The San Antonio Spurs visit the Dallas Mavericks
With everyone’s favorite Maverick (and I mean EVERYONE), Erick Dampier, on the shelf for tonight’s game, Drew Gooden will have his first real go as a starter against a quality big. Drew is coming off of back-to-back double-doubles against the Pistons and the Bucks, and in both games he was indispensable. Here are Gooden’s stats over the last two:
But Andrew Bogut is no Tim Duncan. Ben Wallace is no Tim Duncan. Hell, Ben Wallace is barely Ben Wallace these days. That could translate to some big trouble for the Mavs, who are forced to start Drew Gooden in a situation in which they would normally start Erick Dampier. But this is also a case where Drew can prove his value to this team, and hopefully demonstrate some versatility.
In this test run, Drew Gooden is playing on borrowed minutes. Duncan is precisely the type of center that the Mavs would counter with the strength of Erick Dampier, but tonight they have no such luxury. Gooden is the choice to start by default, which, and forgive me for oversimplifying here, essentially means that there will be one of two possible outcomes:
- Drew Gooden plays well. He holds his own on the defensive end, making Tim Duncan work for his points and rotates well to contest penetration. Gooden scores on some Dampier-esque garbage buckets as well as dropping a few buckets when left to his own devices in the post. He uses up minutes at the 5 without being a liability on the floor, and he takes full advantage of this free opportunity.
- Drew Gooden falls in line with expectation. He allows Duncan, Blair, and McDyess to bully him in the post and on the glass. Gooden floats on defense, not committing to any particular man or system, but feigning activity. He uses up shot attempts at the 5 when there are better offensive options on the floor, and he stops the offense in order to maximize his own opportunities.
I would say it’s up to Drew, but it’s hardly that simple. Still, the fact remains that this is a free opportunity for Gooden to gain some ground on Erick Dampier for a consistent starting gig. If the Mavs’ starting center job really is a meritocratic endeavor, then Drew has nothing to lose tonight, but a lot to gain. A big night tonight would likely translate to more opportunities against a greater variety of opponents, and would shift the chips in Gooden’s favor as a default starter. Unless Gooden is content to let Damp ride shotgun, he should try his damnedest to prove himself against the very breed of center Drew was never supposed to prove himself against.