The season is set to wind down in the coming weeks with the Dallas Mavericks (46-31), Memphis Grizzlies (45-31), and Phoenix Suns (45-31) still battling it out for final two spots in the West.
There is some star power to be mentioned between these three teams at the forecourt, but there is also plenty of key players who play important roles.
- Dirk Nowitzki: 21.7 points, 49.5% fg, 39.7%, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists
- Shawn Marion: 10.5 points, 48% fg, 6.6 rebounds, 1.17 steals
- Samuel Dalembert: 6.7 points, 57.2% fg, 6.7 rebounds, 1.19 blocks
Nowitzki and Marion are the lone holdovers from the the 2011 championship team. At 35 years old, Nowitzki has shown that he can still carry the Mavericks. Whether it’s the trailing 3, one legged jumper, or just spotting up, he has shown he can score from all spots on the court. The defense and rebounding can use improvement, but this is not new for the Big German.
Like his fellow starting forward, Marion is still doing what he’s become known for in Big D. He’s still one of the top rebounding small forwards in the league and still finds himself guarding all five spots on the court. Even with his improved 3-point shooting, Marion’s best suited to score around the basket.
The hopeful Tyson Chandler replacement has driven the team and fans crazy with his inconsistency for the majority of the season. So his recent 10 game surge (8.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks) is a welcome sight. With Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, and Jose Calderon limited on the defensive end, the Mavericks desperately need Dalembert to be a presence in the pain and the glass.
- Zach Randolph: 17.3 points, 46.2% fg, 10.1 rebounds, 2.3 turnovers
- Marc Gasol: 14.3 points, 46.2 % fg, 7.3 rebounds, 1.34 blocks, 3.6 assists
- Tayshaun Prince: 6 points, 28.8% 3pt, 3 rebounds
The Grizzlies pound it inside style is due to the play of Randolph and Gasol. Even with his lack of jumping ability and standing at just 6’9″, Randolph always finds a way to get his hands on a rebound and finish around the basket. He has also been the team’s most reliable piece, playing in 73 games.
The reigning defensive player of the year has been huge in the Grizzlies turnaround this season. The Grizzlies are 35-19 with their anchor in the lineup. His presence on the offensive end is just as important, where he’s responsible for running their high post offense.
Prince was brought in last season to bring shooting and defense to the wings. He hasn’t exactly done that this season for the Grizzlies, shooting under 30% from 3. Though his defense isn’t what it once was, he still has plenty of length and savvy to be a factor.
- Channing Frye: 11.2 points, 37.4% 3pt, 5.1 rebounds
- Miles Plumlee: 8.3 points, 51.3% fg, 8 rebounds, and 1.13 blocks
- P.J. Tucker: 9.4 points, 38.9% 3pt, 6.6 rebounds, 1.33 steals
This trio lacks the star power of the Mavericks and Grizzlies but they aren’t asked to be stars.
Frye has had a great comeback season (missed all of 2012-2013 with heart issues). He compliments the guard tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe by being able to spread the court and knock down open shots.
Plumlee has been a steal for the Suns after acquiring him along with Gerald Green from the Indiana Pacers. With Emeka Okafor sidelined for the whole season, Plumlee has filled in nicely in the starting lineup. He leaves you wanting more on the boards and defensive end.
A player every team would love to have, Tucker is what you want in a role player. He’s able to spread the court and hit shots and most most importantly, he’s tough on the defensive end. Like Frye, he also is a great compliment to the Suns’ explosive backcourt.