A Mere Formality

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 24, 2010 under News, Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read


Or maybe he’ll just sit on the bench in a new uniform, waiting for his first opportunity for in-game action. I wouldn’t count on it coming tonight unless there’s a decisive margin in favor of either team, but Wafer should still be valuable as a practice player.


Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

The Mavs’ big man search is back to square one. Dallas was close to signing D-League All-Star Dwayne Jones to a 10-day contract to provide depth at center, but the Mavs were apparently left unimpressed by his workout today with the team. Marc Stein notes that Jake Voskuhl could be Jones’ replacement, a move which I find to be a bit uninspired and plenty underwhelming. We know what Voskuhl can do, and we know plenty about what he can’t do. But Jones deserves a legit shot at the pro level, and I think his unassuming, low-maintenance game would have been a nice addition for Dallas off the bench.

Apparently it wasn’t meant to be. But Stein also reports that the Mavs still plan on signing Von Wafer to a 10-day and will possibly put pen to paper tomorrow.

Making the Leap

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2010 under News, Roster Moves | 2 Comments to Read

Per Marc Stein, the Mavs are bringing in the Austin Toros’ Dwayne Jones for a workout and likely a subsequent 10-day contract. The Mavs will also bring in Von Wafer for another workout, though mostly to gauge his back rather than his abilities. The Mavs have just 13 players on the roster, meaning they could sign both players to contracts (10-day or otherwise) if they so choose. Not a bad idea considering Wafer’s potential as an explosive scorer and Jones’ ability to contribute as a third big man.

If you’ll recall, we actually discussed Dwayne Jones around these parts over a month ago when the Najera-Humphries swap opened up a roster spot. Steve Weinman of D-League Digest was kind enough to point out the most logical call-up candidates given the Mavs’ position, and among them (along with Anthony Tolliver, who was since called up by the Warriors) was Jones. Here’s what Weinman had to say at the time:

Dwayne Jones (Austin): Gets pooh-poohed a bit because he doesn’t have much to speak of in the way of shot-creation skills and certainly won’t be initiating his own offense at the next level.  Doesn’t really seem to dominate games at the defensive end, though he can definitely hold his own in that realm.  All that said, we’re talking about a guy with legitimate NBA size (6-11, 250 pounds) who is posting 17 points per game on better than 60 percent shooting from the field thanks to the fact that he hammers the offensive boards (more than six per game) and does a ton on put-backs and tips.  He leads the league in per-game rebounding at more than 15 per game (and yes, it would be great if someone out there were tracking rebound rate in the D-League, though the Toros don’t play an especially fast pace – so I don’t think the figure is too misleading).  Given that you don’t call a guy up from the D-League to dominate the ball or be some kind of star, I think this may be the guy for the spot if the decision to push for a big man because he’ll be able to do much of what he already does at the next level – scrap around for rebounds and get a few garbage buckets while forcing opponents to put a body on him on the offensive glass. Plus, he has the size to guard opposing bigs.

Adding Jones would be a terrific addition for the Mavs, who could use him to fill the role of a Ryan Hollins-type big man…if Ryan Hollins could actually rebound. He’s not going to revolutionize the game or win Player of the Week honors anytime soon, but Jones is more than capable of coming in to provide solid minutes for a Mavs team lacking in big bodies.

But just as important: bringing in Jones for a workout would be the first significant interaction the Mavs have had with the D-League since the days when J.J. Barea ruled the world as a member of the now-defunct Fort Worth Flyers. These types of interactions will obviously become more regular next season when the Mavs’ new D-League affiliate in Frisco is actually open for business, but this is a positive development. It’s unlikely that Jones would be anything but a short-term replacement, but a baby step is still a step, and the closer the Mavs get to the D-League, the better the chance of mining some real, rotation-caliber talent.

