Point guards are exciting. With an off-day yesterday and tonight’s game against the undefeated Raptors still looming, I have a little flexibility with my topic in this post, and I’ve decided to take a look at the various point guards the Mavericks have chosen to pilot the offense over the past 35 years. Considering I’ve been a Mavericks fan in none of those three-and-a-half decades (and not even born in the first five years of the team’s existence), this is a project that took considerable research.
It’s remarkable how stable the position was for Dallas the first 14 years of franchise history. It all started with a man named Brad Davis, a 15th overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. After three largely forgettable seasons to start his career, Davis was playing in the CBA when the Mavericks came calling. He would join the team in December of 1980 and go on to play in 56 games, averaging a solid 11.2 points and 6.9 assists per game.
Davis’s performance impressed the Mavericks so much that he retained the point guard spot all the way into the middle of the 1985-86 season, when Dick Motta quietly inserted a young player by the name of Derek Harper into the lineup in Davis’s place. I was actually able to track down an article from the Dallas Times Herald written on January 25, 1986 discussing this very matter. Harper comes across as humble, saying the decision was obviously something Motta wanted to do and that he would go along with whatever the coach said. Davis, on the other hand, is clearly a little confused at best.
“I hope it’s not a reflection on me,” the article quotes him as saying. “I don’t think I’ve been playing that badly.” Davis went on to compliment Harper’s play, so it’s not a clear case of sour grapes, but the long-time Mavericks starter was clearly upset about being ousted from the lineup. No matter how much Motta was trying to disguise the move as no big deal, it turned out to be exactly what it looked like. Harper would continue to get the bulk of the minutes at the point for the next several seasons as Davis’s role continued to diminish gradually. Of course, when Davis retired after the 1991-92 season, the team honored him by retiring his number 15, so it’s not like things ended on an ugly note. Davis was a solid enough player, but it’s clear his number was retired purely for ceremonial reasons. As the last member of the original Dallas Mavericks, the franchise felt it owed him that much.
Harper’s production was easily superior; the 6-foot-4 Georgia native posted a 50 percent effective field goal percentage in his seven seasons as a full-time starter, averaging 17.7 points and 7 assists per contest before being dealt to the Knicks to replace the injured Doc Rivers in the 1993-94 season. It didn’t take long for the Mavs to find a new answer for the vacated position.
With the second overall pick of the 1994 draft, Dallas selected Jason Kidd, a player they envisioned leading their offense for years to come. Even a casual fan such as myself couldn’t help but take notice of Jason Kidd over the years — the guy was a triple-double waiting to happen just about every night. The problem is that much of his prime ended up taking place in other uniforms. After winning the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year award and following it up with an even better second season, things went south between the team and player after that. In what should have been just the third of many years of the Jason Kidd era, the Mavericks parted ways with their young point guard over an alleged difference of philosophies between Kidd and Jim Cleamons, sending him to the Suns in a deal that netted them Sam Cassell, A.C. Green, and a second year player named Michael Finley.
It was a tumultuous season for Dallas, who made so many moves that Green ended up leading the team with his 54 starts. Worse still, the players were very vocal about the Kidd deal. Jamal Mashburn went so far as to call it “stupid,” except he threw an expletive in front of the word to underscore the point. It should be noted that Mashburn was traded to the Heat later that season.
The 1997-98 season saw the Mavericks mix and match with Robert Pack and Khalid Reeves, but the gaping hole at point guard was salved the following season when the team acquired Phoenix’s Steve Nash in a massive deal that saw the Suns get Pat Garrity, Bubba Wells, Martin Muursepp, and eventually Shawn Marion in a later draft. Nash would spend the next six seasons running the Dallas offense, and in that time period he developed into an outstanding scorer and passer. While Nash was hardly the all-around force that Kidd was in his career, the passing numbers weren’t dissimilar during their times in Dallas, and Nash was a much better three-point shooter.
At the end of 2003-04 season, Nash hit the free agent market and got an incredible offer from his former team, an offer Mark Cuban refused to match. Nash left, never to return, and the Mavericks scrambled to fill his spot by trading with the Hawks to get Jason Terry. More of a scorer than a playmaker, Terry’s run as the point guard didn’t last long. As soon as Devin Harris, acquired from the Wizards after they selected him fifth overall in the 2004 NBA draft, began to get full-time minutes, he took over at the point, allowing Terry to slide over into his more natural shooting guard slot.
As every Mavericks fan knows, the position wouldn’t be Harris’s for long, as Dallas sent Harris and the entire rest of the team’s roster to the Nets to facilitate the return of Jason Kidd. Although aging by this point, Kidd was still more than capable, and he held onto the point guard position longer in his second term (four-plus seasons) with the team than he did the first time around. In addition to adding eight more triple-doubles to his career total in his return to Dallas, he was of course a part of the 2010-11 championship team. Kidd finished his career with one lone season as a Knick in 2012-13, and the Mavericks haven’t had an answer at point guard ever since.
Over the last three-plus seasons since Kidd’s second departure, Dallas has used a mix of Monta Ellis, Darren Collison, and Jameer Nelson, as well as attempting an experiment with Rajon Rondo that went horribly wrong. Could this post have a good ending? Well, that all depends on how the Deron Williams saga unfolds. It’s obviously way too soon to start reading into the numbers, but thus far the former all-star’s shooting does not look to have rebounded from last year’s pitiful level, and that would seem to portend a very brief tenure. I’m a fan of Williams, and I’d love to see him provide a few years of stability to the position, but if the Mavericks eventually have to launch into an all-out rebuild, I’ll be looking eagerly toward the franchise’s next Jason Kidd — and hoping he sticks around longer than three years after being acquired.