Falling Back Towards Earth

Posted by Brian Rubaie on November 29, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

FallingBackToEarth

After soaring out of the gates, the Mavericks have sunk back towards Earth. No Dallas player has been immune to bouts of poor play but some have experienced particularly steep and enduring regressions — the most pronounced of which belongs to Rodrigue Beaubois, who has struggled to find his rhythm after suffering a spate of injuries that kept him out of almost half the games in the Mavs’ early schedule.

Beaubois has underwhelmed on both ends of the floor, even in areas where he once excelled. Once a reliable slasher and passable shooter, he has struggled to return to form. While never known as a defensive specialist, Roddy’s performance on that end has reached new lows. What’s bad for this goose has poisoned the gander: the Mavericks bench unit can no longer be relied upon to sustain leads and often struggles to stay afloat. Injuries, while the most common explanation for Roddy’s struggles, are only one piece of the puzzle.

Not all of the errors committed by Beaubois are physical. Being a step behind isn’t responsible for erratic, poor and undisciplined shot selection, resulting in a very challenging November. Only one in four Beaubois jumpers has reached the mark throughout the season and even fewer still in the second half. On the other end of the floor, Beaubois has continued to struggle and it is difficult to attribute these consistent defensive struggles to injury alone. Defensive challenges following Beaubois aren’t shocking but the offensive challenges confronting Beaubois are both surprising and steep.

One of the most glaring areas of weakness for Beaubois is his shooting from 3-9 feet from the basket. Beaubois has often relied upon his speed to slash to the lane and convert difficult contested layups. He remains skilled at finishing layups but that skill relies on his ability to reach the bucket, an infrequent occurrence after losing a step to injury. That he is slowed and cannot finish ahead of traffic is no fault of his own. What is his fault is deciding at these moments to eschew an attempt to pass in favor of a hasty pull-up attempt. These off-balance floaters have crushed Roddy’s once-promising performance from that distance. Last season he completed 42.6% of looks 3-9 feet from the basket. This season he has regressed to an abysmal 20%.

Roddy’s troubles from this area are only a microcosm of his broader struggle to convert jumpers and over-reliance on them to produce points. According to data compiled by Basketball-Reference, Beaubois has made only 9 of the 35 jumpers he’s taken, a paltry 25.7%. He hasn’t fared much better from behind the arc, where he often fires up difficult threes. Many of these looks occur early in the shot clock or in the face of defensive pressure. Unsurprisingly, he’s converted very few of his threes, shooting 4 for 15 in the early going. This can’t be explained by the injury; his three-point percentage has fallen steadily (and steeply) in every season since he entered the league.

Misfires from particular parts of the court, while troubling, aren’t the largest obstacles standing facing Beaubois. More importantly, Beaubois often fares worst when he is needed most. A key measure of offensive talent is displayed by how a player performs in the second half, when fatigue and new defensive schemes kick in and smart players adjust. The young Mavericks have fallen apart several times over the final frames as once close games begin to fall out of reach. Second-half shooting has been a particular area of weakness for Beaubois, who is making an anemic 22.2% of his shots in the latter quarters. The problem is especially visible in the fourth quarter, where Beaubois has made only 2 of the 11 shots he’s taken for an unfathomably low clip of 18.2%. This isn’t to suggest Beaubois isn’t “clutch,” as one certainly can’t accuse Beaubois of being afraid of the moment. The problem is that he’s entirely too unafraid to take shots that are far too difficult at the moments he most needs to display patience.

The totals listed above, while drawn from a small sample size, are generous to Beaubois because they include the two games Beaubois played in October, before the first of several injuries, where he turned in notable performances. Things have far been worse in November, where Beaubois has made only 7 out of the 31 baskets he’s attempted for the month (22.5%). He has failed to make a single field goal in more than half of the contests he’s entered this month and has only once posted a true shooting percentage above 33.6%. Beaubois has gone through ups and downs offensively in the past, but these represent uncharacteristically challenging lows.

Players who go through offensive struggles are usually advised to let their defense become their offense. This maxim would not be helpful for Beaubois, who remains a liability on a Mavericks team that desperately needs players to help stop the bleeding. As usual, Beaubois is having difficulty defending the pick and roll, even while matched up against slower guards. Beaubois has been getting burned off the dribble and often appears flat-footed at key moments. Injury may explain some of that, but it doesn’t totally justify him wandering back in transition, allowing easy slashes, or being out of position in help defense as his man takes an open three. His defensive rating in his last four contests has been 112+ in each game and he has helped several players reach some of their best stat lines of the year.

While injuries have hobbled Beaubois, the Mavericks should not write off his recent struggles as aberrations that will surely pass when he returns to good health. The issues that plague Beaubois aren’t all physical. Poor shot selection is the product of mental errors that could be reduced by displaying more discipline in limiting off-balance floaters and ill-advised threes. Second-half failures are partially attributable to fatigue, but also reflect an inability to size up new schemes — a flaw that could be ameliorated with enhanced focus and preparation. Defensive hiccups have plagued Beaubois in good health and in bad. Beaubois clearly isn’t 100 percent, but that should not lessen the sense of urgency to resolve a litany of correctable errors.

Brian Rubaie is a high school teacher, debate coach, and full-time Mavericks fan. Follow him on Twitter: @DirksRevenge.

  • Thats the Question

    Explain to me why anyone should still give a **** about Beaubois.

  • http://twitter.com/DirksRevenge Brian Rubaie

    Good question given all the recent DNP-CDs. Because Collison is banged up, Roddy is our second best point guard, DoJo is hit-or-miss and last night the Mavericks made Nate Robinson look like a superstar off the bench.

  • http://twitter.com/DirksRevenge Brian Rubaie

    One more follow-up: because Fisher is coming in off the street and it’s unclear what he has left in the tank, particularly with a vital three-games-in-four-days road trip coming up