Figuring out the Mavericks’ rotation


For the fourth straight offseason, the Dallas Mavericks have completely reshaped their roster. No longer will we see Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion, and Samuel Dalembert in the starting lineup. Instead, Jameer Nelson, Chandler Parsons, and Tyson Chandler will line up with Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki to start games.

Like the starting lineup, the bench will have plenty of new faces. Key reserves Vince Carter and DeJuan Blair have found new homes. Raymond FeltonAl-Farouq Aminu, Richard Jefferson, and Greg Smith were all brought in to add some punch off the bench along with Devin Harris, Jae Crowder, and Brandan Wright.

With another drastic roster change, Rick Carlisle will once again have plenty of work to do to figure out roles, lineups, and minutes.

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks roster is currently maxed out, with fifteen players signed . While the team is allowed to have thirteen active bodies, expect Ricky Ledo, Gal Mekel, and Eric Griffin (if he beats out Ivan Johnson for the final roster spot) to spend plenty of time in the D-League. With that, please excuse me as they are omitted from minute and role considerations.

The Mavericks are bringing back only five key rotation players from last season: Ellis, Nowitzki, Crowder, Harris, and Wright. The five combined to play 125 minutes last season. The seven new Mavericks combined to play 192.5 minutes for their respective teams. As for the “KEY” departed Mavericks (sorry to Shane Larkin, Bernard James and Wayne Ellington, but they barely saw the court), they averaged 122.4 minutes as a whole.

2013-2014 MPG

Obviously with seven new bodies coming in and five key bodies heading out we would see a big minute difference in the two groups, yet Carlisle’s challenge will be setting his lineups and rotations due to his new deeper roster. As you can see from the chart above, six of the new Mavericks averaged over 25 minutes for their teams last season. In comparison, only four players averaged over that mark for Dallas last season; with two of them – Calderon and Marion – no longer on the roster.

Nov 20, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (25) drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Carlisle has only 240 minutes to spread out to his twelve players, and it’ll be interesting to see whose minutes take a hit/jump. Last season, six of next year’s Mavs averaged 30-plus minutes. Early assumption is with an aging and deep roster, only two players — Parson and Ellis — will hit that mark.

Nowitzki averaged 32.9 minutes last season, but with another season under his belt, knee concerns always looming, and Parsons in the mix, Carlisle will most likely try to have him below the thirty minute number, which may not be an easy task. Nowitzki has averaged below 31 minutes just once (rookie season) during his Hall-of-Fame career and has averaged at least 32.9 minutes three of the last four seasons. Fellow old-timer Tim Duncan has averaged 28-29 minutes three of the last four seasons, which should be a good minute expectation for Nowitzki at this point.

Along with Nowitzki, Chandler is the next candidate on the list to see his minutes decreased due to age and injury concerns. In his first stint in Dallas, Chandler averaged slightly under 28 minutes per game, which should be a reasonable expectation for next season. If so, he will be joining Nowitzki in averaging slightly under 30 minutes.

Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Felton, Jefferson, and Aminu will also see drastic minute decreases due to their new roles. Nelson should see a decrease in minutes as well, but it will most likely not be as large as the previous three. Though Felton is on the roster, early expectation is that he’ll always be sharing the court with either Nelson or Harris, he’ll never/rarely ever be the lone point guard on the court; a role he’s somewhat accustomed to, as he played mostly at shooting guard during his brief stint with the Denver Nuggets.

The one player who should see somewhat of an increase in minutes will be Harris. Despite having Nelson in the mix, Harris should see plenty of time at the point and even some at shooting guard, as he’ll be taking over the vacant sixth-man role.

Below is a quick minute breakdown of the top-six Mavs.

1. Mavs Lineup

Ellis and Parsons both averaged over 35 minutes last season, and while they could play below that, the 35 minute mark seems like a safe bet at this moment.

Quickly 151 of the 240 minutes are already dedicated to just half the roster, with only 65 minutes left to distribute to six players deserving of court time.

Before getting into the remaining minute distribution, Carlisle has the luxury of being able to play different players at different positions. The chart below shows the potential positions different players could play.

Player Positions

It’s easy to see that the team has many tangible parts. With no pure backups at shooting guard and power forward, there are still many potential suitors to find minutes at those positions. Felton, Harris, Crowder, Jeffersons and even Parsons could all see some time at shooting guard. As for backing up Nowitzki, Aminu, Wright, Smith, Crowder, and Parsons could all see time.

Also, there are some unlikely scenarios of having Ellis and Felton playing small forwards in very small lineups or even having Nowitzki and Aminu playing the center spot. But even as long shots, they are options available to Carlisle and shouldn’t be completely ruled out.

So, where will the remaining 65 minutes go?

Wright will get the first crack; he played slightly under 19 minutes per game last season. Considering

Blair’s departure, who took a chunk of his minutes at times, Wright should see an increase in minutes.

