Dallas Mavericks Predictions and Expectations
By Charles Klask, Advance Scout, Orlando Magic
Ball Screens: Dallas is married to ball screens and will utilize multiple ball screens in the same possession. Single and double ball screens, ball screens with any player handling and setting even a 4/5 ball screen. They will set them at all different angles at any time. Watch for Dallas to utilize a lot of ball screens with Dirk handling. This action puts teams at a disadvantage by making it hard to switch yet hard to stay with the original assignments. Dallas will also have Dirk handle with Diop or Dampier setting the ball screen which might force Shaq into defending Dirk. These mismatches that the Mavs create will be posed all series long. Look for Miami to switch if set by a smaller player and go under if set by a bigger player.
Transition: Dallas has a definite advantage in transition offense. With numerous players comfortable in advancing the ball and filling various lanes the Mavs can still be forceful on the break. They will look to run Shaq to the bench and utilize their overall team speed. The Mavs were able to force Miami into 31 points off 18 Heat turnovers in game two of the regular season.
Big Men: Dallas big men are not called upon frequently to score and mostly feed off of others to be productive. On possessions that they do not touch the ball they need to attack the offensive glass. It is rare that Shaq beats people down the court so an offensive rebound attempt is in a way inexpensive. Their fives can really take advantage of the glass when Shaq goes to help on penetration.
Line 'Em Up: Dallas did a great job in the regular season of defending Shaq and Wade without fouling. By all means they will attempt to do the same, but with multiple bodies being available to defend Shaq, they might want to look at fouling within four feet of the basket. The Mavs must eliminate the thought that this tactic is a defeatist mentality and play the disparity between Shaq's free-throw (40 percent) and field-goal (61 percent) effectiveness. Chicago was able to exploit Shaq’s deficiencies on the line with great success.
Shaq: The Mavs have the personnel to battle Shaq with Diop or Dampier in single coverage. In the past, Damp has done a decent job in defending Shaq and embraces the challenge. Diop still needs to get aggressive before Shaq catches but can use his footwork and length to deny or front him. The Mavs have also shown to double team on occasion, usually off of less threatening outside shooters (Payton). They like to double when Shaq takes a deep dribble into the paint. Dallas can also trade-off post feed cutters and double Shaq. He has gravitational-like pull in that all four surrounding defenders zoom into him with microscopic intensity. Look for Dallas to mix their coverage on Shaq to keep him speculating what the defense is doing. Dallas has the athletes to swarm Shaq and still rotate out to shooters. If Shaqs speculating leads to hesitation the Mavs have a good chance.
Shade Wade: Dallas will tilt the floor and shade to the area of Wade’s action. Every catch, dribble and cut will be countered by five players swarming to his movement. In hopes of perplexing Wade, the Mavs will allocate multiple defenders of various skill sets and body types. They can use Griffin, Howard, Harris, Daniels, and possible Terry to confuse and bother Wade. Griffin does a tremendous job on Wade and forced him into three turnovers in their second regular season matchup. Griffin really crowded his every touch and eliminated his room to operate. It was one of the single best efforts I have ever seen on Dwyane. After Griffin has exhausted every ounce of effort the Mavs can switch and put Harris on him and disturb him with quickness. After Harris is tired they will place Howard on him to stifle him with length. The Mavs do a great job of adhering to player tendencies and will continue to deny his catches, force him right and stay grounded on his pump fakes.
It Takes a Village: No one player can stop either Wade or Shaq, it takes the entire team. Look for constant attention by all four help defenders any time these players are involved. If they need to they will double any deep post by Shaq or deep penetration by Wade. Dallas will make Miami’s three through eight beat them, especially Haslem. They also must attack the duo on defense and get them where they are least effective, on the bench next to Riley. It is much easier to defend this duet when they are divided. It is costly to leave Shaq or Wade to help so removing one half allows four helpers to Wade or Shaq instead of three.
Zone: Dallas did a good job in the regular season of zoning the Heat. With their length and athleticism the Mavs variable matchup zone can be quite effective. Miami definitely has some zone friendly lineups because of their streaky outside shooters. Look for a zone after timeouts to disrupt their offense coming out of the huddle and if Dallas gets into foul trouble.
