The Dallas Mavericks are coming off a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals. The future is bright with Luka Doncic as the cornerstone of their franchise. He just earned his third All-NBA First Team nomination at the age of 23.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban appeared in a live interview with Bleacher Report on Tuesday. Predictably, the Mavericks were a hot topic to discuss.
Cuban asked if the Mavericks have the right pieces around Luka Doncic to win a championship. He explained how the team’s shortcomings against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals had to do with “knowledge of the business” as opposed to talent.
“When we lost in the conference final, I don’t think it was for lack of talent.” said Cuban. “I think the Warriors deserve a lot of credit because they’ve played together for so long, their execution has been phenomenal. … It wasn’t so much talent as company knowledge.”
Cuban continued, “The experience of playing together for all these years and being in tough situations knowing what to do,” Cuban explained. “We weren’t there yet. We hadn’t been out of the first round in 10 years. A lot of it was about execution and when we were talking to our guys during the show, that was the theme that kept coming back.
“The Warriors knew where to be on both sides of the ball no matter how we adjusted. The teams we’d played with before hadn’t been as good at adjustments,” Cuban said. “It’s not so much ‘we need that second star’, or whatever. It’s more ‘take time and experience in critical situations and it will pay off. “
Cuban saw similarities in how the Warriors defeated the Celtics compared to what the Mavericks experienced in their own series. Golden State deployed a unit that performed together on a string in a way that turned out to be the difference.
“You can’t fake [to gain the experience], you have to be there,” Cuban explained. “When you look at the Celtics, the Warriors in the Finals, you can see the Celtics had great talent, but the Warriors just outplayed them. The same thing they did to us. They didn’t shoot them. They opened up the guy who was hot. They look good. They had guys who knew their role.”
One player who tipped the series in favor of the Warriors based on what Cuba saw in the Western Conference Finals was Andrew Wiggins, considering he stepped up despite being new to those times.
“I think [Wiggins] was the one who beat us. … We knew what to expect from Klay, Steph and Draymond,” Cuban said. “We didn’t know what to expect or how [Wiggins] was going to intervene, and he did. That’s what this type of series is about. Everyone understands their role, is able to execute what the coach suggests for you and have guys you would call role players step in when the time is right.”
While the Warriors may not have a “Big 3” resembling some of the flashy superstar trios that have been formed recently, they are as cohesive as they come. The sniping and off-ball movement that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson provide is for everyone.
Green’s ability to play out of transfers and into the short-roll is fully maximized playing with Curry, who is attracting incredible attention. The defense can’t afford to fall deep against Curry and often feel the need to blitz or at least play close to level, allowing the Warriors to easily get the defense out of the rotation. Why is that? Due to the threat of Curry’s range.
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As plays come later in the shot clock for the Warriors, they’ve gotten the defense out of rotation using their split action, high ball screen or transfer to the point where there’s often chances of 45 cuts or offenses. rebounds for a wing like Wiggins since the defense can’t handle it.
While some may not call these Warriors star attributes “talent” in the traditional sense, perhaps the prized attributes aren’t weighed as heavily as they should be.
Take Green’s defensive impact for example. His treatment in the half-court is emblematic of a supercomputer. He is a vocal leader who directs his teammates as the center linebacker of the group. He performs defensive rotations with excellent timing and guards multiple positions in a way that you can’t expect from most players – making these traits a real talent.
Green spent periods protecting the secondary threat of the opposition while the Warriors deployed Wiggins often at the point of attack against the defense. How many teams have a wing defender close to Wiggins’ level let alone an anchor at Green’s level?
With Jalen Brunson having a tougher streak against the Warriors than against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, the Mavericks didn’t have a third threat to deploy alongside him and Doncic to exploit weak spots in the Warriors defense.
A wing with size would have been ideal for several reasons. Not only for the ability to attack the hold in space or to reverse catch-and-shoot looks, but also for having a reliable third wing defender in addition to Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith. Both players were deservedly gassed as the playoffs progressed.
Now the Mavericks no longer have Brunson and still need to replace him with an experienced guard. For a team in need of experience, going from accomplished college winner and playoff star in Brunson to a second-round pick playing his first NBA season in Jaden Hardy seems like a step in the wrong direction for results at short term.
The Mavericks came out of the Western Conference Finals with rebounding being the big area they felt needed to address. They acquired Christian Wood and JaVale McGee to help in that department. Each player adds useful attributes to this team, but regardless, there are still key areas that could be addressed.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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