EDIT: For more on Dwayne Jones, I’d urge you to check out a few more links from Weinman at D-League Digest:

  • Jones, on what he needs to do to take his game to the next level: “Just show what I can do offensively, and just continue to hustle and show what I can do. They’re not going to bring me in to score 20 points; they’re going to bring me in to hustle, rebound and defend, so I just got to keep showing that.”
  • Some very cogent analysis on why Jones’ game is perfect for translation to NBA production. Don’t expect the 16.8 points and 15.4 rebounds per game that he’s averaging in Austin (or, as Steve notes, the 17 double-doubles in 20 games), but it’s excellent to note that the things that Jones does best don’t require high usage or a ton of opportunity.

Inch by Inch

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 22, 2010 under News, Roster Moves | 2 Comments to Read

According to Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com and Art Garcia of NBA.com, the Mavs are all set to sign Von Wafer to a 10-day contract pending he passes a physical. It’s not a given, especially considering that Wafer already failed one physical this year, and 10-day prospects are on thin ice to begin with.

You’ve already heard enough about Wafer from me, so I enlisted the help of Rahat Huq of the superb Houston Rockets blog, Red 94. Wafer’s last NBA court time came with Houston last season, which makes Rahat just the man to talk to. Here are his lasting thoughts and impressions on Von Wafer:

I still feel fondly about Von Wafer because were it not for his contributions in ’09, we don’t have the surprising success that we did.

To his game: Wafer is a scorer; he’s not looking to pass. He’s at his best when slashing to the basket off the rotation of the defense. He’s not freakish, but still very athletic, and he uses this trait to feast on opponents when not given sufficient attention. He can also pull up for the jumper after taking one dribble. His handles are very poor for a guard. The extent of his 1-on-1 capabilities is a move where, if he has sufficient space against a backed up defender, he takes one hard dribble in either direction and then crosses back over to the other hand for either the pull-up or the drive. Fans often mistook this for an ability to create assuming high potential. Don’t – if guarded closely, Wafer doesn’t have a chance off the dribble.

Despite his size and athleticism, Wafer is a poor defender who often gets lost in rotations and in fighting around screens. Defense is his biggest weakness and what kept him off the floor on many occasions when his offense was desperately needed.

Finally, while it endears him to fans, Von Wafer’s emotions can sometimes destroy him. He was kicked out of a playoff game for getting into a shouting match with Adelman. If things are going poorly for him, it can spiral out of control very quickly.

Nearing Completion

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 21, 2010 under Commentary, Roster Moves, Rumors | 4 Comments to Read

As we enter buyout season, the Mavs will keep an eye to the ever-growing free agent pool. They’ll hope for Drew Gooden, bat their eyelashes at Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and entertain the idea of adding another point guard. But Z is Cleveland-bound if he’s cut loose, Gooden likely won’t find his way out of L.A., and one can’t help but wonder how effective another point guard could really be if added this late in the season.

But according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, the Mavs may be headed in a more traditional direction. The common platitude for playoff-bound teams is the eternal search for another shooter. Every playoff team needs a guy that can stretch the floor. You can never have enough shooting. That team really needs a player who can come in off the bench and hit a big shot. Wash, rinse, and repeat, ad nauseam.

Don’t get me wrong, shooting is nice. But most of the time what playoff caliber teams are really missing is another defender. They could use five good minutes off the bench with no purpose other than to limit an opposing scorer. Sometimes it comes in the form of a savvy, journeyman wing, and others, a young athletic center that can defend the rim with his shot-blocking.

The problem, of course, is that those players typically aren’t floating around in free agency; good defenders are usually deeply embedded in the playoff rotation of another playoff team, making them rather difficult to pry away. Plus, whereas good defense is much more difficult to quantify on paper and in workouts, good shooting is far easier to spot. For a coaching staff and management team with no time to lose at this point in the season, identifying a usable commodity quickly and easily is invaluable.

So rather than workout a defensive standout, the Mavs have opted to bring in Von Wafer and Rashad McCants, two shooting guards linked to Dallas in the off-season, for workouts. Here’s what I wrote about the two when I was evaluating potential free agent acquisitions for the Mavs over the summer:

Von Wafer, SG (unrestricted) – Von Wafer is a ruthless scorer.  He’d cut the throat of a kitten for a bucket, but that same drive makes him a bit of a black hole.  For what it’s worth, he also had trouble getting along with Rockets’ coach Rick Adelman, perhaps the most players’ coachy of players’ coaches.

