Today we launch a series of preview pieces from a new source for 3 Shades of Blue. Steve Danziger has been a long time poster on the Grizzlies message board who’s insightful commentary has been a pleasure to read. When he came up with a series about each team in the league we jumped on him to spread his wisdom on the blog. So without further ado here is Steve Danziger’s series introduction.
Enemy: Dallas Mavericks
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Potential Starting 5: Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman
Other Key Players: Delonte West, Vince Carter, Brendan Wright, Elton Brand, Rodrigue Beaubois
Threats: depth, experience, scoring, tough shot making ability, Dirk Nowitzki
Grizzlies 2011-12 Record vs.: 2-1
Okay, I am well aware that if one thing is for sure, it is that OJ Mayo to the Mavs has been discussed by Grizzlies fans ad nauseam. Ironically, though, the “system” that I chose to use to decide an order for doing these analyses rendered Mavericks first… so I promise that I’ll try my best to avoid making this a Mayo-centric discussion. In any case, I guess it’d be necessary to start by stating the obvious that the Mavericks struck out with their leading plans this offseason. After being spurned by home-grown prized free-agent Deron Williams, potential reunion story Steve Nash, and then their own Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, the Mavs were forced to adjust their focus a bit. So gone from the championship team of just two years ago are Kidd and Terry, along with Brendan Haywood (amnesty), Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, Deshawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and the one and only: Brian Cardinal. Surprisingly though, on paper the results of their overhaul are not that bad. Entering what is not a rebuilding stage, but rather a “complete re-tooling phase”, Mavericks’ brass acted shrewdly, digging into the “B-team”, so to speak, of offseason options, while maintaining boatloads of future cap flexibility in the process. With sights set on what they hope will be a potentially tantalizing 2013 free agent class; they’ve managed to gather a very sound group of guys, with their only substantial commitments beyond this forthcoming season being Dirk, Marion, and OJ’s player option.
But enough business talk, on court the Mavs will be nothing short of an interesting mix. Characteristic of the Mavericks new introductions, there’s plenty of talent combined with a bit of disappointment. Collison fizzled out a bit in two seasons in Indiana after a very solid rookie campaign with the Hornets. Mayo displayed great promise early on, and I don’t need to go into what happened there. Elton Brand was a top flight power forward in this league, only to have his effectiveness hampered by injuries. Chris Kaman was an all-star just a few seasons ago averaging over 18 points and 9 boards a game, but like Brand has dealt with injuries. To make matters worse, he was banished to basketball purgatory in the Chris Paul trade last year. Questions prevail about what Kaman has left in the tank, but he is still only 30 years of age, and should already have some established chemistry with Dirk from playing with the German national team. From the draft, the Mavs acquired Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James, but they will all likely start the year at the bottom of the depth chart due to the wealth of veteran bodies on the roster. Lastly, it wouldn’t be a post on a Grizzlies blog without mention of the acquisition of one of my favorite former Grizzlies, Dahntay “the bad thing” Jones. Talent-wise Dahntay wouldn’t factor to get too many of OJ Mayo, Roddy Buckets, Delonte West, and Vince Carter’s minutes on the depth chart, but his defensive ability and tenacity should be enough afford him some burn on the court.
So why should our beloved blue bears fear the Mavericks? Or to better phrase it, what threats do the Mavericks pose for us? At first glance it has to be the “tough shot-making ability”, as I would call it. From the top of the roster with Dirk, and emanating down throughout, the Mavs have a bunch of guys who when the play breaks down, can simply drain those high-level-of-difficulty, late in the shot clock prayers of shot attempts that just deflate opposing defenses. Also, our defense is known to gamble a bit for steals on the defensive end, and the Mavs are just the type of team to make us pay for that. Or at least, they were. These shot-makers cannot do so without the ball in their hands, and it remains to be seen how well Darren Collison will be able to read these situations… while he’s not by any means a weak distributor, he doesn’t possess the wizard-like court vision of Jason Kidd. Regarding the post play, again the conversation has to begin with Dirk Nowitzki. His ability to spread the floor at 7-feet tall should keep the post pretty open for Chris Kaman to operate. Kaman is a versatile, physical big man who can score in a variety of ways, and is a very adept passer for his size. Sound familiar? I’d call him a poor man’s Marc Gasol, but when you reflect on what he’s being paid, I guess I’d have to settle for the “guy-who-has-8-million-dollars-to-pay-his-center’s Marc Gasol” title. Nonetheless, the Mavericks have a similar frontline to that of the Grizzlies that could on any given night neutralize our biggest strength: our own frontline. Looking down to the small forward spot, the Rudy and Shawn Marion comparison isn’t too far off in terms of ability (stylistically is another story), either. Additionally, Elton Brand and Brendan Wright coming off the bench are solid, if not reminiscent of Darrell and Mo. For the Mavs, it’s all going to be about how these guys mesh. If they do, watch out, because there’s a lot of offensive punch in this team. To beat this squad, we’re going to have to rely on our ball-hawking defense and Grizzly grit, to grind it out and set ourselves apart. A stellar Zbo showing in a showdown vs. Dirk couldn’t hurt our chances, either.