With the NBA Finals in full swing, the Mavericks are watching two familiar foes -- the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat -- battle it out for the chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Both teams have key components that established them as championship contenders. Let's point out those components and how the Mavericks can learn from them.
Both Miami and San Antonio have depth at their disposal. On top of that, their depth is versatile. Whether it is Kawhi Leonard, Ray Allen, Matt Bonner or Shane Battier, each team has multiple options who are solid at multiple facets of the game.
Each team’s respective big three carry the load, but the role players can step up in big situations. If LeBron James has to be relied upon to bring more offense, Miami has someone in Battier who can take on a larger defensive responsibility and still be viewed as a threat from beyond the arc. San Antonio’s Boris Diaw can bring versatility as a big man if the Spurs have to adjust to a shrinking lineup Miami might throw at them.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle isn’t very fond of judging players by the old, by-the-book way of thinking. “He’s a basketball player” is a phrase that often comes out of the coach’s mouth. The game is shifting away from defined labels for players based on position. Carlisle, as well as the two coaches involved in the NBA Finals, have recognized this and often try to find the best lineups that can be placed out on the floor, regardless of the traditional positions.
Neither Miami nor San Antonio rely on a dominant big man down on the block. Both teams faced challenges in their respective conference finals against clubs that had menacing big men. If either team lost, that might have shifted the balance in the future in regards to teams trying to gear more towards a traditional big man down on the low post. With San Antonio and Miami in the Finals, “small ball” prevails.
Now, Dallas has to try to find the right pieces that can bring true depth. The pieces they had this season didn’t amount to much, as they were depleted at the point guard and center positions. They have a relatively clean slate to work with. You have Dirk Nowitzki as the focal point and Shawn Marion and Vince Carter as the veterans. Those two could easily be moved in the offseason, but they also work perfectly in what the Mavs would need to do if they’re building a roster based on depth and versatility.
The championship team of 2011 provides an additional example of how the depth can be advantageous. The Mavs had players such as DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal who could provide tough defense and perimeter shooting. While Tyson Chandler was seen as the major big man, Brendan Haywood was a solid rim protector who could hold his own in the rebounding department. Like the Heat and the Spurs, the Mavs’ title squad had enough depth to withstand whatever challenges came their way.
Depth has delivered success to Miami and San Antonio. It clearly delivered to Dallas back in 2011. With a roster full of holes, the front office must choose wisely with their open spots.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.