The Mavs will be fighting off numerous teams to make the playoffs this year. How do they matchup against the rising Utah Jazz?
This year, the Mavs will not only have to compete with the West’s elite such as the Warriors, Clippers, and Spurs, but certain lower-seed teams such as the Rockets, Trailblazers, and Jazz will give Dallas a push for the final few playoff positions.
The Jazz figure to be an extremely versatile, physical team this season. Several savvy additions have deepened the roster for Head Coach Quin Snyder, who knows how to get the best out of an average roster. With Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and Rodney Hood leading a strong, young core, Utah added several players who figure to be underrated moves for an underrated team.
Utah’s acquisition of George Hill came at the perfect time for the Jazz. Needing a point guard for years, it was time Utah moved on from essentially starting Shelving Mack at the point. Acquiring a sturdy defender who can knock down threes at a consistent clip while being a team first player figures to be a tough matchup for any Western conference team.
Another forgotten addition this offseason was Utah’s pickup of veteran Boris Diaw. The veteran forward was shipped to the Jazz from the Spurs in a salary dump move in order to make room for Pau Gasol. Having Diaw’s defense and passing skills drastically improves Utah’s bench right away. Draw is the perfect player for Quin Snyder’s hustling, effort-oriented squad.
Joe Johnson’s arrival should not be overlooked either. The veteran shooting guard is still an effective shooting option who can still provide some defense off the bench. Utah has sorely needed scoring options to end what seem like never-ending scoring droughts while their defense plays lights out. Johnson will help with just that. His muscular, tall build will help the Jazz get to the free throw line more and should open up the three point line for the offense.
The Dallas Mavericks have a unique connection with the Utah Jazz. Seemingly interested in players formerly of the Jazz, the Mavs may be looking to adopt part of that physical, bruising identity that the Jazz are known for. Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Jeremy Evans, Devin Harris, and Richard Jefferson have all joined Dallas after successful stints playing for Utah. The Mavs match up with Utah in a peculiar way.
Deron Williams isn’t half the athlete he once was, but his size alone will give him a good chance to score against George Hill. While Hill is a tough defender, Williams is still just athletic and skilled enough to both get to the basket and shoot from the perimeter. Williams and Hill are very similar players who look to get their teammates involved offensively, and aren’t afraid to do some dirty work defensively.
At the off-guard spot, Wesley Matthews provides Dallas with a lockdown defensive effort every single night. Guarding the speedy Rodney Hood, Matthews will have to prove he is as good a transitional defender as he is an on-ball defender. While elite defensively in the half-court, Matthews lacks the speed to get up and down the court and keep up with Rodney Hood.
The small forward spot is the most interesting matchup for Dallas. Gordon Hayward often struggles against big, taller defenders who limit his airspace. Harrison Barnes will do exactly that. Barnes’ lanky, sturdy frame will be difficult to penetrate against, and should be a very difficult defensive matchup. What is scary for Dallas is Barnes’ offense. Everyone remembers Barnes’ awful struggles shooting the ball in the finals, and this preseason has been no different.
At the four, Utah does not have anyone to guard Dirk. The 37-year-old can still knock down his patented jump shots, whether or not Boris Diaw or Derrick Favors is guarding him. The center position is the more interesting position to watch. Rudy Gobert is one of the most intimidating big men in the game with his rare size and strength, but Andrew Bogut will have no problem whatsoever dealing with Gobert’s toughness.
The Mavs figure to be a .500 team this season. If they can overachieve, particularly on defense, then certain teams such as the Rockets and Jazz will have a difficult time outlasting Dallas for one of the last playoff spots. Dallas should be able to narrowly edge Utah in a tough playoff race, thanks to all of their new defensive tools.