ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor in chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.
Who should be the Mavs' starting center?
Gutierrez: If this team wants to be a legitimate threat, it really needs to be Samuel Dalembert. That said, the onus is on Dalembert to be motivated and bring energy. After their win against Houston, when he played 29 minutes, Dallas is now 8-1 when Dalembert plays at least 25 minutes. If he’s playing 25 minutes, Dallas is playing a style that relies heavily on a big man with size who will play defense. Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair are nice guys to bring off the bench, but the Mavericks need Dalembert to be their starter.
Taylor: If Samuel Dalembert is only going to play when it suits him, or if he can't fully grasp the defensive concepts, then the Mavs need to go with DeJuan Blair. This team has trouble defending and rebounding, so it can't afford to have guys who are just along for the ride. It needs all of its big guys to play with maximum effort. Dalembert is the better all-around player, but he's not so good that he needs to start regardless of how he plays.
MacMahon: I want to see Brandan Wright get a shot at the starting role. Dallas did go 10-6 with him as a starter last season. He’s not a prototype starting center because of his lack of bulk, but to tweak the old saying, plus-minus don’t lie. And the plus-minus of the Dirk Nowitzki/Wright duo is consistently outstanding. The Mavs outscored opponents by an average of 13.3 points per 100 possessions with that pair on the floor last season. That number this season is at 28.9 points per 100 possessions through four games (a margin of 34 points in 52 minutes). Why not put Nowitzki in his most productive pairing as often as possible?
Who is the Mavs' best trade chip?
Gutierrez: Dallas has assets that cater to whatever seems to be the ‘hot commodity’ at that time. If someone needs a defensive stopper as a rental, Shawn Marion is your man. If someone needs bench scoring threat, that’s Vince Carter. If you want low-scale, team-friendly deals, Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin are your guys. Jae Crowder is probably a hybrid of all of the intangibles listed above. Defense isn’t sexy as a trade chip, so I’m actually going to say the versatility of Crowder makes him their best trade chip. That means Dallas can make a move, but it’s likely not going to be one that blows the doors off.
Taylor: Shawn Marion is a true pro who can still impact a game with his defense. If a legitimate championship contender wanted to pluck any player from the Mavs' roster Marion would make the most sense. He scores, he rebounds, he can pass and he has a winning mentality. Marion backs down from no one and he's back to hitting the three-point shot again.
MacMahon: I’ll agree that it’s Marion, but it’s because of his $9.3 million expiring contract. The Mavs don’t have the pieces to pull off a blockbuster deal that’s purely motivated by basketball reasons on both sides. If they’re going to add a major piece, their trade partner would have to be motivated by finances.
How many future Hall of Famers are on the Mavs' roster right now?
Gutierrez: I’m going with three: Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Shawn Marion. Dirk is a no-brainer, so I’ll state the case for Carter and Marion. The only inactive player who has scored more points than Vince Carter and isn’t in the Hall of Fame is Allen Iverson (24,368). Carter currently ranks in the top 30 all-time in scoring (22,512). Carter is surrounded by Hall of Famers on the all-time scoring list. He came into the league as a high-flying showman, but he’s shown longevity and the ability to adapt over time and I think that bodes well for his case. Marion has somewhat of a realistic chance of pulling down his 10,000th career rebound this season. Just add that to his jack-of-all-trades resume. Marion’s already joined Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Kevin Garnett as the only players in NBA history with at least 16,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals and 1,000 blocks. That’s a heck of a group to be associated with, or as Marion would say, "That's what's up."
Taylor: Dirk Nowitzki should be a no-question Hall of Famer. Vince Carter has scored more than 22,000 points and was one of the most exciting players in the league for more than a decade, but he doesn't have any championship hardware. You could call him this era's Dominique Wilkins. Shawn Marion should probably get considerable Hall of Fame consideration because of his outstanding all-around game, but he's the kind of player who usually gets ignored by voters.
MacMahon: The guy up for debate here is Marion. That debate should have ended after the Mavs’ championship run. If a man puts up the kind of numbers that Marion has over the course of his career and makes that kind of impact defensively against Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James during a championship run, he should be a Hall of Famer.