After pitching my column idea last week - "which non-PF position will be most important for the Mavericks in 2012-2013" - I spent a good while trying to decide, myself, between C and PG.
After all, the Mavericks got absolutely killed on the boards last year, barely mounted a credible interior D, and didn't add much in the way of defensive perimeter players this year to take the pressure off the middle this year. Dahntay Jones might be, but won't play enough, Crowder could be some day, and that's not really Collison's rep. The D will once again go through Marion and the Cs, and our two are old and slow.
But it isn't C. Even if I spent both pre-season games so far amazed at how slow our centers really were against agile European big men, it's obvious they're going to be a huge part of our offense and that at least one Mavericks long-time play - throw a wrap-around to the center and watch it slam off the center's hands and out of bounds - is out of the playbook. And, more than that, they should be credible. These guys don't move that well, but they know how to move.
The Mavericks PG's, though?
It's not that I wasn't impressed by Darren Collison, who's obviously going to get the lion's share of the minutes. Collison has shown much better basketball awareness than I expected. He's not just a driving guard; he controls the play and the tempo of the game. He's smart. He's got the demeanor and presence of a point guard down.
But in two preseason games so far, he's struggled to throw passes into the post.
Let me say that again: Dallas' starting point guard is having trouble throwing passes into the post.
Do you have any idea how important throwing passes into the post is for the Mavericks' offense? You know when Dirk goes out of the game, and everyone stands around shooting out-of-flow jumpshots?
That's the Mavs offense without being able to consistently throw it to Dirk in the post.
More than that, it's the other team running back full speed because of an interception. It's a nightmare.
It's far from time to panic. It's two preseason games, one without Dirk. But Collison has to get that fixed. It's the one pass the Mavericks have to be able to make consistently.
As for Delonte West: I love Delonte. Best Twitter feed on the Mavs, a guy who just makes you smile to think about, and someone who almost started an international incident against Spain. But he's not playing PG at all, so far. He's just taking Caron Butler style 18 footers. He's helping the offense by scoring in it, not by facilitating it. However, Dallas has 900 shooting guards. They need him to be a point.
Given the Mavericks' offense last year, it's understandable that Delonte feels it is incumbent upon him to create some shots for himself. And remember, this is a guy who hasn't averaged as many as 4 assists in 5 seasons, all but one of which he played at least 24 minutes a game. But he has to, or the Mavericks have to find somebody - Jared Cunningham? Roddy, again? - who can.
You want to know the one non-PF position that will determine whether the Mavericks have a good or bad season in 2012-2013? I'm calling it now. It's point guard play. The fact that Delonte and Darren are younger, faster, more athletic, and more offensively capable than today's Jason Kidd by a long shot will not matter-unless they can make the passes the Mavericks need them to make.
If the ball doesn't go through Dirk, this team can lose to anybody. Hopefully, they won't have to prove that in 2013.