Lock to Start?


New head coach Jason Kidd began this season deploying the same starting lineup as last year. Kidd mentioned the “players council” of Dončić, Porzingis and Hardaway, Jr. as being instrumental in championing for Dwight Powell to be the starting center in a lineup that also features Dorian Finney-Smith. As the first part of the season has gone on, however, Powell’s play had certainly hindered the Mavericks, and his minutes have slowly declined game by game. Kidd attempted to start Willie Cauley-Stein and Moses Brown (much to the delight of Mavs twitter), but both of these options only enhanced the view that the Mavericks do not have starting caliber center on their team.

Kidd decided last Thursday night to make another change in the lineup, this time swapping out Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Reggie Bullock. This marked the eighth different starting lineup the Mavs had used this young season. The lineup change clearly worked, as Bullocks defensive prowess was on full display in a 139-107 thrashing of the Pelicans. Bullock’s key defensive stops led to 10 fast break points for the Mavericks in the first quarter alone, a fantastic output for a team that has struggled early on in games this season.

Coming off the bench, Hardaway Jr. added another shot maker along side Jalen Brunson, dropping 16 points on 4-7 from distance after being mired in a shooting slump the last six games (31%). The question remains whether Hardaway Jr. will remain comfortable playing starters minutes but coming off the bench, assuming this lineup change continues to work. When asked about his potential new role, Hardaway Jr. told reporters:

“It’s nothing that I can’t handle. I’ve done this before, so I’m good.”

The addition of Bullock to the starting lineup has numerous benefits for the Mavericks. With Hardaway Jr.’s shooting numbers down, the Mavericks have gotten off to slow starts in many games this season. Bullock doesn’t take nearly as many shots as THJ does, so the ball stays in the hands of Dončić and Porzingis more to start the game. Secondly, Hardaway Jr. adds another element of offense to the second unit alongside Jalen Brunson. Brunson and Hardaway Jr. both finished in the top 5 in the Sixth Man of the Year award last year, so both clearly are able to sustain good play against other teams’ second units.

Whether coach Jason Kidd sticks with the new starting lineup or not, clearly the swapping of Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr. paid dividends in the first game against the Pelicans. One quarter of the season in and the Mavericks may have finally found a starting lineup that they can use the rest of the season. If they can manage to stay healthy that is…

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