The mantra under Carlisle in Dallas has been depth, depth, depth, and Dallas believes it will again boast a broad and versatile roster. During the championship season, 11 players averaged at least 16.1 minutes a game (which included Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois, both of whom played only a quarter of the season due to injuries) and nearly every player contributed along the way to the championship. Last season, Carlisle also employed 11 players for at least 16.1 minutes a game (with a minimum of 44 games played).
With 15 players on the current roster, including eight being new to the team, there should be multiple competitive battles brewing when training camp opens in less than seven weeks. It could then take some time for Carlisle to settle on a rotation. With five new additions last season and injuries a constant theme, Carlisle never found a consistent rotation.
So let's begin this exercise with the known, or at least what we suspect to be the known: The five starters will be Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. There was some early politically correct whispering within the organization that Beaubois would compete with Collison for the starting job, but that is more likely wishful thinking. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has said Collison is "penciled" in as the starter.
Those figuring to have less defined backup roles include: Dahntay Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois and Brandan Wright.
That's already 11 players and we've yet to mention rookie Jae Crowder, who's looking to have a legitimate shot to break in at small forward, and rookie center Bernard James, who's also seeking to find time.
Two others yet to be named are third-year guard and 2010 first-round draft pick Dominique Jones, and June's 24th overall pick Jared Cunningham, the 6-4 combo guard out of Oregon State. So it's hardly unfair to begin the outside-looking-in list with DoJo and Cunningham at the top, which also means those two are the most likely not to be among the 13 active players when the season opens Oct. 30.
From there it gets a bit more complicated, especially at the guard positions. West is best-equipped among the plethora of guards to handle the point and the Mavs still hope to develop Beaubois there. At 6-6, Dahntay Jones offers little offensively, but brings size and stingy defense. The dynamic hardly affords the 6-2, 185-pound Beaubois guaranteed playing time and reinforces his need for a standout training camp.
Wright is another veteran who needs an impressive start or risks being squeezed.
With hungry rookies, veterans like Beaubois and Wright who need to produce and others like Dahntay Jones looking to create a niche with a new team, Carlisle's rotation could be as fluid as ever.