The Dallas Mavericks surprisingly reach the Western Conference Finals. The future is bright with Luka Doncic as the cornerstone of the franchise. He just earned his third All-NBA first-team nod at the age of 23.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban participated in a 1-on-1 live interview with Bleacher Report on Tuesday. As you might expect, the Mavericks were a hot topic of conversation.
Cuban asked if the Mavericks around Luka Doncic had the right figures to win a championship. He explained how the team’s shortcomings against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals had to do with “company knowledge” as opposed to talent.
“When we lost in the conference finals, I don’t think it was a lack of talent.” Cuban said. “I think the Warriors deserve a lot of credit for playing together for so long, their execution has been phenomenal. … It wasn’t so much talent as it was corporate knowledge.”
Cuban continued, “The experience of playing together all these years and being in difficult situations and knowing what to do,” Cuban explained. “We haven’t been there yet. We hadn’t gotten out of the first round in 10 years. A lot of it was execution and when we spoke to our boys throughout the series that was the theme that kept coming up.
“The Warriors knew where to be on both sides of the ball no matter how we adjusted. The teams we played against before weren’t that good at it,” said Cuban. “It’s not so much ‘we need that second star’ or whatever.
Cuban saw similarities in how the Warriors defeated the Celtics compared to what the Mavericks experienced in their own series. Golden State deployed a unit that acted together on a string in a manner that proved crucial.
“You can’t simulate [to gain the experience], you have to be there,” explained Cuban. “If you look at the Celtics Warriors in the finals, you can see the Celtics had great talent, but the Warriors just surpassed them. Same thing they did to us. You haven’t overtaken them. You caught the guy who was hot in the open. You looked good. They had people who knew their roles.”
One player who tipped the streak in favor of the Warriors was Andrew Wiggins, who after what Cuban had seen in the Western Conference Finals, considering he was promoted despite being new to those moments.
“I find [Wiggins] was the one who hit us. … We knew what to expect from Klay and from Steph and from Draymond,” Cuban said. “We didn’t know what to expect or how [Wiggins] would rise, and he did. That’s what matters in series like this. Anyone who understands their roles, is able to do what the coach tells you to do, and having people you would call role players come up when the time is right.”
While the Warriors don’t have a “Big 3” resembling some of the flashy superstar trios that have formed of late, they’re as closed as it gets. The elite shooting and off-ball movement offered by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson suits everyone.
Green’s ability to play from handoffs and short roll is fully maximized by playing with Curry, who draws an incredible amount of attention. Defenses can’t afford to fall low against Curry and often feel the need to blitz or at least play close to level, making it easy for Warriors to get defenses off-rotation. Why is that? Because of the threat Curry’s Reach poses.
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As games later come into the shot clock for the Warriors, they’ve brought defense out of rotation with either their split action, a high-ball screen, or a handoff to the point where there’s often 45-cut opportunities or offense, rebounds exist for a wing like Wiggins due to the inability of the defense to deal with them.
While some don’t refer to these Warriors star attributes as “talent” in the traditional sense, valuable attributes may not be given as much weight as they should.
Take Green’s defensive power, for example. Its processing in the semi-court is symbolic of a supercomputer. He is a vocal leader who essentially directs his teammates as the group’s middle linebacker. He executes defensive rotations with great timing and guards multiple positions in a way most players can’t ask for – making these traits a real talent.
Green spent stretches guarding the opponent’s secondary goal threat, while the Warriors often used Wiggins at the attacking point in defense. How many teams have a full-back close to Wiggins, let alone an anchor at Green’s level?
With Jalen Brunson facing a more challenging streak against the Warriors than he did against the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, the Mavericks had no third threat to use alongside him and Doncic to exploit weaknesses in the Warriors’ defense.
A grand piano would have been ideal for a number of reasons. Not just for the ability to put the catch in the gap or throw catch-and-shoot looks, but for having a third reliable full-back alongside Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith. Both players were legitimately gassed during the course of the playoff run.
Now the Mavericks no longer have Brunson and have yet to replace him with an experienced Warden. For a team in need of experience, going from the consummate college winner and playoff breakout star in Brunson to a second-round pick serving his first NBA season in Jaden Hardy plays.
The Mavericks came out of the Western Conference Finals, with rebounds being the big area they felt they needed. They acquired Christian Wood and JaVale McGee to help in that department. Each player adds helpful attributes to this team, but regardless, there are still some key areas that could be addressed.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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