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Adios to Basketball Positions


The Mavs and 27 other NBA teams were sitting at home watching while the Golden State Warriors hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy Tuesday night in Cleveland.  It officially made the Warriors NBA champions for the first time since 1975.

The majority of the teams who have won it since 1975 have abided to building around an elite big man/point guard combo.  Magic and Kareem for the Showtime Lakers.  Isiah and Laimbeer for the Bad Boys Pistons.  Parker and Duncan for the last four Spurs titles.  If the rest of the league wasn’t blessed with an all-time great shooting guard or small forward like Michael Jordan,  Kobe Bryant,  Lebron James or Dwyane Wade, they’d try to find that vital point guard/big man combo to lead their franchise.

This year’s Warriors took this model and tossed it in the trash. Especially in games three through six of their Finals series against LeBron and the Cavs.  Rookie head coach Steve Kerr made the big move to change to the often ridiculed “small ball” style of play.  Their championship lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala was basically two shooting guards and three small forwards.  Nobody over 6’8” and everyone considering them “undersized.”

The Mavericks and the rest of the NBA need to take notes.  The Warriors won a championship using a model that has been slowly creeping into the league over the past decade or so: basketball without true “positions.”  Gone are the days where the best point guards in the league play like John Stockton or Jason Kidd.  The elite point guards of today, like Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook, play more like a shooting guard who only passes because they have openings to drive or shoot.

Since we last saw Shaquille O’Neal in his prime, the dominant center has faded out of the game.  The best big men in the game aren’t fed the ball and then isolated in the post to back down their defender and posterize them.  They either space the floor with a good midrange game like LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love or rely on alley-oops and open dunks for their scoring like DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard.

The point is: Stop paying so much attention to positions.  After the failed Rajon Rondo experiment and Tyson Chandler being a free agent, the Mavericks  are about to approach a free agency period where their biggest question marks and points of focus will be a point guard and a center.  That’s not right at all.  They need to focus on defense, rebounding and more three-point shooting.  No matter what height or perceived position those players might have.

The group of three played together very rarely because of emphasis placed on positions.

If Dallas went with this model last year, their starting and/or closing lineup likely would have been Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Al-Farouq Aminu, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler.  The two best ball handlers and playmakers in Ellis and Parsons, the two best outside shooters in Parsons and Nowitzki and the best interior and perimeter defenders and rebounders in Chandler and Aminu.    You cover all facets of the game.  According to NBA.com’s team stats feature, this lineup was never out on the floor last season.  Why?

“Ellis isn’t a point guard.”

“Parsons is not a 2.”

That doesn’t matter anymore.  The year is 2015 and the NBA has evolved.  Of course it matters whether or not the guys even complement each other at all, but Coach Carlisle will never know if he doesn’t open his mind like Steve Kerr.

With Rondo gone and no starting-quality point guard remaining on the roster, the minds of the Mavericks front office need to take this opportunity to evolve with the rest of the league when retooling their roster this offseason.  Not to mention their desperate need to really do something in the draft next week, but that’s a whole other article.

Just build a team that can score while playing defense and rebounding.  Easier said than done, right?  Yeah, but it gets easier if you take away the stress of balancing out your roster with a certain number of players at each position.  It may sound like a video game style of building a team, but it is the way this league is going.

The NBA offseason is officially here.  Dallas needs to really have another home run offseason if they want to hang around in the West.  This mindset will help them stay on pace with everyone without landing every big name.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more Mavs and DFW sports updates: @DylanDuell

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