Mavericks owner Mark Cuban proclaims Dallas has enough size and depth to beat the Lakers
A slate of games in mid-January already seemed to be interesting, with the Lakers playing three games against Oklahoma City, Dallas and Denver in highly contested post-season preview match-ups. Well, the ante went up just a bit.
Speaking with reporters, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban didn't mince words when he was asked whether Dallas can beat the Lakers this season: "Hell yes. That's it. Hell yes. We've got the size now. We've got the depth. We've got a lot more depth than the Lakers. It's not even close there." After he was asked what the team's expectations entailed after winning at least 50 games for nine consecutive seasons, Cuban raised the bar pretty high. "We're going to have so much depth that it's really going to give us an advantage this year," he said. "All our guys are coming in with one focus only and that's to win a championship. That's the goal. "
One could say Cuban isn't being as cautious as, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves were with their recent full-page ad. Of course, Cuban's shooting from the hip tendencies and eye for headline-grabbing soundbites will eventually result in his quote getting boiled down to this: Dallas isn't afraid of the Lakers and it thinks it can unseat the defending champions. Yet, the actual substance of his comments aren't that far off base, even if they're incorrect. I don't agree with Cuban's contention simply because the Lakers are just more talented than Dallas and the Mavericks couldn't beat the Lakers in a seven-game series. I also don't think the Mavericks have better size and depth than the Lakers. But Cuban's factors warrant a good enough reason that Dallas could pose as a legitimate playoff opponent and maybe get a win or two in the regular season.
Let's start with Cuban's contention that Dallas has enough size to contend with the Lakers. That's one of the biggest advantages the Lakers have in Andrew Bynum (7-0), Pau Gasol (7-0), Lamar Odom (6-10) and Theo Ratliff(6-10). It isn't even just the size that makes the Lakers' front line intimidating. It's the skills from each of the players themselves that present match-up problems, with Bynum's ability to get easy put-backs and close-range shots, Gasol's mid-range jumper and beautiful footwork in the post, Odom's versatility and ability to spread the floor and Ratliff's defensive tenacity.
And how do the Mavericks match up? They have Tyson Chandler, who was traded this off-season from Charlotte for Erick Dampier. Chandler (7-1) had a solid experience with Team USA, but didn't really receive much playing time and he's primarily been known as a defensive presence, although ankle injuries have made him less effective in that area. Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle expects 7-0 Brendan Haywood's offense to complement Chandler's defense, but that honestly won't be enough to win a front-line match-up with the Lakers. The Mavericks expect two-year center Alexis Ajinca (7-1) to compete for the third center position because of his youth, long arms and a good shot from the elbow. But he lacks experience. All in all, Dallas may have the size in height, but it doesn't have the same skill to match up inside with the Lakers.
Second, let's address the depth issue. I actually believe it's been an incredible misnomer last season to say that the Lakers had depth, yet it's something I constantly heard players repeat during interviews. The Lakers never, ever had depth last season. They had enormous talent in their starting five and Odom, and then the talent dipped tremendously. Even though there are many positions some of the Lakers reserves can't play, I didn't consider the team to have much depth because two significant injuries to the Lakers' starting five would have dampened their chances tremendously. Injuries were surely a factor last season, but player absences mostly never overlapped and most of the hurt players just played through thepain. This year, the Lakers addressed that issue in picking up Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. More likely, the Lakers won't be as leery of the reserves blowing leads, allowing too many open-perimeter three-pointers and disrupting chemistry.
As far as how the Lakers' depth matches up with the Mavericks? After headliners Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, former Laker Caron Butler will see how beneficial his off-season conditioning will pay off this season, in which he's expected to play as many as three positions, including shooting guard, small forward and power forward. Dallas wants to give second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois a larger role this season, but it's uncertain how healthy he'll be at the start because of an injured left foot. If Beaubois were to start, that might mean Carlisle would play Shawn Marion off the bench (though Marion seemed initially opposed to it). Mavs Moneyball believes J.J. Barea could be a solid back-up point guard, but argues his averaging 20 minutes per game would be counterproductive. And it's expected rookie guard Dominique Jones will go through some initial growing pains.
Cuban's arguments aren't exactly wrong. His team does have size and depth. It may even have more depth since some of their reserves may earn some starting minutes as well. Whether that will be enough to beat the Lakers? Maybe a few games, but not enough to win a series.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently claimed that Dallas has enough size and depth to beat the Lakers. Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Photo: Dallas owner Mark Cuban has been known over the years for making bold claims to the media. Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press