Full-Court Pressure: Dallas' length and athleticism can bind the Heat backcourt into making mistakes. Look for them to pick up Miami full-court and hassle the uncontested dribble. Terry, Harris, Howard and Griffin can apply pressure to Miami’s ball handlers. Williams can get irritated by pressure, Wade settles to pass and avoids pressure, and Payton can take eight seconds just by backing down his opponent to half court. Detroit had some success with their pressing and Dallas might want to use it as a tempo changer. This could really shrink the shot clock and limit Shaq’s ability to post and re-post or pick-apart double teams. It might shorten Wade’s ability to break-down defenses and make plays. With a shorter clock the Mavs would force quicker decisions, which limits a key virtue, patience.
Play the Penetration: Dallas can defend the Pick-and-Roll with multiple schemes. They like to force down deliberate side Pick-and-Rolls. They can show hard and go over or under middle Pick-and-Rolls and even switch Pick-and-Rolls when playing small. Look for them to corral most of Miami’s ball screen packages not involving Wade. Miami has streaky outside shooters that are more dangerous when electing to drive. By not showing to the ball screen they can maintain paint support where most of Miami’s damage is done. When Wade is handling they might want to double hard and force him to pass quickly.
Lineups: Since they are playing a decently sized opponent they can go with bigger lineups. Look for Keith Van Horn, Nowitzki and either Dampier or Diop in at the same time. Van Horn and Nowitzki can switch back and fourth at the four position. Unless Miami goes really small with Wade at the three position, the Heat do not have a lineup that can bother Dallas’ big group. Dallas also has the privilege to go small with longer players that overcompensate for a lack of height. They could go with Dirk at the five and simulate a Suns-style attack which scorched the Heat for 47 first-quarter points earlier this season. Not many teams feature the flexibility the Mavericks do.
Special Teams: The Mavs coaching staff is one of the best in converting after timeouts. They have intricate sets that create quality shots or attack foreseeable weaknesses. This is not only limited to converting on offense but executing on defense. After every huddle the Mavs seem to increase their intensity and sharpen their strategy to improve their play. They can go zone after a timeout or look to trap a certain player in hopes to promote tentative play. Avery is solid in all special situations from out-of-bounds plays to last-second-need plays.
Playoffs Start in Training Camp: Having a champion’s mentality isn’t a choice when things are convenient, it is a covenant that you live your life by. From day one, Avery has infused this team with a champion’s mentality. This is one of the few teams that played playoff caliber basketball for the entire season. They rarely took possessions off and competed from tip to horn, every night. They were prepared and energized for all 82 games. Dallas has the best chemistry, one through fifteen, of any team in the league. They display a welcoming unselfishness and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. If any team deserves to be crowned it is Dallas because they have been playing like champions all season. This mentality is crucial because they do not have a lot of finals-tested players and are relatively young. Avery exudes confidence that seeps into all of the Mavs and is apparent in the way they persevere in close games like Game 7 in San Antonio.
Stackhouse: Stackhouse has been a beast off the bench and has hurt the Heat before. Miami must crowd his jumper and force him to drive left. Even as a mismatch, they should not try to double him because he is much improved at finding open teammates. Nonetheless he is critical in Dallas' success and will need to carry the bench as their primary scorer.
Griffin: Dirty work player. Brings his lunch-pail and is willing to sacrifice anything for the team. Look for him to start the game to set the intensity level on Wade.
The Unknown, Marquis: Relegated to the bench in the conference finals because of his inability to defend quicker players. He does have playmaking skills on offense and is useful as a point-forward. He is best when setting up others on offense and using his solid mid-range game either facing the basket or backing down his man. At times he will break plays to make plays, but needs to be more efficient when running the offense. The Mavs will need him in this series, especially if Howard and Harris get into foul trouble defending Wade.
X-Factor: Dampier. The second best center in the league will have to be able to pressure Shaq on both ends of the floor. Dallas needs to force Shaq to defend and increase his likelihood of foul trouble. Last series Shaq was free to roam inside and block shots by playing off of Ben Wallace. Those tactics will not be permissible if the Mavs want to win. Damp also has to defend Shaq and slow down his momentum toward the basket. Dallas' effectiveness will be predicated upon his ability to cover Shaq by himself without forcing double teams. Although he doesn’t have the leg strength to battle Sasquatch he can use his quickness to bother him by denying deep catches.
Charles Klask is an advance scout for the Orlando Magic, holding the position the last three seasons after spending the previous three as a video scout. Prior to joining the Magic, Klask spent one season with the WNBA's Detroit Shock in the role of video coordinator.
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