Wafer may never tighten the screws that keep his head on his shoulders, and that’s likely the red flag that has kept the Mavs away.  If Wafer can’t learn to play nice with his coach and his teammates, he’ll never be able to thrive in the shot-in-the-arm role that best suits his game.  I don’t think Wafer has the talent or potential to pan out as a top-level scorer, but he would rock it as a punch off the bench.  The Mavs already have that covered with a cat named Jason Terry.  You may have heard of him.  But if Von has trouble finding a home and re-enters the market for bargain value, the Mavs would be stupid to pass up the depth…unless Wafer’s even more troublesome to a locker room than I give him credit for.

Rashad McCants, SG (unrestricted) – He’s young, he’s available, and he’s a scorer.  Unfortunately, he’s not much else.  McCants is a mouth with a jumpshot, but enough of both that he could inject some swagger and balance the court with his range.  As long as the deal is within reason, McCants could be the extra gun arm needed to shoot the lights out.  He also just so happened to work out with the team a few weeks back, so he’s got that on his side.

Not much has changed. Out of the two, I much prefer Wafer; he’s an excellent shooter but can score in a variety of ways. Neither is much to speak of in the way of perimeter defense, and months away from the NBA game isn’t going to help. But if the Mavs are determined to sign a back-court scorer, I’d strongly urge for Wafer over McCants, at least in terms of their on-court contributions. Wafer caused enough of a problem for Houston that he was let go for nothing, and the fact that he couldn’t drum up interest with any other team in the league is a bit worrisome. But if the Mavs are looking for another scorer in the Jamal Crawford/Flip Murray mold (albeit without Crawford’s playmaking abilities…or maybe just without the willingness to make plays), Wafer seems to be the superior option. One can only hope that his experience playing overseas has been a humbling one, and that Wafer is ready to grow up a bit on the court and off it. That, or maybe just come in and score like mad.


Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 16, 2010 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

Few people on this planet watch the Washington Wizards with more attention to minutiae than Kyle Weidie of Truth About It, not to mention the (very) few that write about the Wiz so prolifically. So I jumped at the chance to pick Kyle’s brain a bit about Caron Butler, after chatting a bit about the decline of Josh Howard.

If you feel I’ve left anything out in my analysis of Josh, I’d encourage you to jump over to Truth About It and impart your wisdom on Kyle and his readers.

Without further ado:

Kyle: Tell me about Josh Howard. I know about all of his off-court stuff. I know about some of his “can’t control what the ball do” statements regarding on-court stuff. I know about a debate between you and Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com over whether Cuban and the Mavs were coddling/babying Howard too much. Any other reasons why Howard fell so far from grace in Dallas? Did you get any indication that he was a disturbance in the locker room? Or can his down year mostly be attributed to injury issues? The Wizards likely see J-Ho as just an expiring contract, but he certainly will play. How healthy is he now? How motivated do you think he will be to contribute to his new, yet very, very bad, team?

Rob: Howard’s decline has been truly bizarre. From 2005-2007, Josh was a rock; he ignited the Mavs’ offense in the first quarter, played solid perimeter defense, and showed tremendous versatility in terms of scoring the ball. It looked as though Dallas had come away with a complete steal with the 29th pick in the 2003 draft, and Josh was named an All-Star in ‘07 to commemorate his rise. But Howard was injured virtually throughout the ‘07-’08 season, and even when he returned to action for the Mavs, he was visibly limited.

That I understand; there’s a lot of pressure to return from injury early, a fact made even more clear when Howard attempted to do it earlier this season only to be pulled from the rotation again a few days later for rest, rehab, and treatment. These are limitations that make sense for a player.

