The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Suns on Friday night, but Suns rookie, Marquese Chriss, proved to everyone the biggest weakness surrounding Dallas.
The Dallas Mavericks came off the victory against Oklahoma City on Tuesday looking to continue the trend in Phoenix on Friday night. But with Tyson Chandler and Devin Booker not playing, Phoenix had other plans.
With both Chandler and Alex Len sitting out, the Suns were forced to start their new rookie, Marquese Chriss and veteran, Jared Dudley in the front court.
On the opposite side of the ball, Dallas rolled out their two opening day starters in Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut.
6’7″ Dudley and 6’10” Chriss against 7’0″ Nowitzki and 7’0″ Bogut. Dallas clearly looked to have the height matchup, but would that translate to dominance in the game? Not quite.
Nowitzki is one of the greatest players in the history of basketball and can still put up 18 points a night, but we all know the defensive liability he can be at times. Combine that with the 31-year-old Andrew Bogut and you could have the slowest front court in the league.
Although having the rim protecting Bogut is crucial next to Nowitzki, the writing has been on the wall for the struggles Dallas will have with smaller, more athletic front courts. With Golden State ushering in the trendy small ball, teams across the league look to use the four spot as a spot to go smaller, quicker, and provide more outside shooting.
Phoenix brought light to that writing on the wall on Friday night.
The Suns best player on the court Friday night was Marquese Chriss. The youngster was all over the place as he was knocking down a three on one possession and seemed to be jumping off a trampoline for a dunk on another. His athleticism on both ends of the court brought problems for the veteran Mavs.
Chriss finished the night with 17 points on 7/14 from the field and 3/5 from behind the arc.
Bogut simply couldn’t keep up with the young kid, but what do you expect? There have been rumors circling about Phoenix possibly using him on the wing and then they role him out at center on Friday night. Asking Bogut to keep up with him is sort of unfair to the Australian, but what else could Dallas do?
Then there is Nowitzki guarding a stretch four. Jared Dudley isn’t speedy by no means, but he does posses a deadly shot when open. He finished the night with 15 points on 5/9 shooting and 3/7 from behind the arc. Dudley would normally be a decent guard for Nowitzki, but with all the penetration from Phoenix, Dudley would be left open as Nowitzki would try to help out all over the court.
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Not only can Nowitzki and Bogut not chase these athletic front court players all around the court, but it drains them for the offensive end also. The days of having twin towers like Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the lineup together are almost over, now we will see players like Kevin Durant getting time at center.
Now some nights this will even out when Nowitzki puts in over 20 points or Bogut gets a double-double. The opposing team’s front court might role out a Roy Hibbert or a Robin Lopez at center and Dallas will be able to matchup better. But this won’t be the case very often.
This is in part to why the small ball lineup featuring Barnes and Justin Anderson together has gotten so much preseason hype. Although we, as a fan base, want both Nowitzki and Bogut on the court together, some nights it might be near impossible.
It will be interesting to see how Carlisle counters it this coming season. Will small ball be a prominent lineup in Dallas? Will Nowitzki spend time at center some nights? How much can Dwight Powell help with this?
I have my utmost faith in Rick Carlisle and how he plans to counter opposing team’s athletic front courts, but for now, it’s arguably Dallas’ biggest weakness.