Position by Position: Spurs vs. Mavericks

In the regular season, both the Spurs and the Mavericks played a solid ten man rotation. For the Spurs, sometimes that tenth man rotated based on matchups (Ayres, Baynes, and even Bonner every now and then). The Mavericks kept it pretty consistent, barring injuries. While playoff rotations are usually shored up a bit, we’ll take an in-depth look at all those potential matchups based on regular season rotations.

The Starters:

Point Guard:

DAL: Jose Calderon – 11.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.7 APG, 0.85 SPG, 0.14 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .456 FG%, .449 3P%,

Signed before this season, Calderon’s first season in Dallas has been a success for both himself and the Mavericks. While his defense, like the rest of the Mavericks, is below average, he makes up for it on the three-point line. Playing in 81 of 82 games, Calderon ended the season fifth in the league at three-ball percentage (.449%).

SAS: Tony Parker – 16.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 5.7 APG, 0.53 SPG, 0.13 BPG, 2.2 TOPG, .499 FG%, .373 3P%

The Spurs lone All-Star, and leading scorer, has had an off year in the eyes of some. His stats do show a drop in his play, but he will be the one to lean on once the playoffs begin. As seen before, he can take over games in no time at all. He did not play in the final regular season matchup against Dallas, but had 23, 25, and 22 points in the other three. Those are well above his season average.

Advantage: Spurs.

This one really isn’t very close. Parker should be able to absolutely burn Calderon. As mentioned above, Calderon is weak on the defensive end, and, also seen above, Parker has taken advantage of that. Besides the bench, this is the Spurs biggest advantage in the matchup.

Shooting Guard:

DAL: Monta Ellis – 19.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.72 SPG, 0.28 BPG, 3.2 TOPG, .451 FG%, .330 3P%

Another offseason addition for the Mavericks that panned out, Monta Ellis played in all 82 games for the Mavericks, and came out firing. His 32 points were the most ever for a player in their Mavericks debut. Ellis was second fiddle in scoring to, obviously, Dirk Nowitzki, but gave the Mavericks that 1-2 scoring punch they’ve been looking for on the outside since losing Jason Terry a few years ago.

SAS: Danny Green  – 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.96 SPG, 0.90 BPG, 1.1 TOPG, .432 FG%, .415 3P%

A very solid defender on the perimeter, Green will be largely tasked with containing Monta Ellis. We will probably see some cross matchups with Kawhi Leonard seeing some time on Ellis, but Green will most likely start the game on him.  That and his three-point game are his contribution to this series, and he shouldn’t try to do too much more.

Advantage: For the starters, the Mavericks have the advantage. If you look at all three shooting guards (Green, Belinelli, and Manu) the race gets a lot closer. Ellis, however, played at a near All-Star caliber level this season, so the Mavericks get the edge in this one.

Small Forward:

DAL: Shawn Marion – 10.4 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.18 SPG, 0.47 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .482 FG%, .358 3P%

Once the do-it-all player for the run and gun Phoenix Suns, Shawn Marion has definitely declined as he aged. Don’t take that lightly though. Marion is still a very solid defensive player and rebounder for the small forward position. He truly knows his niche in the Mavericks’ scheme of things. Just do yourself a favor and look away when he shoots a jumper.

SAS: Kawhi Leonard – 12.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.73 SPG, 0.76 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .522 FG%, .379 P%

Kawhi Leonard only played in 66 games this season. But, boy, when he played in those games, he made a huge impact on both ends of the floor. He will have his hands full defensively, matching up, potentially, with Ellis, Marion, and may even see some Dirk some time. In my opinion, he will be the biggest x-factor of this series. If he is hitting his threes, it’s game, set, and match for the Mavericks, because you know his defense will be there.


Spurs. Marion and Leonard are pretty similar in terms of their versatility. However, Leonard is a better shooter, scorer, and defender of all positions. The Hand takes this matchup.

Power Forward:

DAL: Dirk Nowitzki – 21.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.91 SPG, 0.56 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, .497 FG%, .398 3P%

The Big German has been nothing less than spectacular for the Mavericks this season. Just like Duncan, he ages better than anyone else in the league. That patented fade-away-off-one-foot-nothing-but-net jumper is just as good as it’s ever been. Nowitzki has been healthy this year, too. He played in all but two games this season, and appeared in his 12th career All-Star game. If the Mavs have any chance in this series, it rests on the shooting touch of Nowitzki.

SAS: Tim Duncan- 15.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.58 SPG, 1.88 BPG, 2.1 TOPG, .490 FG%, .000 3P%

The ageless wonder keeps on going. As the anchor of the Spurs defense, Duncan will most likely be used in a help defense role. As the regular season matchups have shown, Splitter will most likely start on Nowitzki, leaving Duncan has the shot blocker to stop penetration. Even when Duncan sits, Boris Diaw will most likely draw Nowitzki. This saves Duncan for the offensive end and from foul trouble.

Advantage: Spurs fans may not appreciate this one very much, but I’m going to have to go with the Mavericks. Duncan is a better player over his career, but this season Dirk has had the edge. Defensively, Duncan is miles better. Offensively, Dirk. The Mavericks high-powered offense is shouldered by Nowitzki.  The matchup is close, but the Mavericks even making the playoffs is owed to number 41.


DAL: Samuel Dalembert – 6.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.51 SPG, 1.18 BPG, 1.1 TOPG, .568 FG%, .000 3P%

The big man in the middle for the Mavericks is almost exclusively known for his shot blocking ability. Over his career, Dalembert has averaged 1.8 blocks per game, so his numbers have dipped a bit this season, but it probably has to do with him only averaging 20.2 minutes a game, his third lowest of his career (one was his rookie season). He’s still not to be taken lightly around the rim, but offensively, his game is within two feet of the basket and playing trash man on the offensive boards.

