DALLAS — It was a blueprint that the Dallas Mavericks used to capture the NBA championship during the 2010-11 season. It was also the formula that the San Antonio Spurs utilized en route to last season’s title.
Looking to make the extra pass each possession and showcasing stellar ball movement as a team, the Spurs had no problem sprinting past the Miami Heat in five games to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the ’13-14 campaign. It was a formula the Mavericks originated, however, when they also took down the Heat during the 2011 NBA Finals.
And with the additions of several key pieces to a core that already features 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs owner Mark Cuban says his new-look team will once again display a willingness to share the ball while providing depth to Dallas’ attack.
“Every guy that we added and every guy that we have is a willing passer. You know, we don’t have that guy that doesn’t want to pass the ball, and I’m hoping that’s what makes the difference more than does Dirk have to carry the load,” Cuban said last week in a radio interview with 105.3 FM The Fan.
Last season, the Mavericks finished ranked sixth while averaging 23.6 assists an outing, boosting an offensive attack that was built around Nowitzki in the high post. The Mavs also ranked eighth in the league in scoring, putting up 104.8 points an outing as five different players averaged in double figures.
Nowitzki was once again the leader of the cohort, averaging a team-high 21.7 points a game during his 80 appearances while connecting on 49.7 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from three-point range and 89.9 percent at the free-throw line to finish just shy of another 50-40-90 season. But, thanks to the emergence of 2-guard Monta Ellis last year and the summer signing of newcomer Chandler Parsons, Cuban says the Mavericks are poised for much more offensive success this upcoming season while requiring less from the face of the franchise.
“If you have enough guys who can contribute and the ball moves and you take the high-percentage shot, then anything is possible,” Cuban explained.
He added: “My hope is that we’re going to have a lot of guys able to score, because we’re moving the ball and we’re hitting the open man and Monta is attacking and kicking to the ball (out) and Chandler Parsons is attacking the basket.”
But will the Mavericks be less reliant on Nowitzki at the offensive end?
Looking to build a similar model for success as the Spurs did by supplying future Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan with plenty of help, the Mavs will try to lighten Nowitzki’s burden by surrounding him with several other offensive options. The addition of Ellis last season proved to be a step in that direction, providing the Mavs with a 19-point scorer nightly and the team leader in assists at 5.7 an outing. Parsons also figures to alleviate some of the offensive responsibilities of Nowitzki after averaging a career-high 16.6 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists an outing last season for Houston prior to signing with the Mavs this summer.
Still, as Cuban acknowledges, several unsung heroes will have to emerge in order for the Mavs to replicate what the Spurs were able to do last season as the Dallas team tries to recapture the title.
“Well, that’s the hope,” Cuban said when asked if the Mavs will be able to lighten the load on the 36-year-old Nowitzki’s broad shoulders. “That is really the hope. And you know what? I think part of the lesson from what we proved when we won and what San Antonio proved is it wasn’t Duncan getting that last-minute shot, right? It was Patty Mills and Danny Green and anybody being in a position to contribute. [Manu] Ginobili didn’t have a great series in the last couple. He had a great one against us (in the first round of the playoffs), but not afterwards. They were a good team and they moved the ball, they got the open shot and they were smart. I mean, literally, in the Finals, Patty Mills is sprinting up and doing pull-up threes. You know, it was almost like Nellie Ball. And I think the lesson there isn’t so much does one guy carry the load, but the lesson is can your team carry the load?”