Teams across the NBA materialize in all different shapes and sizes. A teams physical makeup often influences what style of play that team will embark upon for that particular season. The smaller the team, the more likely that team will rely on outscoring their opponent thanks to optimal spacing to go with high-end foot speed. Small teams often like to increase the pace and number of possessions within the game. One fallback in having a smaller group is that they often suffer on the glass rebounding the ball, effectively hurting their defense. Due to the lack of size, smaller teams must systematically communicate and work as one unit on defense.
Unless you are the Golden State Warriors, teams that play small and fast tend to field an average defense at best. In contrast, the bigger the team is in stature, the more likely that team is forced to make the game a slog. Slowpoke basketball is a common style for teams with two traditional big men out on the court. Due to the lack of space, big teams often limit the number of possessions and often trust in pristine, efficient execution within the half court.
For the Mavericks, training camp marks the beginning phase of their identity search. Let’s go through three of the biggest priorities the team must address in order to define a concrete identity.
Having a clean bill of health goes a long way in the NBA. It’s no secret that if the Mavericks want to do any sort of damage, say compete for a playoff spot, it’s imperative that they remain healthy. Looking back at last season, one of the major downfalls that led to just 33 wins was related to injury.
Losing Devin Harris but more importantly Dirk Nowitzki to begin the season put the Mavericks in a hole which ultimately buried their season. According to data derived from Jeff Stotts of InstreetClothes.com, the Mavericks had 150 games lost due to injury or illness which ranked as the 9th highest number of games in the NBA. With Nowitzki’s injury and the typical splattering of new incoming players, last year’s season was decimated very early on.
This season the league has implemented varies changes to the schedule in hopes to reduce the overall stresses of travel, ultimately giving the players a chance to recover more than in the past. These proactive measures are aimed at both player safety and to reduce the number healthy DNPs. If the Mavericks can remain healthy it will go a long way into determining how this season turns out.
It’s no secret that they need to improve within the rebounding department. The team finished last in the league last season hauling in just 38.7 rebounds per game. Some of the rebounding issues were due to the pace of play the Mavericks played within which they ranked 2nd last in the league at 94.2 possessions per game.
With Rick Carlisle anointing Dirk Nowitzki the starting center position to kick off the 2017–2018 campaign, everyone is going to have to step up collectively as a unit in order to improve their rebounding. Dirk has improved over the past couple of seasons as a rebounder, he hauled in 79.6% of his defensive rebounds which placed 2nd on the team behind former Maverick Andrew Bogut. The thing is, Dirk isn’t getting any younger and he’s not going to jump any higher — it’s imperative for the guards, especially rookie Dennis Smith, Jr. to get involved securing long rebounds.
Another factor could involve Nerlens Noel. It remains to be seen, but if Noel gets a high allotment of minutes, say in the 30-minute range, he could be a key instrument in improving lack of rebounding as a team. Noel is certainly capable of wreaking havoc on the boards. He has the ability to be a double-digit rebounder and he’ll surely be motivated in a contract season. But with Carlisle designating him to the bench to start the season, will he be able to garner enough minutes remains a big question mark.
Head Coach Rick Carlisle has made it know that the Mavericks are looking to speed things up. He told Mark Followill & Chuck Cooperstein during media day, “We want to be a fast-paced, share it, move it, get a great shot team.” With the increase of pace and opportunities comes responsibility on the other end of the ball. The Mavericks are going to have to communicate and get back on missed shots. It will be interesting to see the Mavericks philosophy in terms of crashing the offensive glass. With transition defense being one of the focal points of emphasis during the training camp — it will be important to watch to see if players will be crashing the offensive glass or not.
Health, rebounding, and transition defense will all be key components in defining how successful the Mavericks will be this season. Look for these keys when you tune in to the Mavericks first preseason game on Monday versus the Milwaukee Bucks.
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