Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Importance of Depth

With the signing of Corey Brewer official today, by my count the Dallas Mavericks are the deepest team in the league. A quick rehash of the final depth chart for this season (I won't include Jason Terry or Roddy Beaubois as back up point guards or anything as to not confuse you. But yes, Terry and Beaubois can run the point if something happened to both Kidd and Barea):

PG: Jason Kidd/ J.J. Barea
SG: Rodrigue Beaubois/Jason Terry/DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Peja Stojakovic/Corey Brewer
PF: Dirk Nowitzki/Shawn Marion/Brian Cardinal
C:  Tyson Chandler/Brendan Haywood/Ian Mahinmi

Now, don't get my wrong, depth is great. It is what helps you sneak in a win on a back-to-back, or when your starters don't feel like playing that Sunday afternoon game in Toronto. But look at that depth chart above. Aside from Brian Cardinal and DeShawn Stevenson, couldn't you realistically see each of those players getting 20 minutes in a game? What happens in the playoffs, when rotations are supposed to be cut short?

I did some slight digging and looked at every championship roster from now till 2000. At most, team's had seven players who played at least 20 minutes. In some cases it was six and in three cases (two of the Lakers titles in the early 2000s three-peat and the 2004 Detroit Pistions) only had five players who averaged at least 20 minutes. No team had eight players average 20 minutes a play game.

In the playoffs, rotations shrink. Starters play between 35-40 minutes a game and you rely on your horses -- not bit players -- to get you to the title. I bring this up because I'm not sure I understand where the minutes are going to come from come May. Let's just throw out DeShawn Stevenson and Brian Cardinal. What happens when Chandler needs a breather and Brandan Haywood decided he wants to be mopey Brandan Haywood. Do you really play Ian Mahinmi? It's OK to play Mahinmi, a center who is very athletic, energetic but a bit raw, over 20 minutes against the Raptors or maybe the Wizards. But against the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs? Or the Spurs in the Western Finals?

I've said before, role players are role players because they have a particular niche or trait that is nice in short bursts, but when played out can be exposed for the other flaws in their game. For instance, if Jason Terry isn't lighting it up from outside, he isn't of much use for his average defense for 30 minutes in a tight playoff game. Same goes for Peja. If Kobe Bryant is dominating over Corey Brewer for an entire first half, then he doesn't provide much else for you to play him in the second half. It is nice to know however, that now the Mavericks do have enough role players to surrond Dirk with that they can match up to any situation.

Need shooters when Dirk is triple teamed? Just run out a lineup of Kidd, Terry, Peja and Chandler. Terry's not hitting? Then put in Beaubois or Terry. Need to get to the rim? Repeat previous step. Kobe Bryant taking out his frustrations on Peja? Slap Brewer or Marion on him. Manu and Richard Jefferson terrorizing on the wings? Put Brewer AND Marion out there.

Flexibility and depth aren't a bad thing, but it just hasn't been the number one factor for a team winning a championship. I guess we should consider the deepness of the Mavericks roster a safety net and know that if the Mavericks are every sucker punched or surprised by an opponent in the playoffs (San Antonio 2010, Golden State 2007 and Miami 2006) there will be multiple options to go instead of freaking out and moving to another hotel. Yeah, I'm still bitter.


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  1. Too deep? At least these Mavs can challenge almost anything, but who really knows in the playoffs. The Mavs will easily one of the most interesting teams to watch in the playoffs, at least that i bet.

  2. Josh - you must've wrote this quickly. As I was reading I was thinking someone else posted this because of some of the errors.

    Sorry to nitpick - I guess you never give up the scrutiny of the written word with a journalism degree.

    Other than that - I like.

  3. Hey Josh,

    I enjoyed reading your take on the Mavs, they're definitely the deepest in my books.

    Coincidentally, I just wrote a blog on a similar topic today, however I contend that depth has been the key to the last 4 championships:

    Let me know what you think!


    Sydney, Australia

    P.S. I'm still hurting from D-Wade's one man wrecking crew in '06 too.