Rick Carlisle will have the luxury of managing a logjam at the point guard position for the second straight season.
Only this time, there are a few more logs floating down the river.
Think about it: This wasn’t an issue last October. Jose Calderon was the Dallas Mavericks’ starting point guard at the start of the regular season with no debate, no hesitation. Backing up Calderon was Devin Harris, with the two young prospects, Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel, waiting quietly at the end of the bench.
It wasn’t a problem. Calderon and Harris carried the bulk of the minutes last season. Now Calderon is gone, the Mavs need a new starting point guard and Dallas has three potential options that could start on Opening Night, including Harris himself. Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton almost make this a point-guard-by-committee approach.
But the mastermind Carlisle won’t let that happen. He’ll take one guy, have him start the whole year and we all will gather around the campfire and sing “Kumbaya.”
So what’s the plan?
Good question. We’re two months away from the regular season, Concocting a plan that somewhat makes sense just under three months before the season starts is like predicting what horse will win the Triple Crown three months before the Kentucky Derby.
But for the time being, here’s what we can guess.
For starters, Harris is being paid like a starter now. A four-year deal worth a shade over $16 million sounds like a deal that’s made for someone to be a team’s starting point guard, and no one would mind that. Harris’ performance in the playoffs last season is enough to say he’s earned back that starting role.
But the mastermind Carlisle has an interesting way of operating. This is a coach who, once upon a time, thought starting Eddy Curry in an NBA game in 2013 was a good idea, and he actually played better than Dwight Howard on Opening Night two years ago.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to never underestimate Carlisle. That’s why if Carlisle decided to make Harris the team’s sixth man and start either Felton or Nelson, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea. Nor would it be a bad idea to make Nelson the team’s sixth man and start Harris.
Carlisle is a man of matchups, but he’s also a man of game management the likes of which only Gregg Popovich can parallel. What if Carlisle decides to leave Harris on the bench and start Nelson or
for some odd reason Felton?
The thought of a Harris backcourt with Monta Ellis is salivating. After all, the old saying is fast don’t lie. In this instance, it’d be a track meet with these Mavs with that backcourt.
But Carlisle, who could’ve started Harris against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, left Calderon in the starting lineup knowing that Harris’ speed is an X-Factor coming off the bench.
What that says about Carlisle is performance isn’t the be-all and end-all of solidifying your role with the Mavs. There’s going to come a point when the Mavs inch closer to playoff time that having that speed off the bench is going to be key.
That’s why signing Nelson was important. It’s not that Jameer has fallen off the ranks of being a really good point guard. You put that kind of 3-point shooting in a lineup of this caliber, and Nelson could be as good as he was in Orlando with Dwight Howard.
So if I had to make an early guess, it’ll be Nelson starting Game 1, Harris as the sixth man and Felton finding some sort of role at shooting guard. Meanwhile, Gal Mekel sits all alone at the end of the bench, hoping for attention.
It’s a logjam that Carlisle is willing to take on, and it’s a much better situation than last season already.