If the Jacket Fits

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 18, 2010 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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It’s possible that the current vacancy in the Mavs’ starting lineup — the one that sprang from Rodrigue Beaubois’ broken foot — is merely a product of overthinking the plethora of options Rick Carlisle has before him. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd are fixtures in the starting five, and that trio is likely to be joined by both Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler. Opposite Butler on the wing, should the Mavs go for size and defense with Shawn Marion? Should they be persuaded by Rodrigue Beaubois’ promise upon his return from injury? Should they flirt with Dominique Jones?

Or maybe they should look to the one consistent scoring option they’ve had hiding on the bench all along.

The Mavericks’ most successful seasons this decade have come with Jason Terry as a starter in some capacity (either a primary playmaker or supplementary scorer, but often both), and yet he’s assumed as a natural candidate for sixth man duty due to the last three years’ routine. Change is good if it brings you a valuable player via trade or free agency, but apparently bad if it means fiddling with rotations to find the most effective fit. Even more perplexing is this: slow starts were a thorn in the Mavs’ collective side last season, and the tendency to spot opponents a few points in the first quarter has persisted into this year’s preseason and yet the idea to shift JET into the starting lineup is somehow a new, revolutionary development, rather than a natural evolution based on team need.

If you subscribe to Terry’s poor showing in last year’s playoffs as being indicative of a greater decline, then moving him into the starting lineup accomplishes little. I don’t think the basis for such an assertion is necessarily air-tight (Individual performance aside, did you know that Terry was a part of the Mavs’ five most productive lineups in last year’s playoffs according to adjusted plus-minus?), but there’s also no use in arguing around JET’s overall inefficiency in six unfortunate games against the Spurs last April.

Regardless, JET is still the most logical option should Carlisle look to supplement his embedded starters with another scorer. This particular job may have once been Beaubois’ to lose, but what’s the harm in making Terry, who is experienced, still productive, and most of all, healthy, the default? As long as doing so doesn’t curtail Beaubois’ opportunities on the floor, is it really such a bad thing for Dallas’ son to be promising but not adorned with a veteran’s spoils?

The Mavs will need Beaubois to produce (and have the minutes necessary to do so) this season, but starting isn’t the only way to achieve that end. For those who truly believe in Terry’s value as a reserve, those same virtues could be placed with Beaubois. Rodrigue shares Terry’s ability to generate offense for himself, while also being able to penetrate and create for others, an invaluable skill when playing among second-string talent. Then again, at the risk of writing myself in circles, that very same ability to function as a creator may be JET’s true substitutional value. He may not be able to get to the cup like Beaubois, but he’s clearly the steadier hand at this stage.

The circular nature of these types of arguments should hopefully be apparent, and largely so for one reason: at this point, there is no right answer. All we have now is the game tape of a handful of preseason contests with wonky rotations and bastardized allocations of minutes and shot attempts. All of which, as I needn’t remind you, has a conspicuous lack of Rodrigue Beaubois. So we take what we can and we take what we know, and roll ideas around so that we can follow their path and see where they take us. Many will insist that Beaubois, whether healthy, gimpy, or even still on crutches, is the starter absolute. That’s the kind of certitude that has no place before the regular season’s tip. It’s likely that a fully-functioning Beaubois will not only be worthy of a starting gig but also the optimal choice. At present, though, there’s no reason to think that he’s infinitely more palatable in that role than Terry.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd will start. Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood will get the benefit of the doubt to kick off the season. Everything else is open for debate, and Jason Terry has a good of a case as anyone.

  • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

    Interesting, and reasonable. One thing Terry lacks is any ability to rebound whatsoever according to Hollinger's stats. That means Dirk and Haywood have to step up thier games, but I wonder how much having one of the best PG rebounders of all time on the floor in Kidd offset's Terry's abysmal rebounding numbers?

    I think it makes perfect sense to start the season. Terry needs the mental boost of a solid start in my opinion. All season its not realistic, but that was never going to be the case anyway.

    There just arent enough minutes to keep everyone happy. I just hope we win early to keep everyone's pride in check.

  • Brayden

    If we start Terry, at least until Beaubois is back healthy and productive, why not move Butler to the 6th man where he can still play his natural 3 position but have more of a green light to shoot? Terry has more chemistry with Dirk anyway from all the years they have played together. Then we could move Marion into the starting lineup and unleash him on the kobe's, melo's etc. while still getting the scoring we need from Terry.

    Of course, an argument could still be made for moving Butler to the 2 and leaving Marion at the 3 as starters, but I am assuming we (and Butler himself) want to have him playing the 3 instead of the 2.

    • http://twitter.com/KirkSeriousFace Kirk Henderson

      I love that idea. Butler isnt going to be able to shake 4 years worth of being a gunner on a bad team. Why not put him with the second unit and let him heave away when we need it?

      His pride is the main reason why it wont happen. He's one of these children who thinks starting is more important than winning.

  • Inigo

    I agree.

    Since launching a strong start has been the Mavs weakness of late, inserting the Jet into the starting lineup may be the answer and may solve this problem once and for all.

    Further, this problem of slow starts and weak 1st quarters, if it persists during the first half of the coming season, could very well carry on to the rest of the season. Hence, the necessity of a fixing this problem right at the outset.

    Secondly, Roddy may not be fully ready for the first 10 to 15 games anyway. If JET is not inserted into the starting lineup, the Mavs may have, as additional problem, a bad start of the season — which should be the mother of the earlier problem of slow first quarters.

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