Wednesday Mavs Donuts: Ranking Guard Minutes
DONUT 1: Depth at guard: Exciting advantage or stressful decisions? ...
The Mavericks will come into the 2012 season with eight legitimate NBA guards on their roster. Not only that, but eight guards whose accomplishments, skill sets or potential make very strong cases for their own playing time. Yes, Rick Carlisle will enjoy the freedom to show opponents different looks in his backcourt. And of course, the extra insurance from injury is a huge advantage.
However, ultimately, there are only so many minutes to go around for the guards on this team. Somebody's gonna get squeezed.
With the start of camp now just days away, let's examine the the guards on this roster in terms of their arguable importance to the team and in order of the minutes we might project them to get.
DONUT 2: Darren Collison, starting point guard, tempo setter ...
There is a Dallas Mavericks argument to be made that Collison will turn out to be the most important guard on the roster. With the departure of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, Collison will become the primary ball-handler and the one with the task of setting the tempo of the game.
Collison has a great knack for driving the ball to the basket and scoring off of screens. He will be expected to have the wherewithal to make judgment calls on pushing the ball in the fast break or simply slowing down into executable sets.
But here's why we rank him No. 1 in importance: The whole thing can come tumbling down like a Mark Cuban game of Jenga if he's ineffective.
If Collison does not meet (or exceed) expectations then there will be an unpredictable rotation at point guard. Delonte's role changes. Roddy B is asked to do to much. The quarterback isn't the quarterback.
If Collison proves he can be a scoring threat and willing distributor within the offense then he will not only start and finish games, but play a great deal of time in between. We've suggested before that it's fair to have similar expectations for Collison in Dallas as some might have for Jeremy Lin in Houston (likely without as much media coverage). We're hopeful of that happening. But the possibility of Collison falling short is what has him ranked so high here.
DONUT 3: O.J. Mayo, starting shooting guard, number two scorer ...
The Mavs will count on O.J. Mayo to be the second leading scorer behind Dirk Nowitzki. And there's your first candidate for the new "Robin'' around here. However, with the depth of the Mavericks roster, the quantity of Mayo's scoring might not be as important as his efficiency.
It will be unfair to expect Mayo to be an impact scorer along the lines of a James Harden last year because he will likely be playing off the ball for the majority of games. We would actually envision Mayo playing the style/role that Vince Carter played for the Mavericks last season when he was inserted into the starting lineup -- only better.
The productivity must be at a Jet level -- and maybe, again, only better.
If Mayo can serve as a spot up shooter/second option to bail out the offense late in the shot clock and bring in 17-18 points per game off a relatively low number of shots then the Mavericks will benefit greatly.
The issue here is "efficiency,'' which has not been a Mayo speciality. His willingness to hand over his game to Carlisle might change that.
DONUT 4: Delonte West, 6th man, consistency and toughness ...
The Mavs took some risk in letting him dangle in free agency, and his return ranks as an undervalued coup by the club. West brings a lot of little things to the table as a bench player, the guy who might share "sixth-man'' duties with Brand. Delonte plays tough, he is a sure ballhandler, he plays top-notch defense as a waterbug-chaser and he can rattle off 10 points in a five-minute stretch.
While it's perfectly reasonable to have high hopes for the Collison/Mayo combo, if those two players had been consistently playing at a high level then it would have been much more difficult to acquire them.
This is where West comes in. Either of the two projected starters will likely have games where they simply are not producing. Perhaps they are playing poor defense or the shots just aren't falling. Pretty much every non-All Star has those nights. The value of West is that he can sub in for either position and he does not need to be playing long stretches to have an impact.
West's value extends all the way down to the practice floor. His presence as a threat for minutes is the prod that will push Collison and Mayo. Carlisle will use his that way, and Delonte will be happy to be "used.''
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DONUT 6: Roddy Beaubois, Wild card ...
