Dec 23, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks guardRajon Rondo
(9) in the huddle with teammates against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 124-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Mavericks have managed to put together one of the most compatible and complimentary rosters in the NBA. With Rajon Rondo leading the way, just how good can they be?
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The Mavericks have had a very respectable 4-2 record during their first six games with Rondo, and a new point guard with an entirely different play style from what they’re used to (who plays 33.2 minutes per night) is going to create an adjustment period. So a winning record in his honeymoon period is definitely promising.
Although, defeating a San Antonio Spurs squad with no Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker or Kawhi Leonard by just six points in Rondo’s debut is by no means impressive. That aside however, a dominant performance to take down the Wizards at home, a 114-87 win, is exactly what Mavs’ fans want to see heading into the new year.
Dec 28, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forwardPerry Jones
(3) guards Dallas Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
It won’t be long before the Mavericks acclimatize to Rondo’s arrival and, when they do, there are multiple reasons why this squad can be a major contender in the Western Conference.
A bonafide star would normally add some friction to a team’s chemistry, especially if they’re joining a squad who already had a ton of talent like the Mavericks. That shouldn’t be the case with Rajon Rondo’s Mavs though.
For years this team has belonged to Dirk Nowitzki, and until he retires nothing is going to change that. He’s not only made his mark as the most talented 7-footer we’ve seen and the best shooting big man of all-time, but he’s become one of the most selfless superstars in league history.
Dec 28, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates after making a basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Thunder 112-107. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
His undying loyalty to the Mavericks has rewarded them with countless runs in the playoffs, multiple appearances in the Finals and even a Championship in 2011. If Steve Nash never left for the Phoenix Suns then he and Dirk could have had something special together, maybe even a couple more Championships to put in the trophy cabinet.
Those ifs and buts are truly put to rest now, though. Yet, with the addition of a new dynamic passing point guard, this Mavericks team may have a final chance to go for a title before the reign of Dirk in Dallas comes to an end.
Dirk is ranked as the 8th best scorer in NBA history (27,365 points) and could maybe even overtake Shaquille O’Neal for 6th if he can pull out another efficient season next year. He’s had 12 All-Star appearances and still hasn’t let his achievements go to his head.
Dec 23, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (right) shoots the ball in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
He proved again how much he puts his team first before the start of the season, and took a pay cut from $22.7 million to just $7.9 million (per BasketballReference.com). Dirk has been the face of this franchise for nearly his entire career and was still willing to become the lowest paid starter heading into 2015. He makes half as much as their new small forward Chandler Parsons, and $5 million less than Rondo. You can’t name many franchise players that make less than everyone else.
The NBA isn’t all about money (at least some of the time), but it couldn’t be clearer that the Maverick’s leader is willing to put every possible success the team can have before his own gain. And that is one of the key reasons why the acquisition of Rajon Rondo could prove to be an effortless transition towards another shot at a title.
It’s not all about the way the egos of the Mavericks fits together, though. The way Rondo complements the playing style and ability of those around him is what will make this team so deadly as the season progresses, and as Dallas (currently 5th place in the Western Conference) makes a run towards the NBA Finals.
Dec 20, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks centerTyson Chandler
(6) dunks the ball during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
After leaving a dire situation with the New York Knicks, Tyson Chandler has reemerged as a rock solid center this season with the Mavericks. His rebounding has taken a jump of more than 2 per game from a year ago, and now averaging 11.9 per game (14.4 per 36 minutes). Chandler ranks third in the league.
He’s once again proving how well he can lock down the paint and reduce opponents efficiency finishing around the rim, and is doing what he can on the offensive end, too, with 10.8 points a game. He’s never been a center to demand the ball in post up situations and is the perfect compliment to a point guard like Rondo; a defensive minded player who is more than capable of finishing under the basket when Rondo penetrates and looks to find a teammate.
Nov 29, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons (25) scores past Philadelphia 76ers guardK.J. McDaniels
(14) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Mavericks defeated the 76ers 110-103. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Chandler Parsons, on the other hand, is a knock down shooter who can also benefit tremendously from a passing maestro like Rajon Rondo.
Whilst Parsons has been surprisingly aggressive attacking the basket at times this year, he is still first and foremost a catch-and-shoot wing player. It’s not that he can’t ever get to the basket, but he’s not the fluid, agile off-the-dribble scorer that Monta Ellis is. Which is probably why Parsons is so much more efficient when he’s further away from the basket (he shoots 17% better from at least 16 feet out than he does from within 15 feet).
Rondo is one of the best facilitators that the league has seen in recent years, and the ease at which he can take off to ‘attack the basket’ and leave his opponents looking clueless as someone else buries a three-pointer is exactly what the Mavericks need. More than anyone, this will boost the opportunities Parsons has to make an impact from a distance.
