Taste for Blood

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 19, 2010 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

With Jason Terry out of the lineup, his shot attempts had to go somewhere. He averages 13.7 FGA for the season, not to mention a notch under four FTAs a game. That’s a decent chunk of the Mavs’ possessions that wasn’t going to fade into nothingness; someone has to fill those possessions, either with shot attempts or turnovers.

Caron Butler seemed like a natural candidate to fill in some of Terry’s responsibilities, but he actually averaged more field goal attempts playing alongside Terry (14.8) than he did without him (13.4). Dirk averaged 18.4 attempts per game, which is just shy of his mark for the season (18.7). So where were all the possessions going?

Naturally, to two of the more unlikely Maverick candidates: Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois.

Marion, in all honesty, could be carrying more of the offensive load on a nightly basis. That’s just not his role on this particular team. Shawn’s asked to move within the sets, work on the offensive boards, set screens, and roll to the rim. And that’s exactly what he does. He can produce some that way but he’s not going to be the powerhouse he was in Phoenix because he isn’t always given the opportunities. Every run out on the break isn’t rewarded, because sometimes the best move is to slow things down.

With Terry shelved, though, the Mavs looked to Marion more than usual. He put up more shot attempts as he became a more central part of the Mavs’ offensive game plan, and the numbers — which were said to be a product of Steve Nash’s brilliance rather than Marion’s — bumped right back up to his career levels.

FGA (FG%)FTATOPPG
Five games without JET16.2 (56.5%)2.00.617.4
Season '09-'1010.8 (50.7%)1.81.311.9

The situation in Phoenix was ideal for Marion; the pace, point guard, and system all fit Shawn like a glove. But a situation like this one, where he’s among the foci of a well-constructed offensive system without the benefits of a fast pace (Dallas is 19th in the league this season), he’s still capable of performing at impressive levels. It’s not that Marion can’t perform like this on a near-nightly basis, it’s that the Mavs don’t necessarily need him to. It’s not the role he’s slotted to play, and though he has enough tricks to up his PPG to more standard levels, the offense doesn’t exactly accommodate him in doing so.

Beaubois also benefited from the increase in opportunity, but in a bit of a different way. Marion’s on the court for over 30 minutes a game, but just doesn’t have the ball in his hands enough to explode. Even if he wanted to go rogue and jack up 20 shots a game, he wouldn’t be able to. Roddy, on the other hand, has the ball in hand quite a bit, but has his stat line handcuffed by his minutes. His numbers project to 18.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, and 3.7 RPG over 36 minutes, which is pretty stellar for a player his age with his level of experience at his position.

When he was finally given a chance at starter’s minutes, it’s no surprise that Beaubois produced:

FGA (FG%)FTATOPPG
Five games without JET13.2 (53.0%)2.61.017.2
Season '09-'105.3 (50.9%)0.91.16.8

The competition level wasn’t terrific over those five games and the sample size on Beaubois’ numbers this season is so small that it’s hard to extrapolate any clear meaning from this stretch. But the fact that the increase in minutes is translating to scale increases in production is indisputably positive. The worry with per-minute stats is that as usage increases, efficiency decreases. Not so with Roddy, who managed to not only put up points in impressive volume, but managed to be an even more efficient scorer in the process.

This is exactly what the Mavs need to see from Beaubois at this stage in his young career: patience, gradual improvement, and an ability to produce when given opportunities to do so. The state of the team isn’t going to allow that to happen on a nightly basis (at least it hasn’t of yet), if only because there are too many good veterans competing for minutes in the backcourt. Not every rookie guard needs to be Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, or Steph Curry. It’s okay to just be Rodrigue Beaubois, whether in limited minutes or not.

Something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks, though: now that Marion and Beaubois have each had a taste of what they don’t have, will they still be as inclined to buy into their roles? I’ve been incredibly impressed with Marion’s willingness to play along with the team’s plans for him, and equally so with Beaubois’ maturity and patience in dealing with incredibly inconsistent opportunities for playing time. But both had gone cold turkey, and likely accepted their fate and the role. Does the sudden bump in shot attempts suddenly make Marion a bit more shot happy? You wouldn’t think so, but having control of a basketball does strange things to men. Beaubois’ curse could be a bit more complex. Does having an increase in minutes suddenly make Beaubois even more assertive in the limited minutes he does get? Or less so? Or maybe Roddy just plays like Roddy always has, and though everything changed for a period of five games, nothing really has at all?

Both of these guys have bought into the system enough to respect it, and though they’ve had their run with Terry out, it’s business time. It’s a treat to watch Marion and Beaubois have their day, but things are shifting back to normal. The dream hasn’t died, but it’s faded back into the realm of what could be.

  • Fei

    At least with Marion, the way he played has improved partly due to recovery from injury. Earlier in the season, there were often times when Marion was hobbling around with visible discomfort, and he couldn’t quite get up for an alley-oop or a follow-up dunk. After the All-Star break, at least from the Phoenix game, he was already attempting big dunks, though Stoudamire Blocked his best attempt. Since then it’s been a pleasure watching Marion flying through the air, up to his old tricks. I’m looking for Marion to continue playing assertively after JET’s return, and hopefully this stretch of few games with big gaps in between will further help his recuperation. Not too worried about Marion needing more shots, he’s been through the hell of playing in Miami and Toronto to know where grouching about shots can make you end up.

    I’m a bit more concerned over Roddy, simply because the Mavs’ future prospect for him is to be our PG, and so far he has greatly shined playing an SG role alongside Kidd. JET’s return might be a good thing, forcing Roddy to play more minutes at the PG, though alternatively it could just mean Roddy getting no PT again. The road is still long for our rookie though, and he’s shown enough of an upside to get everyone excited about the future.