By Charles Klask, Advance Scout, Orlando Magic
MIAMI - Jason Williams: Great complimentary PG who fits in well, distributing to others. Underrated finisher in transition. Aggressive defender. Loves to drive right. Inconsistent decision maker. Great backup Gary Payton takes pride in defending. Mostly called upon to hit open jumpers off other players. Good shooter from corners.
Point Guard Edge: Dallas
DALLAS - Adrian Griffin: Could start on Wade to set a defensive tone of tough and aggressive play. Did a good job against him on Feb. 9. Look for them to play various defenders on Wade. Chicago and Detroit proved that in order to win you need him to be a play-maker and not a shot-maker.
Shooting Guard Edge: Miami
DALLAS - Josh Howard: People are used to passing over the Mavs second most talented player. The hype surrounding who of the 2003 draft class will be first to a ring, LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh, Kaman or Wade might be muted by the fact that Darko already beat everyone and that Howard might be next. 28 picks later Howard has emerged as perennial all-star candidate with his versatility and effort. The prototypical small forward has been overlooked and undervalued until now. He has the complete package of interior and exterior offense. Can shoot, drive or post. He is a great rebounder and is capable of defending up to four positions. His willingness to do the little things is commendable. In the playoffs he is shooting 40 percent from three, 50 percent from two and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Small Forward Edge: Dallas
DALLAS - Dirk Nowitzki: Most improved player normally doesn’t go to an All-NBA player but can you think of another superstar that has transformed his game to encompass all aspects of basketball. He is a better rebounding, post player, defender, passer and decision maker. All of that combined with a relentless mentality to stave off the "soft" label from his earlier days. He still favors driving left when facing the basket and turning over his right shoulder when having his back to the basket.
Power Forward Edge: Dallas
DALLAS - DeSagana Diop: "Big Sag" as Shaq nicknamed him. Diop has really developed in Dallas. He has good hands and swift feet for a 7-footer. He is also equipped with solid basketball instincts to block shots, rotate on defense, agile to front the post and rebound. His work ethic is admirable and will try his best vs. Shaq. Backup Erick Dampier loves to play against Shaq and will bring everything he has in stopping the beast. Dampier is capable of scoring inside with big drop steps, turning over his right shoulder.
Center Edge: Miami
MIAMI: While their bench definitely has a leg up on experience they suffer from a lack of versatility and athleticism. Many of their benchers are one-dimensional in that they can only defend, shoot, drive or post. Few can combine the aforementioned skills.
DALLAS: Being young and experienced can hinder a team’s chance for success. Inexperience can be negative if you are undisciplined, unsure of your role and are uninteresting in improving. Fortunately none of the Mavs fall into these categories. While it might take an extra possession to adapt or an additional tutoring session from the coaches, the inexperienced Mavs adjust quite well.
Bench Edge: Dallas
DALLAS - Avery Johnson: The question of "Are coaches made or born?" Avery Johnson was born to coach and has been doing so for 18 years. Factoring his playing days into the equation is justified because he has been coaching everyday, now he just has the title. Not enough people credit playing history when looking at coaching experience. He has a unique blend of offensive ingenuity and defensive intensity that will be the model for up and coming teams at all levels. They say teams mirror the personality of their Head Coach and the Mavs fit this bill. They are disciplined and passionate like Avery. Dallas respects and responds to everything Avery is trying to do. The Mavs have also assembled a fantastic staff of basketball tacticians and developers.
Coaching Edge: Even
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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