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But, Dalembert, who is also out, averaged a notch over 20 minutes last season, but replacing him with Chandler, who is a far more reliable and consistent big minute center, Wright’s minutes could take a hit. Taking both into consideration, Wright averaging around 18-20 minutes again seems reasonable at the moment.

And with Carlisle’s preference of playing Wright at center, the 48 minutes at center would be locked with him and Chandler.

With the point guard and center minutes filled, now to who will take over the remaining 26 minutes combined behind Ellis and Parsons. The options consist of Felton, Jefferson, Crowder, Aminu, and even Harris, who is already locked in at 24 minutes at point guard.

In need of shooting and playmaking, it would seem Felton and Jefferson would most likely get the first at the backup wing spots, giving each 13 minutes of action.

Now, the final 19 minutes behind Nowitzki are all that’s vacant. Smith, Aminu, and Crowder have yet to garner playtime. To split the remaining minutes would give each a mere six-plus minutes. With Carlisle’s preference of having a steady rotation, one or possibly two of these players would be the odd man out.

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In season’s past, we’d see Marion slide over to the power forward for Nowitzki, with Carter checking in at small forward. Will Parsons be asked to do the same? If so, Crowder would seem to have the early advantage in obtaining a good chunk of the final 19 minutes, if not all; he has already earned Carlisle’s trust and of the three, he by far has the better three-point shot.

If not, Carlisle could turn to the bigger bodies of the bruiser Smith or the athletic wing defender Aminu. If that’s the case, Crowder could surely find himself out of the rotation, which wouldn’t be at all shocking. Despite him averaging over 16 minutes last season, he would average 12.9 once Harris returned from his injury, seeing that number decrease with a deeper roster this season is not out of the question.

Below shows two different minute breakdowns. With the above chart projecting minutes if Parsons isn’t used as the backup to Nowitzki. The below chart shows minutes of players if he’s asked to slide over to power forward for stretches to relieve Nowitzki.

Proj Minutes W/Parsons @ Only SF

Proj Minutes W/Parsons @ Backup PF.

The two minute projections could drastically be altered, as they project 11-man rotations. If Carlisle choses  to shorten his rotation, Jefferson, Aminu, Crowder, or even Felton could easily see their minutes jump to almost 20 minutes.

For example, if Carlisle goes to a ten man rotation, with Jefferson playing 20 minutes, Parsons playing some power forward, and Crowder part of the rotation, the minute breakdown would alter as the chart bellows exhibits.

Proj 10-Man Rotation

But, again, these minute breakdowns can once again be altered by simply reducing the minutes of Felton and/or Crowder or even taking them completely out of the rotation and plugging in Aminu and/or Smith in their places. There are a plethora of options and possibilities with the roster.

Last season, along with Carter, Harris and Wright were large parts of the Mavs second unit and floor lineups. We saw Calderon-Ellis-Marion-Nowitzki-Dalembert turn into Harris-Ellis-Carter-Marion-Dalembert, which would eventually turn into Harris-Crowder-Carter-Nowitzki, Wright. The chart below shows a more detailed breakdown of the Mavs lineup patterns. Note, plenty of times Blair was used instead of Wright.

2013-2014 Floor Units

With no clear indication of who’ll be in and out of the lineup and clear minute breakdowns, projecting floor units next season is also a difficult task. But if last season’s pattern holds, the structure won’t be hard to manipulate, as the challenge will be finding the right players to plug in.

Mavs Lineup W/Parsons @ Backup PF

Mavs Lineup W/Parsons Only @ SF

The two charts above show two different rotation scenarios. The first chart simulates the rotation if Parsons is indeed Nowitzki’s lineup, while the second is if Parsons isn’t used at power forward and either Aminu or Smith fill in as Nowitzki’s backup.

With such a deep roster, it’s easy to see how so many different players can be used and how some can be left out.  In the first table, we see Aminu and Smith not used, while Felton, Jefferson, and Crowder are all in danger of not seeing court time depending on who Carlisle turns to.

In the second chart, Aminu or Smith is getting court time, with Crowder being the odd man out, unless he can beat out Jefferson or Felton, which is not out of the question. Also can’t rule out Smith getting on the court over Wright as Blair did last season.

The one situation that is tough to predict is if and when we’ll see Parsons on the court without Ellis and Nowitzki. Marion, played only 129 minutes without Nowitzki and Ellis on the court. Parsons is expected to have the opportunity to be the Mavs lone star on the court at times, but when will it be?

The amount of options, projections, and hypotheticals are many. Carlisle will have his hands full figuring out his roster. If everyone comes to play, his job will be even tougher, as it’ll be difficult to decide which player(s) to leave out.

Either way, this is a dilemma a great coach dreams for. Versatility, talent, and depth — the Mavs have all that this year. It’s just a matter of time till we see how it all works together.