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Pistons at Mavericks preview: Dallas’ Kleber should be on your radar

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Mavericks rookie Maxi Kleber could give the Pistons headaches.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have seen better days.

Their 97-91 loss to the equally desperate Phoenix Suns on Monday dropped the 2011 champs to a somber 8-23.

One of few conveniences of a lackluster record is affording playing time to relative unknowns in hopes of finding a needle in the NBA’s talent haystack.

For the Mavericks, that needle could be 25-year-old German rookie Maxi Kleber. The six-foot-eleven power forward earned his first start on Nov. 17 and hasn’t looked back.

Unfamiliar with his work? You’re probably not alone.

Game Vitals

When: December 20th at 8:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center - Dallas, Texas

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Analysis

It’s lazy to compare Kleber to Dallas’ other German power forward, but I won’t hold it against you — it’s just too easy.

I want this on the DBB record: I like Kleber and I’m fearlessly predicting (does this count M-Weezy?) he gives the Pistons fits tonight.

Moving without the ball and attacking the basket are two positive facets to Kleber’s game, and it’s something the Pistons’ bigs have trouble keeping in check.

Dallas is ranked No. 26 in the league in pace, and often times bogs down into grinding isolation heaves (because of the snail’s pace, only three teams own more isolation possessions). However, they get a much needed shot in the arm from the always-roaming Kleber:

As we’ve witnessed with Avery Bradley and Reggie Bullock, making yourself available can do wonders for a stagnant offense. It’s an innate trait relying on precise timing and a complete understanding of defensive rotations - and Kleber has it.

Last week, the Pistons struggled to contain penetration after running Denver Nuggets off the three-point line (here) and saw friend of the program Ersan Ilyasova shoot 10-for-14 from the field after forcing Ily to make plays for himself (he complied).

Those two letdowns play right into Kleber’s game plan of invading the paint:

Kleber’s a threat from beyond the arc, but only from the corners. The Pistons will do themselves a disservice if they fly by Kleber and let him create.

File “Produce a scouting report on Maxi Kleber” under something I never thought I’d do.

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Once again, the Pistons catch another break by playing a far-from-healthy team. Despite the obvious increased chance at winning, color me disappointed.

The Mavs aren’t exactly a League Pass must watch, and I was hoping to catch a more in-depth look at rookie Dennis Smith Jr.

DSJ has sat out the previous six games with a sore hip and is questionable for tonight. Other than Prava88’s draft day piece (here), I have no feel for his game.

That makes me sad :(

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What to watch for

Let’s get back to the guys who will actually play.

Like stated above, the Mavs rely on isolation way too much, with Harrison Barnes leading the iso charge (42 percent of Mavs’ iso possessions come from Barnes).

Harry B. loves to set up shop by the logo in either face-up or post-up fashion. After the ball is dumped into Barnes, Kleber will set a flare screen for the entry passer and then slip to the hoop:

This will happen tonight - it’s a MSG.

Projected lineup

Detroit

Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Andre Drummond, Reggie Bullock, Tobias Harris

Injuries: Avery Bradley, Jon Leuer are out.

Dallas

Yogi Ferrell, Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Maxi Kleber

Injuries: Seth Curry, Nerlens Noel, and Dorian Finney-Smith are all out; Dennis Smith is questionable

Prediction

Get on board, David Fernandez. We’re all doing it.

Pistons 104, Mavericks 100