Fourth Round of Bloom and Doom

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on April 2, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

5012404142_bdccdb0c9c_z

It’s time for another round of Bloom and Doom.

In an effort to keep the discussion going, I sought out ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon for his opinion on pressing issues for the Dallas Mavericks. You can view MacMahon’s coverage of the Mavericks at ESPNDallas.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @espn_macmahon. Periodically, we have touched base and discussed topics with our own unique point of view. It’s been a while, so it was necessary for us to reconnect and agree and disagree on a few subjects.

MacMahon likes to call it like he sees it. That perspective can hover on the other end of the spectrum from my optimistic viewpoint on things. You could say it’s a classic case of good cop, bad cop. Our different perspectives should make for an interesting conversation on hot topics revolving around the Mavs.

This round of bloom and doom analyzes if Rick Carlisle is having the coaching performance of his career, which 2011 departure would fit best this year and other topics.

Q: ESPNDallas.com’s Jean-Jacques Taylor went out on a limb and said this has been Rick Carlisle’s best coaching performance. That takes into account the year they won the championship. Is JJT right?

MacMahon: Heck no. I wrote a lengthy blog post on this Monday, but it’s crazy to say that scrapping for .500 with this flawed team is more impressive than winning a championship with a squad that was far from the favorite. Carlisle’s coaching during that 2011 runs was historical excellence. It ranks among the best coaching performances in recent NBA history. The players deserve a ton of credit, of course, but think about all the buttons Carlisle pushed along the way. His strokes of genius ranged from psychological (totally owning the Game 4 collapse in Portland to strategic (a long list led by the defensive game plan to make LeBron James a timid mortal in the Finals, shifting the momentum of that series by starting J.J. Barea and bringing DeShawn Stevenson off the bench for the last three games and frequently torching the Lakers with a lineup that featured J.J. Barea running the pick-and-pop with Dirk Nowitzki with Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic spacing the floor with deadly 3-point shooting and Brendan Haywood crashing the boards and erasing the defense-challenged scorers’ mistakes on the other end). If the Mavs make the playoffs, Carlisle deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration, but calling this his best work in Dallas is prisoner-of-the-moment insanity.

Gutierrez: There would be no way to discredit the ability to coach a team into the playoffs for only the only third since 1989 (Both the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers in 1997). That’s what Carlisle could add to his resume if the Mavs somehow found their way into the second season. There’s no way to discredit that, but you still can’t say this year is better than the championship squad. There’s a reason why the Mavs were in such a hole to where they have to grind out every game now just to have a chance for the 8th spot. They were without Dirk Nowitzki, one of the biggest difference makers this league has. He’s able to drop everyone down one peg in terms of their overall responsibility and that makes a world of difference. Carlisle does deserve credit for refusing to allow a defeatist mindset to seep into the locker room, but it’s a locker room with a lot of veterans in there. That means there’s a lot of pride and they want to show they won’t quit. His decisions in the 2011 playoffs were sublime. You could make a case his decisions have been questionable this year, but the results have started to turn. Look at O.J. Mayo. Mayo is kind of a testament to Carlisle’s coaching. He’s developed a young player into something more than what he was before he joined the team. If I were to make the argument for this year, he would be one of my main talking points. He’s coaching his backside off this year, but a ring is still the thing that separates his coaching performances.

Q: Out of the J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler, who would have been more valuable to THIS year’s current roster?

Gutierrez: Allow me to stretch. Okay. Yes, Tyson Chandler was the perfect complimentary big man to Dirk Nowitzki. It’s an easy call to go with Chandler, but I’m going to make a case for Barea. With Jason Terry gone, there hasn’t been anyone on this current roster who has developed any sort of two man game with Dirk. We saw during the Lakers and Thunder series in 2011 that Barea brought a dynamic pick-and-pop game. On top of that, he knew when to feed the hot hand. The entry pass has been a lost art this season, to say the least. Barea had that built in rapport with Dirk so the two of them would be able to right the ship in the countless amount of end of game situations the Mavs have found themselves in this season. This decision does discount the value to the other end of the floor. There’s no way to deny that. Perimeter defense is an issue whether we’re looking at Darren Collison or J.J. Barea. The possible correction on offense can lead to better end of game results and reduction of turnovers, which has been killer for the Mavs. Mayo and Collison are still near the top of the list for guys with turnovers in the final 2 minutes of a game when the score is within five points. I think the team’s record is different and we’re not discussing the team fighting to make the playoffs if someone else has the ball in their hands at the end of games. If the live ball turnovers could go down, that allows their defense to be in place. If the issue is relatively going to be the same on defense, I’m going to go with the way to fix the issue on offense.

MacMahon: C’mon, Ballin’. Don’t overthink this one. Sure, Barea would have been a nice piece to have on this team, especially given the chemistry he developed with Dirk running the pick-and-pop over the years. But he’s definitely not one of the top five players at his position. Chandler is. Oh, and in case you missed it, the Mavs had at least as much uncertainty at center as they did at point guard this season. Heck, the starter is still a mystery on a night-to-night basis. These Mavs have had plenty of problems, but the most glaring issue is that this is a poor defensive team, ranking 27th in scoring D and 19th in points allowed per possession. Chandler is such a dominant defender – and a butt-kicking leader – that this Dallas squad would be at least average defensively with him as the anchor. Barea, whose best attribute as a defender is his flopping ability, wouldn’t have had nearly that kind of impact on the offense.