SAS: Tiago Splitter – 8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.49 SPG, 0.53 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .523 FG%, .000 3P%

Up until the very last game of the season, whenever Splitter scored over ten points, the Spurs were undefeated. Given that the Spurs probably cared more about a Disney Princess movie marathon than they did about winning that game, we can go ahead and throw that one out. If Splitter is able to get his offensive game going, the Spurs are a force to be reckoned with. Other than that, he will start with the task of guarding Nowitzki, and that is enough of a challenge itself.

Advantage: Spurs. Splitter is a far better passer, and proficient on the offensive end. Defensively, Dalembert and Splitter are about even. Dalembert is a better shot blocker, while Splitter understands his role and where and when he should be in the right place.

Backcourt Bench:

DAL: Vince Carter – 11.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.75 SPG, 0.43 BPG, 1.3 TOPG, .407 FG%, .394 3P%

DAL: Devin Harris – 7.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 0.70 SPG, 0.05 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, .378 FG%, .307 3P%

Vince Carter has been a very, very solid sixth man this season. Some articles even have him as a legitimate sixth man of the year candidate. Carter was the third leading scorer for the Mavericks this season, while not starting a single game. He has transformed his game from the high-flyer he used to be, but still isn’t afraid to throw it down every now and then. Defensively, he will be someone the Spurs have to account for. Devin Harris returned to the Mavs this season after leaving in 2008. He struggled with injuries, but has claimed the backup point guard spot for young guns Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. His shooting has been below average this season, as shown by his numbers. Calderon will definitely get the bulk share of PG minutes, so one shouldn’t expect to see Devin Harris go off on the Spurs like he used to in those classic Spurs-Mavs matchups. Imagine that Devin Harris. Yikes, that would be a scary backcourt.

SAS: Manu Ginobili – 12.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.03 SPG, 0.25 BPG, 2.0 TOPG, .469 FG%, .349 3P%

SAS: Marco Belinelli – 11.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.63 SPG, 0.09 BPG, 1.2 TOPG, .485 FG%, .430 3P%

SAS: Patty Mills  – 10.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.84 SPG, 0.11 BPG, 0.8 TOPG, .464 FG%, .425 3P%

Manu Ginobili is still the heart and soul of this Spurs team. He is second on the team in PER, and always seems to make THE play. Having him on the court with Patty Mills gives the Spurs and playmaker and a shooter, just at the opposite positions. Speaking of Mills, his shooting (9th in three-point percentage) has excelled him to one of the best backup point guards in the league. On top of that, Mills is the only regular rotation player to average less than one turnover per game. An even better shooter, percentage wise, is Marco Belinelli. Belinelli is 7th in the league in three-point shooting, but started the season a lot stronger than he finished. All together, the bench backcourt is very dynamic.

Advantage: Spurs. As I talked about in the starters section, when you add up all the backcourt players, the Spurs have a big advantage. Ellis is a very good player, and Carter is solid, but Harris is nothing to write home about. All five of the Spurs players in the backcourt are very good players. The backcourt bench and Parker are the two biggest advantages the Spurs have.

Frontcourt Bench:

DAL: DeJuan Blair – 6.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.77 SPG, 0.27 BPG, 1.0 TOPG, .534 FG%, .000 3P%

DAL: Brandan Wright – 9.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.55 SPG, 0.95 BPG, 0.6 TOPG, .677 FG%, .000 3P%

DAL: Jae Crowder – 4.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.76 SPG, 0.27 BPG, 0.5 TOPG, .439 FG%, .331 3P%

If the Mavericks playoff rotation gets shortened, it will be at the mercy of one of these players. If I had to guess, it would be Blair or Wright, as Marion can play the four, leaving a hole for Crowder to play his spot at the three. Wright, however, is a very interesting player. He is second on the team in PER, only .1 points behind Nowitzki (23.6 to 23.7). He averages 9.1 points per game in only 18.6 minutes per game. Those are some great numbers for your fourth big. His biggest issue is his stamina. There’s a reason he can only play eighteen minutes a game. For those eighteen minutes though, he is going be a pain in the Spurs side. As for Blair, you know he will be highly motivated facing his former team; a team he believes snubbed him from playing time last season. He is in no way a rim protector, averaging more steals than blocks for a center.

SAS: Boris Diaw – 9.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.56 SPG, 0.41 BPG, 1.5 TOPG, .521 FG%, .402 3P%

I went ahead and left Baynes, Ayres, and Bonner off the list, because I don’t think they will get regular minutes in the post season. Last season, the Spurs went with the three bigs, and Leonard at the 4, if they needed it. I believe they will play the same way unless they run into a team with very good frontcourt depth. Diaw is the ultimate Spurs system player. His passing ability, along with his shooting and play-making skills, are a perfect fit.

Advantage: For the reasons stated above, Diaw’s role in the Spurs scheme gives him the advantage. Blair isn’t a force on the defensive end. Wright can’t play enough to make an impact. If Diaw struggles guarding Nowitzki, then the advantage could sway to Dallas.


Advantage: Spurs. This isn’t a knock on Carlisle. He’s a great coach and I respect what he has done with this team and the championship team, but he’s no Gregg Popovich. Popovich will likely be the NBA Coach of the Year for the third time, and has won four championships. You can’t compete with that.

When all is said and done, I think it will be a highly entertaining series. You can check out my series prediction, along with the rest of the Project Spurs staff on our series prediction article.

Andrew Ball

About Andrew Ball

Andrew is a Texas A&M graduate and has written for ProjectSpurs since April 2014.