Dallas Mavericks’ newest starter is key to winning formula moving forward

Mar 7, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd yells to his team during the
Mar 7, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd yells to his team during the / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have found success in the past two weeks. The team has gone 6-1 in their past seven games. Some highlights include beating the Golden State Warriors in a much-needed game last week, and the Miami Heat two weeks ago.

However, the biggest win came against the Denver Nuggets as Kyrie Irving hit a game-winning bucket over Nikola Jokic. It was a much-needed victory as Dallas moved into the seventh seed in a stacked Western Conference.

The team’s latest victory though came against the San Antonio Spurs. In the match, Dallas shot 34 percent from the 3-point line but used their defense to scrap away with a victory.

Dallas Mavericks’ newest starter is key to winning formula moving forward

One main difference was the Mavs’ presence down low. The team outscored the Spurs inside the paint by 10 points. Centers Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II did their part combining for 25 points, 12 defensive rebounds, and two blocks.

The Mavs’ centers have done an excellent job changing and adjusting to their new roles on the team. Dallas traded for Gafford on February 9 as the team wanted a backup center to pair with Lively II. Gafford started in one game in his first 10 appearances with the team. Lively II on the other hand stayed as the team’s primary starter.

Things seemed to work as the team started 4-0 after the Gafford trade. However, the Mavs would lose five of their next six games and were looking for change. Coach Jason Kidd has now moved Gafford to the starting spot.

This change by Kidd has worked in the team’s favor as Dallas has gone 6-1 since the move. Gafford has been playing well as the squad’s leader down low. Gafford has scored 10 or more points in six of his last seven starts. He had his best game against the Chicago Bulls last week when he dropped in 20 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks.

Lively II on the hand has also been well off the bench. In four of his last six appearances, he has scored 12 or more points and pulled in five or more rebounds. Against the Bulls, he played well, as he had 22 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. He has recorded two or more blocks in three of his last five appearances.

The balance implemented by Kidd between both centers has been the main difference for Dallas. Look back at the Denver Nuggets game as a prime example. Gafford started the game playing hard-nosed defense on Jokic. He made it difficult for the Nuggets’ MVP by using his size to contest his shots and quickness to move down the lane with him. This is something the Mavericks lacked in the past. The team failed to have a primary center to anchor his way in the paint. On the offensive side, Gafford also did well as he forced his way down low as he was usually a step or two ahead of his opponents.

So what about Lively II? The Dallas rookie too held his own against the Nuggets’ center. He held the Denver big man to 2-8 shooting, making things difficult. He wasn’t afraid to use his body to let Jokic try and go after him. While Jokic still converted a couple of shots over Lively II, the rookie still won the battle with his aggression inside.

It was a perfect balance between him and Gafford. Lively II has provided more observation defense on Jokic as he pried on his move and made sure to be one step ahead of him. Lively II was more of an aggressor, using his size and body to go right at the Nuggets star.

Dallas has been blessed with both players playing well, and this is a recipe for success moving forward.

If the Mavs continue to stick with their formula at the center position, it's possible the team could go deep in the playoffs. Maybe that’s why the team is 7-1 with Gafford in the starting lineup.

So why not stick to a new plan that seems to be working?

Only time will tell just how far the Dallas’ duo will take the team.

Stay tuned for the latest on Jason Kidd, Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively II, and the Dallas Mavericks.