MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12: NBA Commissioner David Stern presents the Larry O'Brien trophy to the Dallas Mavericks founder Don J. Carter next to team owner Mark Cuban after the Mavericks won 105-95 against the Miami Heat in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
We do this every year, so let's go ahead and begin our brainstorming session of what the Wizards can learn from the Dallas Mavericks winning the 2011 NBA Finals.
Keep your superstar happy: Tom Ziller is right on the money here: the team with the superstar won. The Mavericks may be deeper than the Heat, but they aren't consistent title contenders for a decade without Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks' salary structure was more top-heavy than Miami's, and it worked. To me, the lesson here is: stand by your superstar, understand his importance in your team's hierarchy and never quit being creative in finding the right mix to surround him. That's a lesson the Wizards must heed with John Wall. Ultimately, he is their meal ticket. The team surrounding him should be one that complements him and him alone, even if it means dealing away more talented pieces for ones who fit better (like the Jason Kidd trade).
The entire roster matters: Miami, because of circumstance and some iffy decisions, skirted on the 4-12 spots on their roster. Most of it was because they had to do so to pay the Big 3, but some decisions were poor, like giving Mike Miller $30 million and going for ring-chasing veterans over unknown, cheap youngsters. Dallas finally exploited that weakness in the Finals, with guys like J.J. Barea, Brian Cardinal, DeShawn Stevenson and Ian Mahinmi making a difference in Game 6. The lesson here is: the end of the roster matters too. The Wizards need to continue looking for bargains in every spot.
The importance of defensive-minded bigs: Tyson Chandler was enormous in this series, walling off the paint and defending pick and roll. He was also acquired thanks to a salary dump and despite the fact that Brendan Haywood got starters' money in the offseason. Bigs remain as important as ever, but they can be found through non-traditional means like this. There's no need to throw your hands in the air and roll with what you have because you think there's no chance to acquire a better guy.
Coaching matters: Rick Carlisle was unbelievable and may have won Dallas the series. He was amazing with his in-game adjustments and did a great job over the course of the season in fostering a culture where he could switch the starting lineup in Game 4 of the Finals and not upset anyone. There's a reason coaches are paid well and that every decision they make is dissected. All of it matters.
On LeBron: There are many easy "lessons" we could manufacture based on his failure, and I think most don't apply. But I do think there is something to the theory that James psyched himself out in the final three games of the series. The lesson here is clear: staying humble isn't just to pander to a misguided media and a fanbase that reads too much into body language and the like. It's also helpful because you don't end up setting yourself up to fail. Nowitzki always stayed in the moment, and because of it, he was never rattled. That's a lesson every player should heed.
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