But when Josh finally returned to action for good in early December, his play didn’t seem visibly altered by the injury. He seemed to be moving well, was putting in the effort, and looked to be — at the time, at least — to be shaking off a bit of rust. He airballed some jumpers, turned the ball over, and took every mid-range jumper he could find. But again, this made sense for a guy recovering from injury. Every move is made a bit more tentatively, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Except it didn’t go away. Josh just continued to slump and slump, putting up some truly awful shooting nights in what was likely the worst stretch of his Maverick career. He looks healthy and he insists that he’s healthy, so what excuse can you really offer a guy who suddenly plummets to the worst shooting percentages of his career? Who starts drifting on defense, and sacrifices the end of the floor where he could have (at least partially) redeemed himself? The most infuriating thing about Josh’s decline is that it really does seem random; part of it is shot selection and part of it is effort level, but so much of Howard’s woes have simply been based on execution.

To Josh’s credit, he’s been a true professional through the entire ordeal. He hasn’t pouted or made demands, didn’t say a peep when he was moved to the bench, and kept his concerns about himself and the team in-house. Howard has finally grown up (many can recall some news-worthy PR disasters that reeked of immaturity), and though his game hasn’t been what it was in seasons past, I think that’s a good sign. I’d expect Howard to arrive with something to prove, for sure; the guy has a long history of playing with a chip on his shoulder, and off-court events like this have typically triggered an on-court response from Howard. But the intent to prove his point and actually doing it are two very different things.

One of the things Josh has struggled with a bit this season is producing at the 2…which seems particularly relevant now that the Mavs intend to put Butler in a similar situation. I know Caron has played a lot of minutes at the 2 and 3 both this season and previously — is he demonstratively more effective in one spot than another? Does Butler have trouble keeping up with the quicker wings locked in at the 2?

But beyond that, I’m just as curious about Butler’s drop-off as you are about Howard’s. It’s definitely been a down year by Caron standards, but I haven’t seen any clear indication why. He didn’t seem to mesh well with Gil (in any sense), but he’s struggled even with Arenas out of the lineup. What gives? Is there some mystical secret to Butler’s drop-off that’s hidden in plain view? And do you consider his season an actual regression of his game, or simply a momentary lapse in his otherwise solid career production?

Kyle: Caron Butler’s struggles this season have been almost as baffling as Howard’s, but after reading what you wrote, there seems to be more evidence I can cite for Butler’s downturn. For one, let’s talk system. For his entire time in Washington, Butler served under the pro-style Princeton offense of Eddie Jordan. His version of the Princeton involved a lot of passing and cutting, as does the more traditional college version, but in Jordan’s scheme, you also saw a lot more shots taken as the coached depended on his talented players, especially his guards/wings, which would obviously incorporate Butler but also Jamison at the stretch four, to make basketball plays, taking it upon themselves to find the advantage and at times take an isolation shot.In comes Flip Saunders, whose massive play book incorporates a lot of options, including Hubie Brown’s Hawk Offense and traditional high pick and rolls, but also involves the ball being in the point guard’s hands much more than the Princeton. Flip demands that his point guards create plays for their teammates and direct the flow of the offense.

With Flip intending for the ball to be in Gilbert Arenas’ hands 80-percent of the time, Butler became dependent on finding his shots within the scripted offense, rather than being able to create more on his own. This didn’t exactly jibe with the way Butler had been conditioned, and it showed.

This season, when he got the ball in his comfort zones of the past, extended wings and deep corners, usually on the left side of the floor, you’d often find Caron using a myriad of jab steps and pump fakes, mostly of an unproductive nature, before seeing him jack a contested shot and missing. This essentially evolved to Butler driving when he should have been shooting the open shot or shooting the ill-advised shot when he should have been driving.

The adjustment began to affect Butler’s confidence. His decision-making got worse, evidenced by what seemed to be a ton more traveling and charge calls, and his ability to create for teammates dropped off significantly. His assists per 36 minutes fell to 2.1 this season after being 4.0 in ‘08-09, 4.4 in ‘07-08, and 3.4 in ‘06-07, the season where Caron last played significant minutes with Arenas before this one.

This season, Arenas wasn’t the player he used to be, as he was trying to re-acclimate himself to NBA basketball in addition to adjusting his game for Flip’s offense. He had a long way to go before being suspended, but his numbers weren’t that bad and he seemed to be trying to adjust. His assist-percentage in the 32 games he played stands at 36.5%, up from 27.2% and 27% in the last two seasons where he saw the court for a significant amount of time (’06-07 and ‘05-06 respectively).

