Tim Thomas won’t be playing for the Mavs this year after all. In his place, Dallas is apparently looking to fill the void with a cartoon character capable of fulfilling what would have been Thomas’ most basic function: spacing the floor.
Maybe I’m the only person who still views Thomas as a three-dimensional talent, but his value for Dallas last season really did stretch beyond his ability to hit the three. Thomas wasn’t as bad as advertised defensively. He showed off off some of his post-up scoring ability. He displayed a great sense of court spacing that went beyond parking himself in the corner or rotating around the perimeter; Thomas found spots behind the defense and dug up free scoring opportunities. He even rebounded a little bit, and kept his turnovers in check.
Shooting from the perimeter was undoubtedly one of Thomas’ strengths last season, but he was far more versatile in his season as a Maverick than many of the free agent bigs left on the market will likely be in the coming year. Namely, the three candidates that Mavs are currently considering to slide into Thomas’ proposed role, according to Art Garcia of NBA.com: Brian Cardinal, Steve Novak, and Bobby Simmons.
Oddly enough, Cardinal, as the seasoned veteran of the trio, has somehow become the headliner and “early favorite” in spite of his limited athleticism and abilities. Perhaps this view of Cardinal’s game is overly simplistic, but I fail to see what he can offer any team that Steve Novak couldn’t; both are pretty poor defenders both in the post and on the perimeter, and find their strength in scoring from the outside. Though while Brian Cardinal has posted impressive three-point shooting averages in nearly every season he’s been in the league, he’s never really had the in-season volume to validate those percentages.
In his 10-year career, Cardinal has shot a total of just 517 three-pointers. Novak attempted 286 in a single season, and hit 41.6% of them. Cardinal has proven himself as a reliable deep threat, but Novak seems like a superior three-point shooting option, and is six years younger, to boot. Novak has shown that his shot holds up even when his attempts skyrocket, and that in a jam, he can use up minutes without taking anything away from the Mavericks offense. Novak isn’t leaps and bounds better than Cardinal, but if the Mavs are looking for a token three-point shooter, why settle for anything less than the best one left on the block?
We’ll conveniently neglect to discuss either player’s defensive abilities. They’re end-of-the-bench candidates for a reason, folks.
In fact, Simmons may also be a more attractive candidate than Cardinal to fill the roster vacancy. Simmons, too has a terrific career mark from the three-point line (.401 in eight seasons), is a few years Cardinal’s junior, and at least has a tinge of utility beyond three-point shooting. Novak and Cardinal are pure specialists, but Simmons does have some aptitude as a slasher, and a bit more defensive versatility. His absolutely absurd contract has made Simmons into a bit of a laughing stock over the last few seasons, but Dallas could do far worse for a 14th or 15th man.
In all likelihood, neither Cardinal, nor Novak, nor Simmons would really come into play (they’d come in to play, but not come into play, if ya dig) for the Mavs, so debating this issue too much is just splitting already-split hairs. There would have to be notable injuries at the top end of the roster for any of these players to register consistent minutes, and in that case, Dallas will have far more to worry about than the relative shooting abilities of these gents.