optimal floor spacing when playing alongside one another. Although Maxi has proven to be an elite shot blocker, historically he has not been a great rebounder. While Maxi is flying around changing shots around the basket, Big Bad Boban will be there to help clean up the glass and prevent the Mavs defense from being exposed to offensive rebounds.
If Dwight Powell goes through another first half of the season bricking every three he takes then I could easily see Maxi stealing more of the finishing role in the frontcourt alongside KP.
Role: Backup Center/Social Media Legend
Minutes Per Game: 0-15
There will be many nights that Boban will rest, the most games he has ever played in an NBA season was his 58 last year. He also set a career high in minutes per game with a mere 11.7. It may be optimistic to think that Boban can push 15 minutes per game, but if he can limit his turnovers and stay as productive and efficient as he has always been, I think Boban can give the Mavericks some quality, much needed depth in the frontcourt.
Role: Reserve Forward
Minutes Per Game: 0
There are just too many quality young veterans of this team fighting for minutes for Roby to be able to get into the mix. Sure he will be able to check in for some garbage time minutes but I do not expect him to contribute meaningful minutes all season.
All of my “Point Guard” minutes for the Mavericks opening day roster are allocated to Delon Wright and Jalen Brunson. In Delon Wright’s case it may not actually be running much Point since he will be on the floor with Luka a lot, but he will at least be defending other team’s Point Guards.
Unfortunately, this leaves my man JJ Barea without any minutes when everyone is healthy. I love watching JJ and was leading the charge on his 6th man of the year candidacy before his injury last season, but for the normal Mavs rotation I want to see Wright and Brunson eating up all those minutes.
Now I don’t expect these “Point Guards” to dominate the ball. Rick Carlisle himself said in a Training Camp interview that he views Luka as the team’s Point Guard and has thought so ever since he gave him the ball last year. Regardless, this secondary playmaker position is very important to keep some of the ball handling pressure off of Luka. Wright and Brunson should have a large role in bringing the ball up the floor and initiating the flow of the ball to Luka’s hands in the half court offense. The ball should obviously be dominated by Luka a majority of the time, but having effective guards to take some of the ball handling responsibilities will prevent Luka having to waste unnecessary energy bringing the ball up the court while being hounded by the other teams best defender.
Role: Starter/Closer/Defensive Menace/Secondary Playmaker
Minutes Per Game: 25-30
Delon Wright’s offensive and defensive versatility should lead to him being the starting and closing guard for the Mavs this season. Wright’s skill set and 6’5″ frame will allow the Mavs the opportunity to play big, fast, and efficiently on both ends of the court. With per 36 minute averages of 5.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.8 steals Delon Wright’s all-around game is going to be a joy to watch this season no matter what his scoring numbers end up looking like. If Wright can also prove to be an efficient jump-shooter, that is when the Mavs Playoff chances will take another leap.
Role: Backup Point Guard/Scorer/Playmaker
Minutes Per Game: 19-24
Jalen Brunson is a winner and hard worker and I expect him to continue to improve in his 2nd NBA season. I expect enough of a leap that Brunson will force JJ Barea to fall to third on the Point Guard depth chart, only to be used sparingly. Brunson can score, make plays for teammates, shoot, run the offense, basically everything you want your backup PG to be able to do. I see Brunson as the primary ball handler and floor general when Luka is out of the game and I cannot wait to see what he does with the opportunity. With Jalen Brunson running the second unit I see another season of the Mavericks bench being a major strength on a nightly basis.
Minutes Per Game: 0-10
Even though JJ Barea may not be part of the initial rotation this does’nt mean he will not play a big role this season. There will be times when #5 is called upon as an offensive spark plug in Rick Carlisle’s offense and I have no doubt he can deliver. JJ will also play a big role in mentoring the other young ballhandlers. At age 35 he is the oldest Mavericks, surrounded by a core of players less than 30 years old, especially Jalen Brunson. There is plenty of wisdom and value that JJ Barea can pass on this season whether he is on the floor or not.
There are two main shooting guards on the roster, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Seth Curry. I don’t see either of these players receiving a starting role but they will play the pivotal role of carrying most of the scoring load for the bench unit when Porzingis and Luka are out of the game. Luckily for the Mavs, Curry and THJ are two very solid offensive weapons when deployed with Brunson, Kleber, and Boban/Finney-Smith for small stretches of the game.
Role: Backup Guard/Closer/Easy Money
Minutes Per Game: 20-25
I project the minutes and scoring numbers for these two guards to be very similar this year. Between the two, over the course of the year, I think we will see Seth Curry separating himself as the crunch-time shooter in the game for the closing minutes. Having one of NBA history’s most efficient three point shooters next to the playmaking of Luka Doncic and the offensive gravity of Kristaps Porzingis just sounds so unstoppable that you have to do it. Seth Curry, with a career average of 43.9%, has the 3rd highest 3-point percentage of anyone in NBA history who has made at least 300 threes, just ahead of his brother Steph. His career average on corner threes is a ridiculous 50%! I want to start the game big with Justin Jackson but I want to finish the game with Seth Curry lurking on the three point line during a Luka/Porzingis pick-and-pop.
Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Role: Backup Guard/Shot-Taker/Shot-Maker
Minutes Per Game: 20-25
Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a better overall offensive player than most people realize as I think most people think of THJ as simply an inefficient shot-chucker. Not only does THJ know how to score but he knows how to make some plays for teammates without turning the ball over. In fact, he was one of only 7 players in the NBA last season who were able to score at least 18 points per game while having an assist percentage of over 12%, and a turnover rate of less than 9%. The other players on this list aside from THJ are Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, and CJ McCollum. I am not saying that Hardaway is out here dropping dimes like a Point Guard but knowing his role in a Rick Carlisle free-flowing style offense could put THJ in a position to be his best self.
Yes, clearly his three point percentage will need to be better than the 34% he shot last season, but I like his chances of improving on that number. Hardaway, Jr. is in line to have a solid scoring role off the bench with Jalen Brunson and Seth Curry, with a real opportunity of securing a starting or closing role.
Role: Reserve/Trade Filler/Buyout Candidate
Minutes Per Game: 0
Because I think more guards, primarily Wright and Curry alongside Luka, will be on the floor to close the game and the fact that Rick Carlisle tends to prefer to play multiple guard lineups, it seems like Small Forward minutes may be in short supply.
Role: Starter/Knock-Down 3 Point Shooter/Slasher+Finisher
Minutes Per Game: 18-22
Justin Jackson’s size and ability to score in multiple ways makes him the best starting option for the Mavericks at Small-Forward. Jackson shot 37% from three point range in his 29 games for Dallas last season and also shot an absurd 80% at the rim all of last year, a number that puts him in elite territory with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, and Joel Embiid, thanks to Jackson’s crafty floater game around the basket. If everything clicks and the Mavs are able to utilize all of Jackson’s offensive talent then maybe he can emerge as the team’s third leading scorer and earn more minutes. On the other hand, if he slips and doesn’t produce early on in the season perhaps he loses his role entirely to the guards or to Dorian Finney-Smith.
Role: Utility Guy/Team Player/Defensive Stopper
Minutes Per Game: 0-15
I know that is a big range of minutes per game, but like Boban, I think there will be several night when Finney-Smith doesn’t play. I think Justin Jackson will win the starting role with his creative scoring, leaving not enough minutes to go around to everyone. Rick will be willing to deploy Finney-Smith in various situations and positions but I do not think it will be enough to have a stable, everyday role.
For me, Dorian Finney-Smith would be the better option to start between he and Justin Jackson if only he could consistently knock down his open threes. Doe-Doe shot an upsetting 31.1% on 3.1 attempts from three for the 2018-2019 season and that was the highest percentage of his 3 year NBA career.
His defense is so good that I want him to be a part of this starting unit, I think Finney-Smith can be a perfect glue guy alongside superstars like Luka and KP, if he can hit his threes.. He puts on a clinic of how to close out on three point shooters while staying in a defensive stance, he can easily switch onto guards and forwards alike, he has a knack for cutting to the basket and following up misses, and he has what it takes to try to stop the opponents best scorer.
A big lineup that had 3 top notch defenders in Delon Wright, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dorian Finney Smith would be an amazing pairing defensively. However, for the Mavericks to get the most out of the Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis duo they need efficient shooters all around the perimeter and unfortunately Dorian has not shown the ability to be that yet in his career.
Rick Carlisle has already mentioned that he sees Dorian playing a lot of minutes at the 4 and 5 position this season. This tells me that, if everyone is healthy, he expects Boban to take a lot of nights off, freeing up extra minutes for Doe-Doe. With everyone healthy, and when Boban plays, it is hard to see Finney earning a lot of minutes over Kleber, Powell, or Porzingis at the Forward or Center position.
Role: Reserve/Shooting Specialist
Minutes Per Game: 0-10
Despite being one of the best shooters in the World I do not think Ryan Broekhoff will see regular minutes this NBA Season. He is an absolutely deadly weapon to have at Luka’s disposal but his lack of overall game compared to some of the other guards and forwards on the roster will leave him on the bench most nights. There will be occasions where Broekhoff will get some run and I am sure he will shoot great whenever he does, but if Broekhoff is playing major minutes, something has gone terribly wrong.
With so many quality NBA players on this 2019-2020 Dallas Mavericks roster there may be times that some of these guys have to sit for a night or for extended periods of time. That can be tough on team morale, but I think it helps that nearly all of this team has just been paid in the last two years. The team that we watch this season is, for the most part, the same core that we will be watching for the next three years. This will be an experimental year when it comes to lineups but once they are set we should see some incredible continuity for the future.