Q: Has Shawn Marion looked right to you since he came back from his calf injury?

MacMahon: Now you’re making me wonder if I’m missing something. Marion has looked fine to me. His numbers are down slightly in the five games since he’s been back, with averages of 9.6 points and 7.0 rebounds, but those are pretty minor drop-offs and a tiny sample size. He’s shooting 54.1 percent from the floor in that span, including a lot of those little floaters he creates off the dribble or as a cutter. The Mavs are 4-1 in those games. Paul George lit the Mavs up in the lone loss, but he’s an All-Star for a reason and many of those points came when Marion wasn’t on him. Fill me in here. What am I missing?

Gutierrez: Your last reply is one of the reasons that gives me cause for concern as to whether or not something is wrong or slightly off with Marion. If George was lighting up the Mavs, why didn’t Carlisle feel it was necessary to make the switch by putting Marion on him? It just seems like something is slightly off with him. There’s nothing in terms of a statistical backing of this. It’s just more of a hunch. The game against the Clippers is another example. There were rebounds he left out on the floor. For whatever reason, his timing just felt off on both ends of the floor. The Mavs essentially went with O.J. Mayo and a box-and-one defense with Chris Paul to end that game. Marion did get the assignment on Paul to on the final offensive play for the Clippers in regulation. Carlisle wasn’t hesitant to stick Marion on Paul more over the past few matchups, so it just has me scratching my head. It’s probably nothing. I think the game against the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant, will give me a chance to reverse course on my hunch.

Q: This year presented OJ Mayo a make or break opportunity after a disappointing offseason as a free agent. Based on his performance this year, how would you evaluate OJ Mayo’s season with the Mavericks?

Gutierrez: I would say it’s been a positive year for Mayo. Did he elevate his game to a level of being a true and consistent running mate with Dirk? No, but he has elevated his game to where he can be a multifaceted weapon. I saw enough of him while Dirk was out to know he has that “next level” potential in him. Now, I want to see him develop a true two man game with Dirk. His role near the end of his time in Memphis might be the perfect role for him. That doesn’t mean he has to be a bench player for the Mavs. He could truly be ideal as the 3rd option for the team. I’ve been spending too much time around MacMahon lately, and I agree with the number he’s going to mention. It’s not a stretch in the new CBA for that kind of player and money lining up. He’s still young and has already made strides in his first year with the team. It’s not a stretch to imagine he can continue to get better.

MacMahon: All in all, it’s been a good year for Mayo. He carried the Mavs to mediocrity during the Dirk-less spell with his scoring and has proven capable of contributing in other ways, specifically as a playmaker, this month. He’s shown he responds well to Carlisle’s tough-love kind of coaching and has been a consummate professional, which is important consider some of the concerns about his immaturity in Memphis. He’s far from perfect, as evidenced by his defensive lapses and drastically lower production against the league’s elite teams, but Mayo has boosted his stock this season. I agreed when Carlisle projected Mayo as a “rotation player on a championship-contending team.” If I’m Mark Cuban, I open negotiations with an offer of four years, $25 million and would be willing to go up to $30 million.

Q: What can the front office learn from their soon-to-be free agents in these last few games of the regular season as they make their final playoff push?

MacMahon: In most cases, I don’t know that they can learn a whole lot more after 70-plus games. I guess it helps to evaluate guys in pressure situations, but it’s not like they’ll suddenly decide that Darren Collison is capable of being the long-term starting point guard solution if he performs well off the bench in the next nine games. The one guy I think they can still learn a lot about is Brandan Wright, even though he’s been here two years. This will be the first time in his career that he’s getting meaningful minutes in high-pressure games. His potential and recent performances pretty much guarantee that he’ll at least get a Ian Mahinmi-like offer (four years, $16 million) this summer. The Mavs have to decide whether they’re willing to pay what it will take to keep a guy who has been key to their late-season success. Oh, and they can learn how mad Chris Kaman can get about riding the pine without publicly blowing his top. He’s been an $8 million bust, but Kaman at least deserves credit for handling a humiliating situation for a proud vet like a pro.

Gutierrez: If the Mavs can get Wright on that kind of Ian Mahinmi pay scale, that’s not bad at all for the first big off your bench. He plays well alongside Dirk, but there’s valid concern with their ability to work together over a long period of time. I can’t imagine he’s a starting center, but he does provide a solid spark off the bench. This final stretch can lead to more information in regards to him. I don’t think they can learn much more from Darren Collison. I think they’ve set sail on the belief he’s just a backup point guard. If he wanted to come back in that kind of role, they’d be fine with that. I think one significant thing that can change in terms of evaluation is in regards to Mayo. I have a hard time believing his stock can dramatically fall. That means I think the value has a chance to rise in a big way if he can rise to the occasion and take that next step. They already are a huge fan of him. Carlisle made it a point of emphasis to show his admiration of Mayo’s commitment and toughness as of late. This can be the time to see if Mayo’s learning curve can move in a rapid manner. Along with Wright, Mayo’s the player who can give the front office more information than they expected to learn in this home stretch.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.