This connection looks to be gaining some momentum already, and in his last three games Parsons has shot at least 62 percent or better from the floor. No doubt his new point guard has helped him achieve that, and if anyone in the league can give Parsons the chance to maximize his potential, it’s Rajon Rondo.
Dec 30, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) drives to the basket past Washington Wizards guardJohn Wall
(2) during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Monta Ellis is the final piece of this star-studded starting five, and coupled with the likes of Rondo they form one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
Despite all eyes on Rajon Rondo in his debut game for the Mavericks, it was still Ellis who stole the show. He went off for 38 points to secure the win against the Spurs, and reminded everyone that the attention this backcourt receives should be shared between the flashy new point guard and their shooting guard.
There’s a few reasons why these two should gel so well, and why they truly could become a backcourt who are just as vital in the playoffs as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.
Dec 23, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 124-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In terms of defense, Ellis and Rondo can utilize their speed and instincts in passing lanes (they’re both averaging over 1.7 steals per game) to lock down the perimeter and make sure that opponents have to force passes inside as the shot clock begins to wind down. Then enters defensive master, Tyson Chandler.
On the offensive end of the floor, their playing styles should complement each other as well as possible. Even though Rondo lacks a reliable jump shot and can’t even shoot free throws better than Dwight Howard, both have the ability to attack the basket. Although Ellis will obviously look to do this far more often (that’s partly why he averages 7 more points per game than Rondo). That aside though, the new Mavericks backcourt can excel if they each stay true to what they do best.
Rondo can continue to set up teammates as always, but to avoid extra attention from defenses he can even let Ellis bring the ball up the court and run a few plays. He’s more than capable of getting others involved (shown by his 4.5 assists per game) and is highly effective when running the pick and roll with Dirk. Obviously Rondo will be running the show most of the time, but this option will always be there.
In the meantime though, Ellis can continue to do what he does best: attack the basket and shoot off the dribble. These are two weapons that he can use when Rondo lets him take control of the ball, or when Rondo draws attention away from Ellis to let him use his mid range game (he’s making 47% of his shots from at least 16 feet out).
Dec 3, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) takes the game winning shot as time expires during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Dallas won 107-105. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Ellis has also proven to be the closer for the Mavericks when it comes to late game situations, and Rondo’s inability to knock down a jumper means that he should be more than willing to step aside and let Ellis or Dirk take the shots in big moments down the stretch. He may play out of his mind in the playoffs, but taking big shots is very rarely something Rondo will (or can) do.
Once again, when looking into each key member of this Mavericks team, and how a pass-first point guard like Rondo suits their team, it’s clear just how well their unique play styles and strengths combine to form a complete unit on both ends of the floor.
If that’s not enough, just look at how Rondo elevates his game in the playoffs. The time when the Mavericks will need his uncanny ability to post triple-doubles more than ever.
He already has a league best three triple-doubles so far this season, but it’s what he does in the playoffs that clearly caught the eye of the Mavs as they decided to trade for him.
"“the 2010 series when Rondo was the best player on the floor during LeBron James‘ farewell to Cleveland, and his 14 postseason triple-doubles — will surely be on the minds of Celtics fans Friday night as they roar once more in appreciation of Rondo. The Mavs traded for Rondo because they believed he could recapture that glory in Dallas.”"
Fourteen postseason triple-doubles pretty much sums up what exactly what Rajon Rondo can do. The fact that his career averages of 11 points, 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals elevate to 14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals per game in the playoffs is why he can make such a major impact in Dallas.
His performance in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals where he recorded 44 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists in a devastating loss to the Heat is one of the best performances you can ever hope to watch.
Dec 26, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo (9) passes during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Combined with the way Rondo fits into this Mavericks team, the fact he’s reignited his defense (turning the Mavs around from ranking 30th in defensive rating to 1st since he’s arrived) and how he can go above and beyond everything a 6’1″ point guard should be able to do is exactly why this team is one to be reckoned with.
As this team continues to get comfortable with each other, they can only get better and when the playoffs roll around they can match up with anyone in the Western Conference. The Thunder and Clippers may have more individual talent, the Spurs may have Greg Popovich, and the Golden State Warriors may be off to a historic start, but in terms of a team with the players to compliment each other perfectly this Mavericks team is right up there with the best of them.
They may have sacrificed some minor depth in order to bring in Rondo, but with the potential of what this team can do together now in every facet of the game, the league’s best offense (109.6 points per game) and a defense on the rise, they without doubt have a good shot at making the Finals.
After all, if they took the eventual NBA Champion Spurs to 7 games in the playoffs last year, can you really say they won’t be even better now they’ve added Parsons, Chandler, and Rondo?
I didn’t think so.