The Dallas Mavericks are a fringe playoff team despite the addition of Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline. Luka Doncic is one of the best players in the world since he was drafted in 2018. Kyrie Irving is arguably one of the most skilled players according to his peers and a handful of analysts. But why do the Mavs continue to struggle this season? Is it about Jason Kidd’s odd rotations during games or is it about the chemistry of Doncic and Irving on and off the court? The problem lies more in how their starting five have been constructed throughout the years. The team doesn’t have a reliable starting center ever since Tyson Chandler donned the jersey during their magical championship run in 2011.
Before that, with their playoffs run in the mid-2000s, they had Erick Dampier in the middle. Who could also forget 7 foot 6 Shawn Bradley? They finally signed a past-his-prime DeAndre Jordan in 2018 after his 2015 free agency fiasco. Kristaps Porzingis didn’t want anything to do with the center position during his time with the Mavs. Christian Wood is a good addition, but he serves as the backup to Dwight Powell or Maxi Kleber. The center position throughout the Mavs’ history is full of role players that would be backups for other teams. While many pundits may point out that it’s a guard-heavy league with all the three-pointers being shot night in and night out, there is a resurgence for big men that dominates the game with the likes of Jokic, Embiid and to an extent, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Are the Mavs equipped to handle those skilled big guys when post-season comes around? That’s a resounding no.
Their backcourt may be one of the best in the league right now but their center position has almost been incompetent for the last 25 years. The team is historically bad when it comes to drafting big men. Some examples of their bad selections in the center position were Bill Wennington, Roy Tarpley, Samaki Walker, Nick Fazekas, Wang Zhizhi, and infamously wasting a pick on Satnam Singh, albeit in the latter stages of the 2015 draft. Powell and Kleber are decent role players but they will continue the Mavs tradition of low-tier centers who will struggle with All-NBA tier competition during the season and playoffs. Jason Kidd talked about outscoring their opponents with a high-octane offense coming from their superstar backcourt but opposing teams will relentlessly attack their interior defense at any chance they would get. That is the biggest problem they have right now and it’s been an ongoing problem with the Mavs throughout their existence. They never had an all-star caliber center who will strike fear in their opponents once they attack the basket.
They won’t win the championship anytime soon if they refuse to address this problem. They can’t expect Luka to carry this team without a solid defensive big to anchor the defense. Changes need to be done in the upcoming offseason for this team to progress deeper when games matter most.