Dallas Mavericks: Athleticism Will Play Into Success Against Elite Teams

Nov 10, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7) shoots past New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 10, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7) shoots past New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

For the first time in years, the Dallas Mavericks have a group of athletic playmakers on their roster. That’s going to help them against the better teams in the league.

Let’s face it. The Dallas Mavericks have not been an athletic team in quite some time. With Josh Howard serving as their only reliable draft pick from 2000-15, the Mavs have usually operated as one of the older teams in the league.

That’s become an increasing concern since the championship year in Dallas. With Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki forming three-fifths of the starting lineup in 2011, the team certainly didn’t have many young pieces to go to and needed more help in the following seasons.

Since then, they’ve made signings like bringing O.J. Mayo aboard, trying Monta Ellis and acquiring Chandler Parsons, but they’ve suffered the same fate each time. Those players provided them with the boost that they needed, but they — along with other younger players around them — mostly vanished after a season or two with the team.

It turned into such a rough process that the Mavs became determined to build a different kind of team around Dirk Nowitzki–one with a fair share of youth and athleticism that could complement the big man in his final years with the team.

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Now, heading into the 2016-17 season, the Mavs will have a team that features Harrison Barnes, Justin Anderson, Quincy Acy, Seth Curry and Dwight Powell — players who are all 26 years of age and younger. Not to mention the fact that they’ll also have rookie draft pick A.J. Hammons and two other young players that will compete for roster spots in training camp.

For the first time since maybe the early to mid-2000s, the Mavs have legitimate athletic playmakers that will help them against some of the younger, faster-paced teams in the league.

The following clip of Powell throwing down a huge one-handed dunk may be from training camp, but it still shows what he’s capable of doing around the basket.


Then you have to consider the fact that Anderson showcased just how much of an athlete he is last season with his play on both ends of the floor.

Head coach Rick Carlisle had the following to say on his game (via Mavs.com):

"“He’s doing a lot of good things here in camp, and you can tell he’s a guy that’s a lot more comfortable this year than he was last year, as far as the style of play that we have and the style of play in the league.”"

He was great at driving the lane and collecting easy buckets, but his most impressive skill was how high he could get for blocks and the fashion in which he was able to get to the ball.

Add in the likes of newcomers like Barnes, Acy and especially Curry and you have a young core built for the future — one that has tons of versatility.

It’s pretty obvious that this is going to help the Mavs in a lot of different ways, but consider the following records from the 2015-16 season.

The Mavs were a combined 13-30 against playoff teams in the regular season. They were 9-18 against the West and 4-12 against the East, with no wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat or Atlanta Hawks.

If there’s one thing that pops out about most of those teams, it’s that they were very athletic. With the Thunder, there’s Russell Westbrook and the rest of their young core. Then you have players like DeMar DeRozan, Hassan Whiteside and a championship roster with the Cavs to deal with.

Take a closer look at the West too. The Mavs earned just one win each against the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. Their win against the Clippers came in an emotional home game with DeAndre Jordan serving as the primary focus while they managed to beat the Warriors without Stephen Curry on the floor.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, it’s easy to see that the Mavs could’ve very well gone winless against the top four teams in each conference last season.

Obviously those teams had much better rosters than the Mavs did, but they also had centerpieces on their respective teams that were young and more capable of making those explosive plays that you see on SportsCenter’s Top 10 every night.

The Mavs were simply incapable of hanging with those ultra-athletic teams like the Clippers and Raptors that used length and overall mobility to capitalize on players like Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia, who stood no chance at guarding them.

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There’s a reason why the team ended the season on a 7-2 run with six straight wins from Mar. 28 to Apr. 8. At that point in the season, they started to rely on players like Justin Anderson and Salah Mejri, who were more capable of making those big plays Dallas desperately needed, instead of some of their other bench options.

With a new season coming up, the Mavs suddenly find themselves with as much youth as some of the rising teams in the league.

As they continue to develop the players on their roster that they used last season and start to implement the new pieces into their lineup, they should see less games where teams just seem faster than them or where teams expose certain matchups because of age.

We like to refer to teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves or Utah Jazz as teams of the future simply because of their overall average age and the fact that their rising stars seem to put on shows night in and night out.

While the Mavs have more star talent than those teams do, they share some common characteristics. Some of their rookies might not have the same amount of upside, but we’re seeing the scene in Dallas slowly transition from the Dirk Nowitzki era to a new era filled with a future built upon a young core of players.

Next: Dallas Mavericks: 2016-17 Season Outlook

Their offseason moves certainly didn’t make them championship contenders, but the Mavs now have the youth and athleticism to keep up with those elite teams in the league and should be able to make more of an impact against playoff-caliber teams.