One of the pivotal factors that contributed to the Dallas Mavericks' surprise run to the Western Conference Finals was their execution when deploying smaller lineup combinations.
It all started for the Mavericks when attempting to counter Rudy Gobert, who anchored the Utah Jazz defense in their first-round series. By deploying Maxi Kleber at the five, they have a shooter at every spot around Luka Doncic — fully unlocking a five-out attack.
The Jazz made it a point to dare the Mavericks' shooters to continue to convert at a high clip. Kleber took full advantage by shooting a staggering 51.6 percent from 3-point range in his six playoff performances against Utah.
Most notably, Kleber was shooting at levels never before seen from him in his NBA career. He went 8-11 (72.7 percent) from the perimeter in Game 2 of the Jazz series and immediately followed it up by shooting 6-7 (85.7 percent) in Game 3.
Kleber continued to play an important role for the Mavericks as a small ball five option throughout their run to the Western Conference Finals. He shot 43.6 percent from 3-point range in 18 playoff performances and was often a spark when it came time for Dwight Powell to sit on the bench.
Bleacher Report recently put together the top small-ball lineup that every team needs to showcase during the 2022-23 season. With little surprise, the Mavericks' unit features Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Kleber.
Having multiple 3-and-D wings around an elite all-around offensive machine like Doncic is going to get the job done. Factor in that Kleber can knock down the open look, switch on defense effectively, and provide underrated shot blocking? That checks a lot of boxes right there.
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Where it gets interesting is with Spencer Dinwiddie. At 6-foot-5, the Mavericks would actually have a massive backcourt with this small ball lineup. Kleber is 6-foot-10 and Finney-Smith, who would slot in at the four, is as strong of a wing as they come while also having a 7-foot wingspan. It's not actually that small of a lineup effectively.
One combination that was quite effective for the Mavericks when deployed was the three-guard trio with Doncic, Dinwiddie, and Jalen Brunson. Of course, that not longer is an option since Brunson departed in NBA free agency.
Regardless, acquiring another creation threat could be an intriguing way for the Mavericks to bolster their small ball capabilities in the future as they build around Doncic. However, finding one that isn't a small guard could maximize the options they have defensively.
For now, the Mavericks can deploy an impressive lineup when they feel the need to go small. A substantial difference with their latest roster is now they can be more impactful playing bigger after acquiring Christian Wood and JaVale McGee.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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