When the Mavericks traded Devin Harris over five years ago, the deal returned Jason Kidd and shored up the point guard position in Dallas for years to come. On Saturday, when Harris will put the Mavs uniform back on for his season debut, he'll be looking to help a position that's been flailing ever since Kidd left.
What everyone seems to be hoping for, really, is some stability.
Ever since Kidd's departure following the 2011-12 season, point guard has been a revolving door in Dallas. Deron Williams was the dream guy, but he couldn't turn down extra money and exposure in Brooklyn. Instead, in came Darren Collison early last season, but Rick Carlisle bailed and eventually turned to a skeleton crew of aging guys like Mike James and Derek Fisher to fill minutes. The results were ugly, particularly on the defensive end.
Now, Dallas has an entirely new group trying to solve the conundrum -- Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel and Harris, all acquired during the offseason. Calderon was supposed to be the primary guy, and for the first half of this season, he was. But when you scatter your resources, unable to sign a star guy, you end up with players who are volatile or old.
Calderon, for all his offensive wizardry, remains a major liability on the defensive end. An already-bad defense gets worse when he's on the court, allowing nearly 107 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. Larkin's numbers look much better, but it's a small sample and at his height, it's a major challenge for him to successfully defend a lot of NBA point guards. Playing great for one night, as Larkin did on Friday with 18 points against Phoenix, is one thing, but putting it together on both ends surely will be a much different kind of challenge.
The question, as it usually is, will ultimately be how the Mavericks choose to handle this situation. With Monta Ellis still at shooting guard, it's not like Dallas has nobody to handle the ball -- really, for this team, just some steady two-way play at point guard would be a borderline revelation.
Unfortunately, Larkin is 5'11, Calderon was a sieve before he banged his knee recently, and Mekel can't stay healthy long enough to crack the rotation. If the Mavericks are waiting for a reasonably consistent two-way point guard to emerge, unless we can all ignore Larkin's shortcomings, it needs to be Harris.
That might be a lot of pressure to put on a guy coming off toe surgery, but few words describe Harris' game as well as "steady." If he can come in and give the Mavericks 20-25 minutes with solid defense, efficient shooting and few turnovers, it could be enough to boost Dallas into the playoffs. He might be capable of that.
On offense, the Mavericks have guys like Dirk and Monta to handle things. The defense is something of a lost cause, but Shawn Marion will always give it some teeth. However, with guys like Larkin and Calderon in, they're playing something akin to 4-on-5 at times. Harris could be the guy who helps to balance those scales, getting an extra win or two in the process. In the West, we all know the kind of difference that could make.