This is where it gets tricky -- and crowded. Carlisle's comments at the Meet The Mavs event were rich in praise for Roddy B. But all this guard depth means somebody spends a lot of time on the bench. It means the guy who "doesn't compete'' or who "doesn't get it'' sits.
Roddy B's lack of insticts has, in the past, made him that guy. And it has some in the organization telling us frankly they wonder if he'll ever get it.
Can Roddy B learn to become a role player even as he's never really had a definable role? Is there even such a thing in Rick's "Be Ready'' formula?
It might help that the addition of a larger guard like Mayo will give Beaubois someone he can play alongside; having Terry and Beaubois on the court always felt like a disadvantage because of their size.
Roddy may be able to slide into the role of backup to Collison considering they can both play well off of screens. But remember the penciled-in depth chart DB.com acquired from Mavs HQ? It had Roddy B listed as a 2-guard.
See? Undefinable guy. Undefined role.
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DONUT 9: Dahntay Jones, DeShawn replacement ...
It's hard not to make the comparisons between Jones and Stevenson. Like Stevenson, he is a tough defensive-minded guard who is more than willing to take a big three-pointer. In fact, he is actually more skilled at driving to the basket than Stevenson. Ask any Pacers fan and they will tell you that Jones was much more than a throw in to the Collison/Mahinmi trade.
We rank Jones ahead of Carter, however slightly, for this simple reason: If Carter were on the Mavericks championship team, Stevenson would still have been given more minutes than Carter. That speaks to how Carlisle prizes a defense-first supporting-cast member ... and with this year's team having more offensive weapons than last year's edition, one more D-minded guy will help.
DONUT 10: Vince Carter, spot up shooter, extra scorer ...
As pessimistic as it may sound, if the Mavericks rely very heavily on production from Vince Carter then it may be bad news for their chances at success. Last season's roster was flawed in terms of offensive production. Carter's ability to play well within his role was a nice surprise, but at his age he can only do so much and it's probably fair to say that if the Mavericks had had a better offensive team they would not have needed to rely on him as much as they did.
Carter can still be valuable at times during the season. He is good enough to be a spot up shooter and he is a reliable veteran that can create offense in small stretches of games. And most of all, the professional way he conducts himself is of value. He bonded very quickly with new teammates at the beginning of last year, and at the end of the year, you'll recall him telling DB.com how much he wished to remain a Mav.
He's got that wish, and his role-modeling is an asset. But too much playing time for Vince represents a step backwards, we say.
DONUT 11: Jared Cunningham, little-used rookie ...
We're fans. So we really, really want to see Cunningham play. The combination of Cunningham's college YouTube videos and Carlisle's vague comparison to Russell Westbrook gets us excited about his potential in the league.
But we're also chroniclers of the way Carlisle and the Mavs do their thing. And so while the coach will undoubtedly spend a great deal of the time serving as a tutor to the kid down in the basement -- one-on-one teaching is one of Rick's favorite parts of the job -- we don't see actual game minutes being part of the curiculum just yet.
We want to believe Dallas hit on something here, and we'd like to think Cunningham's time will come. But mostly, we know that his rookie-year time will be spend learning down in the basement.
DONUT 12: Dominique Jones, respectful garbage minutes...
Our position on DoJo requires the same argument used on Vince Carter. If the Mavericks are in the position where they will rely on Jones ... they are already in trouble. Oh, maybe it happens because DoJo makes a huge leap in progress; we know for certain the work he puts in, in particular in trying to add a perimeter game to the stuff he already does adequately. We have loved the mentality of Jones since he's been with the Mavericks and whether it's hard-nosed defense or the willingness to switch to the 1 or his friendly dealings with us ... well, we're fond of the kid.
But unfortunately, none of that puts him in a class with the crowd above him.
DONUT 13: The Final Word ...
There they are. Eight guys. All with NBA-level ability ... but stacked atop one another on the totem pole, meaning decisions are to be made.
Collectively, there are strengths and weaknesses of this backcourt group -- and we'll address that tomorrow in Thursday Donuts.