Back in late-November, Gilbert said, “There’s about 15 players on the team, 14 get along.” Even though they evidently subsequently kissed and made up, most were able to conclude that Arenas was talking about Butler. An even more telling sign of Butler’s offensive issues also came when Arenas made the “14 get along” comment (and there’s a video of Gil talking about the Wizards’ early-season struggles on offense in the previous link). Arenas said, “I know what to do with Antawn [Jamison], me and him been playing for the longest … pick and roll. Caron, he needs isos. So now I gotta find a way to get him the ball without cutting the other four players out.” The clip got cut off/edited in the link above, but Arenas ended his quote with, “and that’s just been a big problem.” If you really want to see Gil say this, among other things, you can check out around the 3:30 mark in this video highlighting his best home-game quotes from this season … before real guns and finger guns of course.

But enough about the offensive system, what else? Well, there is a Caron’s ego. Most all NBA players have egos to some extent, and this year, I’ve come to find out that this does not preclude good guys like Butler. I’ve now seen how an ego might negatively affect a strong-willed, prideful person like Caron.

I believe that essentially carrying the team, along with Antawn Jamison, for the previous two seasons, and then having to go back to playing second fiddle to Gilbert Arenas (in terms of attention), and to an extent, a second fiddle to the entire team in terms of who dictates the offense, served as a blow to Butler’s ego and his game worsened as a consequence. Some, including players, accused him of aiming to get his 20 point average of the past first and foremost.

Small instances served as indications of Butler’s ego. There was the time in San Antonio in November, after back-to-back blowout losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Spurs, when Brendan Haywood was singing Beyoncé’s ego while Gilbert Arenas spoke of those with “hidden agendas” on the team. The way the story appearing in the Washington Post was written at the time, most inferred that Haywood and Arenas were talking about each other. However, it was later concluded, especially since Haywood and Arenas are supposed to be very good friends, that they both were likely talking/singing about Caron Butler. By the way, Haywood has denied ever singing, but I tend to believe the reporting of the Post’s Michael Lee. In terms of the relationship between Arenas and Butler, the Lee recently wrote, “Arenas and Butler were never on the same page (And that’s sugarcoating it. As one person close to the team told me, “Those guys just flat out didn’t like each other”).” Not good to hear if you’re a Wizards fan.

Another small instance occurred when I was in the Wizards’ locker room before a game late last year. One player commented on my Clark Wallabees, which are currently well worn since I’ve had them since around 2001. Meanwhile, a second player was confusing them with hush-puppies. The first player went on to explain that Clark Wallabees are better and more expensive. The only thing I could really say was that they are damn comfortable shoes and that I’d had them since college. The second player then said to the first player something to the effect of, “Who are you, Caron Butler … talking about the cost of clothing?” The two players then both had a good laugh.

No biggie, but certainly a telling incident of what Butler’s teammates tended to think of him at times, even though they may have liked the guy. It’s also worth mentioning that Butler is very into fashion, hence why I’ve referred to him as a fashionista at times. He and his wife sometimes pick out fabrics and patterns to custom design his clothes and he has also served as a fashion model of sorts. He was the only player on the team who would get dressed in his expensively tailored clothes in the training room, out of sight and access from the media. When he wasn’t quasi-ducking the press, making a beeline from the training room to the locker room exit while others such as Jamison attracted the media scrum, Caron would always look his very best for interviews. The skuttlebutt is that he ripped this method of dressing from Kobe who ripped it from Michael Jordan, but I can’t testify to how authentic that theory may be.

Might any of this perceived “ego” stuff really be meaningless, especially in terms of Butler’s contributions on the basketball court? Yes, it certainly could mean nothing. But does it serve as an interesting look below the surface? Certainly. Gilbert had a pretty big ego himself, being quite the attention whore. Now, he’s sitting at home losing millions.

