If Corey Brewer clears waivers by 1:00 CST on Thursday he’ll sign a deal with the Dallas Mavericks and add yet another element to what is already the deepest team in the league. The question I keep getting asked is, ”what is his role?”
Rick Carlisle generally likes to play these things close to the vest, but based on the substitution patterns he’s employed for the last few months, best estimates would indicate that Brewer’s role for the remainder of this season will be as a part-time starter based on whomever Dallas is playing.
Where the Mavericks have really been sticking it to opponents since the team got Dirk Nowitzki back from injury in January has been with an absolutely dominant “second unit.”
Carlisle generally rolls it out like this: Dirk and the starting two-guard (used to be DeShawn Stevenson, now it’s Rodrigue Beaubois) go to the bench somewhere around midway through the first and are replaced by the dynamic duo of Shawn Marion and Jason Terry. They get their feet wet with Jason Kidd running the show and Tyson Chandler’s activity in the paint. When it’s time for J.J. Barea to replace Kidd, Carlisle generally brings Dirk back in, as well, replacing Peja Stojakovic and sliding Marion down to the small forward. Carlisle started this aspect of the pattern very early in the season, presumably to put a ridiculously dynamic offensive force in Dirk on the floor with Barea, who’s November and December struggles were epic. Somewhere in the mix Brendan Haywood or Ian Mahimni would get the call to spell Chandler depending on Chandler’s foul situation and the matchup.
That lineup, generally matched up against an assortment of bench players, has provided a first-half lift on numerous occasions in the past two months. In fact, Carlisle believes so much in that substitution pattern that the Mavericks literally brought in Sasha Pavlovic off the street and started him at small forward after a few games so that they could maintain the magic of bringing Marion and Jet in off the bench together. With Dallas having acquired Peja and feeling that he’d be a better option at the three than Pavlovic, they didn’t retain him after his second 10-day contract expired despite the fact that Dallas went 5-1 in his six starts.
What does this have to do with Corey Brewer?
When Dallas brought in Peja, I didn’t view him as a solution to their starting small forward woes, but rather as a specialist who’s ability to spread the floor could be critical during stretches when teams were loading up on Dirk in the half-court game. He would make things easier when the offense bogs. However, there would be several occasions where his limitations on defense could really hamper the Mavericks depending on the opponent. Brewer is quite possibly the exact opposite of Peja in every single conceivable way. What Brewer allows Dallas to do is match up better with certain teams who have a high–octane scoring option at the three that Peja would never be able to keep up with and not be forced to disrupt the highly effective bench roles and patterns this team already has firmly in place.
On nights where Dallas is faced with the difficult task of contending with a Kobe Bryant or a Kevin Durant, Brewer is your option. If they don’t feel like a Nic Batum or a Grant Hill will kill them, then Peja starts and keeps the floor properly spaced. They key to all this working is that the Mavs keep winning so that everyone stays content in their role. It was also critical that Brewer signs a multi-year deal so that he knows his playing time or lack thereof, depending on the opponent, doesn’t impact where he’ll be next year.
Brewer could also see minutes at the two, though that seems less likely considering the giant logjam in the backcourt that has already squeezed Stephenson out of the mix.
Dallas’ success is based on its options at every position and their ability to match up with anybody and play different styles of basketball. The championship blueprint they most closely resemble is that of the 2004 Detroit Pistons. But they weren’t quite equipped to defend the way those Pistons did despite being stronger offensively. Adding Brewer to the mix is a step toward shoring up that defense and making this team the real contender their record says they are.