Less than a week ago, Jason Kidd made the decision to shake up the starting lineup of the Dallas Mavericks. He promoted 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein to starting center, sending Dwight Powell to a bench role.
We talked about it, we looked at it yesterday at practice, we thought this would be a good time to make a change,” Kidd said about the adjustment. “DP hasn’t done anything wrong, we just wanted to look at Willie starting for us.”
Cauley-Stein isn’t known for being a dominant center at the NBA level, but often times minor rotational tweaks can make a big difference on a team’s production. Early in the season, the Mavs are still trying to find their identity and get into a groove.
“I think we are still trying to find our identity on defense,” said Dallas guard Trey Burke over the weekend. “Offensively, we already have an identity. We’re strong on the offensive end. But we have too many lapses on defense whether if it’s against good teams or not-so-good teams. Some of the negative sides of this team are continuing to find our identity on defense and not allowing made shots to dictate how we play throughout the whole game.”
Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Cauley-Stein has averaged 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in just 13.7 minutes per game.
The Mavs have gone 1-1 through two games with Cauley-Stein as the starter. However, there’s a chance that the starting lineup gets tweaked once again in the near future.
Could another change to the starting lineup be on the horizon?
When Dallas takes on the Cavaliers on Monday, Cauley-Stein will likely start in his third consecutive game. Cleveland has a ton of size and he makes sense situationally in this matchup.
However, following a loss to the Washington Wizards over the weekend, Kidd alluded to another potential starting lineup change as he continues to experiment with the roster.
“It’s only been two games, so we’ll see how it goes on Monday,” said Kidd following the loss. “We’re looking at different lineups, but we looked at KP (Porzingis) and Maxi (Kleber) heavily throughout the game. We’ll continue to look at that. I hope we don’t get caught up on starting because that doesn’t get you a sticker or anything if you start.”
Kidd makes a good point about the starters not necessarily being who plays most throughout the game. As he mentioned, the Mavs have leaned heavily on Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber in the frontcourt over the past two games despite Cauley-Stein starting at the center position.
If the duo of Porzingis and Kleber continue to play well together, could there be another starting lineup change in the near future to pair them up from the opening tip?
Best Path Forward
A two-game sample size isn’t enough to determine whether Cauley-Stein is a viable starting center for this team. Either way, he still hasn’t played a ton of minutes throughout recent games following his opening stint.
The Mavs should only continue to experiment with the roster to see how it best fits together. It’s early enough in the season that establishing an identity through change makes sense. Dallas still has a solid record at 10-8, meaning they have the luxury of being able to try new things.
Outside of someone like Kleber getting a shot to prove himself as the starting center, what the Mavericks might ultimately end up finding success in is slotting Porzingis as the starter. While he already starts at power forward, shifting him up a slot could open a lot of doors in Dallas.
This would allow the Kidd much more flexibility in who he plays and could unlock new potential in this team.
Over the next few months, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Mavs try a few other starting lineup combinations before the start of the postseason.