Running the Weave: Young Point Guards

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on August 19, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Let’s be honest: we have some diverse writers on board here at the Two Man Game. The diversity is awesome and creates some unique content with the Mavs as the point of emphasis. The writers can see eye to eye on a variety of topics and they can also come up with some pretty unique answers to the same question.

With the summer slowly coming to an end, I wanted to touch base with my colleagues on a variety of topics revolving around the Mavs and pick their brain to see what answers they would share. Through teamwork and synergy, we’re running the weave on the Mavs and their offseason. I’ve shared my opinion on a variety of topics this offseason, but it’s time to hear what the rest of the staff has to say.

With that, here is a the first question that was posed to the TMG staff. Hope you enjoy.

If you could only take one of the rookie point guards with you going forward on the Mavs, who would you pick: Shane Larkin or Gal Mekel, and why?

Kirk Henderson, @KirkSeriousFace: This is probably an example of recency bias, but I’d have to go with Gal Mekel. Any team structured around a high efficiency scorer like Dirk Nowitzki needs a point guard who understands how to pass. Larkin is very effective out of the pick-and-roll, but his strength is scoring over passing. I saw first hand in Vegas how Mekel keeps his eyes on his teammates when running the offense, looking to make the pass to the point that the defense seemed to forget that he also had the option of shooting. The kind of basketball I enjoy watching starts and finishes with pass-first point guards and Gal Mekel fits that description.

David Hopkins, @davidhopkins: Shane Larkin. Yes, ankle and all. He’s undersized, even for a point guard, but with tremendous strength, athleticism, and talent. I’ll take it. It’s hard to judge between Larkin and Mekel, but the Mavs could use a young rookie to get excited about — and Larkin fits the bill. Carlisle compared him to J.J. Barea, but I’d like to set my expectations a little higher. Plus, did you see that bow tie on draft night?

Connor Huchton, @ConnorHuchton: The general lack of relevant lack of data available to assess both point guards makes this decision fairly difficult. Mekel is older and thus could be described as having less potential, but he’s also shown Mavs’ fans something concrete with strong performances at Summer League. I’m pretty comfortable with projecting Mekel as an acceptable backup point guard based on his past performances (in Europe and here, etc.) and established skill set – but like I said, there’s very little substance to that projection. I liked the Shane Larkin pick, and how adept he was in the pick-and-roll when facing college defenders. I suppose it’s also fair to say Larkin’s ‘ceiling’ might be higher than the older Mekel. This strikes me as an impossible choice, but I’ll go with Larkin on account of his mystery.

Ian Levy, @HickoryHigh: Mekel, but I’m not overwhelmingly excited about either one. Larkin’s promise has mostly to do with scoring efficiency. He’s a phenomenal a shooter and has good instincts in the pick-and-roll, but I just can’t get past his small stature. The angles for him to create off the dribble and thread a pass to the screener will be much tighter in the NBA and he’ll be dealing with longer and more physical defenders. That’s not to say he won’t be successful, but the only place where he can really guarantee offensive contributions are as a spot-up shooter. All the concerns about size affecting his offensive game are magnified ten-fold when we talk about defense.

I’m also not quite sure what to make of Mekel. He has terrific size and respectable athleticism, but I’m not sure exactly what he’ll give the Mavericks. He was more of a scorer than a distributor out of the back court in college, and a fairly inefficient one. He’s become a respectable playmaker overseas, but still can’t shoot from the outside. As a back-up point guard, either should be serviceable. But as Jose Calderon’s game degrades over his four-year contract with the Mavericks I don’t think either Mekel or Larkin will be a long-term answer to replace him.

Brian Rubaie, @DirksRevenge: Gal Mekel, whose extended summer play was surprisingly consistent. His comfortable, cool court leadership reflected his comfort in occupying the role of chief distributor and offered hopeful signs for his ability to replicate his core strengths across the Atlantic. Paired alongside a veteran floor-spacer like Vince Carter, Mekel could keep the second unit humming. Although his initial competition was nothing like what he’ll see in the NBA, Mekel embraced the opportunity afforded by Larkin’s unfortunate absence and seems to relish the heightened intensity provided by more competitive opponents. .

Larkin shows promise, but it will take time for him to hone his talent against taller, stronger and more athletic veterans. At his best, Larkin’s play in the pick-and-roll and ability to create his own shot could remind fans of J.J. Barea. Like Barea, though, Larkin possesses a diminutive frame that will make him a target on defense. Larkin often cites Chris Paul and Ty Lawson as inspirational figures, but there’s an ocean between him and those other rare outliers.

Travis Wimberly, @TravisRW: Mekel. Although he’s a senior citizen compared to Larkin at the whopping age of 25, Mekel’s skills are more refined, and there’s an argument that he has more long-term upside, too. Mekel has terrific court vision and strong passing mechanics. He commands the floor like a true point guard should, a skill rarely taught. He has enough size and athleticism to be a defensive presence. Also, he has already proven that he can handle the day-to-day stessors of professional basketball at some level–an important trait, considering how many young players in the NBA can’t seem to do so. I’m not going to handicap the odds, but Mekel has a chance to be a terrific European transplant.

Larkin, meanwhile, has the chance to be a good point guard. That may be it. He was a very good player at Miami, and I’ve always valued guys who had leadership roles at winning college programs (that’s one of the many reasons why I was disappointed when the Mavs declined to keep Corey Brewer). He’s got credible point-guard fundamentals and a solid understanding of the pick-and-roll, but probably not to the extent of Mekel. I don’t see him ever becoming a franchise player, so I’m a bit less inclined to trumpet his age as a reason why he’s a better long-term piece than Mekel. The Mavs need guys who can step in now–maximizing Dirk’s window–while also contributing in the future. Mekel may be able to do both; Larkin, I suspect, can do only the latter.

  • Brian Rubaie

    Really enjoyed reading the other takes!

    I thought the question Ian raised — is either guy a long-term replacement for Calderon at the point? — was insightful, and I agree with him that neither player is a long term answer. I can see the outlines of solid backups, but I have trouble seeing either as a starter. I don’t know what the internal expectation/hope on this front is (or if they even have one, beyond “wait and see”), but I hope that their future plan doesn’t involve either as the “Plan A” future option.

    Perhaps my skepticism is the result of the lack of data that Connor noted. Neither has displayed signs of reaching that level, but (optimistically) that could also mean there’s also not enough to reach any definitive conclusion that either player could or could not take their skill set to the next level. The odds, though, trend towards doubt, and many more players miss than hit.