Most NBA rotations run nine or 10 men deep. There's common sense to this. In a perfect world, teams would play only their five best players for the entire game. We just don't live in a perfect world. Players get tired. They become susceptible to injury. They aren't right for all matchups. So teams need a few reliable reserves with diverse skill sets. Generally speaking, teams only want to use those reserves enough to ensure that they can maximize their best players. That's where the balance of nine or 10 men comes from. In big games, that number tends to shrink. Pat Riley famously says that when it counts, teams should "use eight, rotate seven, play six, trust five."
Well, the Dallas Mavericks didn't use eight players on Tuesday. They used 15 of them. That's the entire active roster. Every single player that suited up for Dallas in its win over the Houston Rockets played at least three minutes. This might be a more common practice in blowouts, but Dallas trailed at halftime and entered the fourth quarter with only a three-point lead. The Mavericks chose to use their entire roster before the game, and head coach Jason Kidd attributed it to the team's leadership council.
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"All 15 guys played. If we could have played the two-way [players], we would have played them too," Kidd told reporters after the game. "This came to me this morning through the council that we have. Those players that I talked to thought this was a great idea. So, I was with it.
"We always talk about 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 as part of the team and they tend not to get to play, but they come to work everyday like the starters or the rotation guys," Kidd added. "I think this shows what kind of character, what kind of guys we have in that locker room, which is really, really cool."
While Kidd declined to identify the members of the council on Tuesday, he had previously named Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. as its members on an appearance on the "Take Dat Wit You" podcast. It is not clear how deep a rotation Kidd plans to use moving forward. A 15-man rotation would be highly irregular and almost certainly unsustainable for the long haul.
Doncic, Dallas' MVP candidate, played only 34 minutes on Tuesday, and that led the team. Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith were the only other players to reach 30. Porzingis played 20. That might work against a poor opponent like the Rockets, but playing so many minutes without their best players would almost certainly prove costly against better teams. Every minute counts in close games. Just because Dallas got away with this once doesn't mean it could for the long haul.
Still, the gambit worked out well in the home opener, and it surely energized the players at the back of the bench. Keeping them engaged is critical over the course of a long season. Those players may not be needed every night, but some of them are going to be needed eventually, and Kidd took a big step toward ensuring he could maximize them when they're needed most on Tuesday.