Jason Terry and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 9, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

Alright, sleuths, I’ve got one for you: what happens when a team that stands on two legs in the morning and on two legs at noon has one of those legs chopped off in the evening?

We’re about to find out.

Dirk is unquestionably steak sauce (A-1, yo), but Jason Terry is a fantastic complement.  He’s second on the team in points per game and points per minute, trails only behind Dirk in PER, and boasts impressive percentages all around.  Jason Kidd and Josh Howard have each had their moments, but neither has matched Terry’s excellence or stability.  And don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?  This time I think we’ve got a vague idea:  The Mavs will hop around on one foot and pray for the rest of the West to stumble.

There’s no official word on JET’s return date, but Dr. Terry’s own prognosis is three weeks.  Here’s to hoping his extensive training in the medical field pays off.  Regardless, the Mavs are relatively fortunate to have the All-Star break on the horizon.  No one in the conference has a team to spare in the standings, least of all those hovering between seven and niner.  So at least Terry will miss less gametime than he would have otherwise.  That said, Terry’s still going to miss a bit, and that means it’s time to talk solutions.  No one on the roster can fill his role straight-up, and no one is going to match his point-for-point production at anywhere near his level of efficiency.  So where do we go from here?  I thought you’d never ask.

What the Mavs should do: Tell Gerald Green that his vacation at the end of the bench is about to be over.  What’s the worst that could happen?  No, he can’t play defense all that well, but his stints earlier this season showed that he can be the pure shot of scoring adrenaline that the Mavs need.  Besides, Green’s defensive troubles are probably equal to Barea’s, and the other alternatives don’t supply much in the way of offense.  Green’s weaknesses were magnified when he was moved into the starting lineup, but playing against the inferior competition on the second units of the league could make him a nice supplement.  He doesn’t need or deserve Terry’s 30-or-so minutes a night, but I don’t see the harm in giving 15 or 20 minutes to a player whose per-minute line (18.3 points per 36 minutes, 5.5 RP36, almost 45% from the field) looks quite a bit like Josh Howard’s and matches Terry in defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions; 110).  A combination of J.J. Barea and Antoine Wright can fill in the rest of the minutes void.

What the Mavs should not do: Depend on Jerry Stackhouse or make a panic trade.  The whispers of Stack’s return to relevance have been a bit infuriating.  Stackhouse is a 34 year-old in steady decline with a contract that makes him a valuable trade commodity.  He’s far from the missing piece that would thrust the Mavericks into championship contention, so why is his name even coming up?  His value only goes down from here, and it would seem like a foolish move to not capitalize on his virtually expiring contract while it’s still an option.  Beyond that, expecting a guy who’s been injured all season to suddenly step up and fill Terry’s role is a bit far-fetched.  After all, if Stack was a questionable defender and notorious for settling for jumpers before, how will those areas of his game be influenced by a tender foot?

I do not want to see the Mavs settle on a trade for a lesser wing talent in the name of filling in for Terry.  The Mavs really don’t have all that many attractive, tradable assets to spare, and if any are wasted for such a ridiculous purpose it could really set the team back.

What the Mavs probably will do: Rely on J.J. Barea, Antoine Wright, and Josh Howard to make it work.  J.J. was a baller earlier this season when he was trying to hedge Howard’s absence, and he can do some of the same things that Terry can.  Considering the circumstances, it’s not a bad option.  Still, if you’re going to give the minutes to J.J., why not at least roll the dice with Green?

Expect Antoine Wright’s minutes and shot attempts to take a bump, but neither is great for the team.  Wright’s not bad, and on some level I appreciate his commitment to attack the basket, but his ability to contribute in a meaningful way seems limited.

As Fish points out, the idea of “stepping up” is kinda silly, but if any Mav increases his production as his responsibilities increase, it’s Josh Howard.  Howard’s season has been frustrating to say the least, but in the past Josh has had a tendency to respond in a big way when Dirk is out.  This situation is a little different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cross our fingers and hope everything turns out for the best.  This injury could be the best thing that could happen for Josh’s season: a chance for him to “step up” and maintain solid production with increased shot attempts and a more featured role in the offense.  Does Josh’s play this season warrant that kind of ‘raise?’  Nope, not a bit.  But unless Josh Howard criticisms double as magical hand-healing bandages, this isn’t really the time.  “Stepping up” may be a presumptuous concept, but if a player is getting more shots and more touches, I think it’s fair to ask for an increase in production.