The NBA has been trending in a smaller direction for several years.

Centers are optional, unless of course they can knock down 3-point shots.

Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle has gone so far to say that he wouldn’t be opposed to playing 6-7 Dorian Finney-Smith at center in some situations. And that he could envision five guards on the court at some point.

Of course, when one of those guards is rebound-grabbing 6-7 Luka Doncic, you have that luxury.

The interesting aspect about the Mavericks – and one of the things they might turn into a major advantage come playoff time – is that they have the two tallest players in the NBA on their side.

We know Kristaps Porzingis is going to be a focal point. He’s the Mavericks’ second-best player.

What we don’t know for sure is whether an expanded role is in order for 7-4 Boban Marjanovic.

In case you didn’t notice, Boban’s last two times on the court he had 31 points and 17 rebounds against Denver on March 11 and 17 points and 13 rebounds on Thursday in a scrimmage against the Lakers at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in the NBA bubble.

That came didn’t count for anything in the big scheme of things, but it showed again that Marjanovic’s skill set is something that the Mavericks might – and probably should – take big advantage of when the games start counting next week.

So is it tougher to play a massive player like Marjanovic in this era of the NBA?

“Really inciteful question,” Carlisle said. “By virtue of our situation with a bit of a limited number of bodies, he’s a guy who’s going to be in the mix regardless of what the other team is putting out there. In most cases, we’re going to give him a look.”

And, when opponents try to stretch the court and make it so that Marjanovic has a situation where there isn’t a clear player that he will be guarding?

“There are ways we can look to protect him defensively if teams are spreading us out,” Carlisle said. “But around the basket, he’s an absolute force. He’s got great hands, he’s got great touch, he passes it, he makes free throws. He does a lot of damage in there. He’s doing good things.”

After Thursday’s scrimmage against the Lakers, Carlisle said that the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein and Dwight Powell will open the door for more chances for Marjanovic, adding that he’s “definitely a weapon for us and we’re going to have to take advantage of what he does.”

What he does is a lot more than just take up space. He hit a couple of jump shots from the elbow – the area at either end of the free throw line. He also threw down a couple of jump-hook shots with no effort.

Essentially, there’s nobody that can guard him, which is what opponents must deal with when they go to lineups and try to make it so that there’s nobody Marjanovic can guard on the other end.

“I don’t know what they try to do,” Marjanovic said Friday. “But I know I can use my height and my ability.”

And, while Marjanovic has been a spot player on most of the previous teams he’s been on, he’s given Carlisle plenty of evidence that he’s ready to contribute more.

“Every time I’m on a new team, I’m a big factor,” he said. “My teammates trust me. If I play, don’t play, I still think I’m a big part because of the positive energy and what you are available to do. When I play, I try to do my best to help my team. And when I’m on the bench, I try to help my team

“I understand (my role). It’s not about one player and how he plays. It’s about how the team plays.”

Burke arrives: After clearing quarantine, 6-0 guard Trey Burke went through his first practice with the Mavericks on Friday.

He did not do scrimmage work, but he was working with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on extra conditioning off to the side.

“We have everybody here that we’re going to have,” Carlisle said. “And that’s a good thing.”

Twitter: @ESefko


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