Who Will Start at Point Guard for the Dallas Mavericks?
It’s been quite a while since the Dallas Mavericks had a relatively successful summer.
Management may have not been able to convince stars like Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh to join the team, however, their roster has surely improved when compared to last season.
First it was the return of center Tyson Chandler and the addition of Rayond Felton, who were acquired in a trade with the New York Knicks a day before the draft.
Then, Dallas pulled off one of the biggest heists of the offseason, signing restricted free agent Chandler Parsons of the Houston Rockets to a three-year, $46 million contract.
Throw in the signings of Jameer Nelson, Richard Jefferson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ivan Johnson, and there’s no doubt this newly assembled Mavericks team is the best we’ve seen since the 2011-2012 championship squad.
So far almost every position in the starting lineup can be projected, as guys like Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki are shoe ins to get heavy minutes.
However one spot that still remains up for grabs is the point guard position.
Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris are all worthy candidates, but which player would be the ideal choice to start from day 1 for head coach Rick Carlisle?
Making the Case for Raymond Felton
Guessing what kind of Raymond Felton we’ll see this season is as easy as predicting when Leonardo DiCaprio will win an Academy Award.
Part of me wants to believe Felton will return to his old 2012-2013 form, where he averaged 13.9 points, 5.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. However, it’s also hard to forget how awful he played last season, where he finished the year with career lows in points, steals and a 2nd worst mark in assists.
If Felton can remain focused and get himself into ideal basketball shape, there’s no doubt he has a chance to steal the starting role from Nelson or Harris.
However if he’s unsuccessful in doing so, he could just as easily wind up becoming the third string point guard and find himself buried on the bench for the first time in his career.
Making the Case for Jameer Nelson
Jameer Nelson may not be the All-Star caliber player he once was back in 2009, but he’s still proven to be a more than serviceable option.
Last season, the 10-year veteran posted averages of 12.1 points and 7 assists on 39.4 percent shooting, starting a total of 68 games and playing roughly 32 minutes a night for the Orlando Magic.
The one facet of Nelson’s game that sticks out immediately when you watch him play is his offensive prowess, often utilizing pick and roll sets to his advantage and finding numerous ways to score from behind the perimeter.
In fact, according to NBA.com, the Magic posted an offensive rating of 102.0 when Nelson was on the floor, which is about 6 points better when compared to their team average of 96.1.
Defensively, Nelson struggled to remain as effective, causing the team’s defensive rating to dip to an abysmal 108.6 when he stepped onto the court, however, it’s worth noting he did register about a half a steal per game last season.
Making the Case for Devin Harris
Since joining the Mavericks last season, Devin Harris has done an excellent job serving as the team’s go-to backup, possessing the ability to play either guard position and adding a much needed scoring punch off the bench.
Up to this point, it appears Harris is slated to play a similar reserve role, telling Sirius XM NBA Radio that he believes head coach Rick Carlisle will have him come off the bench, however he didn’t rule out the possibility of starting:
In short sample sizes Harris was phenomenal last year, increasing the Mavs offensive rating from 107.2 to 115.8, while also lowering their defensive rating from 106.3 to 104.6 when he was on the floor according to NBA.com.
His long track record of injuries may cause head coach Rick Carlisle to be hesitant about starting him full time, but if he’s 100% healthy and just as sharp as last season, there’s still a good chance he can earn the role.
The Verdict: Jameer Nelson
Choosing between these three floor generals was no easy task.
In Raymond Felton, you have a seasoned veteran that could potentially have another bounce back season.
There’s also the possibility that Devin Harris could shake off the injury bug and prove he’s still fully capable of logging starter’s minutes.
But it’s Jameer Nelson’s consistency and scoring ability that convinced me to give him the edge.
Last season, Dallas relied heavily on a perimeter oriented offense, scoring 25.2% of their points from long range and ranking 2nd in three point field goal percentage according to NBA.com.
With Jose Calderon heading for New York, this team desperately needs a floor general that can both orchestrate an offense and knock down long distance shots efficiently.
Hence the acquisition of Jameer Nelson.
Not only is Nelson the best three point shooter of the bunch, but he’s also evolved into a superb playmaker, averaging 7 assists per game and holding an assist percentage of 34.1 (11th out of all starting point guards).
Pairing him with Monta Ellis would allow the team’s backcourt to flourish offensively much like last year, giving Ellis more space to attack the basket and causing opposing defenses to stretch out even more.
Of course, defense will be the one area this duo is bound to struggle with, but bringing in Harris off the bench is an easy solution to that problem and should balance out the backcourt’s defense when need be.