Finally, I’ll mention Caron’s defense. He claimed before the season that he’d really focus on becoming a better defender. I didn’t really see it. Part of it is that Caron has a bad habit of gambling in the passing lanes, often over-committing himself. The other part is that with his body type, he’s simply not athletic enough and lacks sufficient lateral movement to keep up with most wing players. On the other hand, much of playing good defense involves hustle and hard work, which could take away from Caron’s efforts on the offensive end. The Mavericks might be better served having Shawn Marion guard the opposing team’s two-spot over Butler and have them reverse roles on offense.

I hate to feel like I’m trashing Caron. For a long time, he was my favorite Wizard, consistently filling up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists and steals, in addition to points. I’ll always have good memories of why he was given the nickname “Tuff Juice” by former coach Eddie Jordan in the first place. And while I don’t want to say that everything I’ve described above has tarnished my memory of Butler, it has certainly changed my perspective of him. I wish Caron all the best in Dallas and will be watching very closely to see how he performs in a new environment. If he is able to work with Kidd, Dirk & Co. with success, then I will be very proud of Butler’s ability to adjust, yet somewhat hurt that he couldn’t do it this year in DC.

Perspective: A Swingman, A Defensive Center, An Abe Lincoln Tattoo

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 15, 2010 under Roster Moves | Be the First to Comment

Perspectives of all kinds from various media members, from the blogosphere to the mainstream, on the Mavs’ big trade:

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: “Butler has long been a minutes sopper. He’s not going to go off for 30 points consistently, but when he’s at his best he brings extended all-around production, and that means a lot to a team that doesn’t have much depth like the Mavericks. He’s not only replacing Josh Howard’s minutes, but he’s taking minutes from Jose Juan Barea by pushing Jason Kidd down a position for longer stretches. And while Barea’s contributions are to be appreciated, the Mavs can’t be more than second round fodder if he’s playing 20 minutes a night. And he’s averaged 21.9 thus far this season. This depends on Butler picking it up, however. It wasn’t just his unfamiliarity with Saunders’ offense, he was clearly alternately taking possessions off, and jacking up shots. He made no effort to immerse himself in an offense that could have really played to his strengths, and he’ll be hooking up with another coach (Rick Carlisle) that demands that plays actually be run properly. He’ll also be hooking up with one of the best coaches in the NBA, so here’s hoping he’s aware of his luck. The turnaround will be on Butler. If he pulls himself above the muck of the middling and the average, and turns into the Butler of old (even with fewer shots and fewer chances to dominate), these Mavericks could have a chance. If he pulls the same routine we saw in Washington, the Mavericks might as well be starting Josh Howard.”

John Hollinger, ESPN.com (Insider): “So how much better does that lofty sum make Dallas? Based on player efficiency rating, it doesn’t move the needle much. Our Trade Machine analysis is that the swap improves Dallas by only one win for the remainder of the season, largely because this season the difference in performance between Butler and Howard is much smaller than generally perceived. In fact, statistically, there’s been virtually no difference between the two players over the past four seasons, including this one, in which Butler’s numbers have been down just as sharply as Howard’s. For the Mavs, the success of the trade might come down to the names in agate type, not the headliners. That is, Haywood and Gooden may be fairly similar in terms of PER, but look at plus-minus stats and a very different picture emerges. According to Basketballvalue.com, Dallas gives up 11.25 points per 100 possessions more with Gooden on the court, one of the worst marks in basketball…On the other hand, Haywood’s plus-minus numbers over the past half-decade have been spectacular. This season, for instance, Washington is 8.46 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court…That said, the deal overall still leaves me with more questions than answers. How is Butler going to defend opposing shooting guards when he can’t even guard small forwards? How will the Mavs juggle minutes up front between Haywood and Erick Dampier, especially when they’re likely to play extended stretches with…Nowitzki playing the 5?…Without such a second trade…it appears the Mavs are spending a total of $30 million just to improve their odds of making the second round. Even after this deal, I don’t like their chances to beat Denver or Utah, let alone the likes of the Lakers.”

Bethlehem Shoals, FanHouse: “Regardless, this deal is as lopsided as everyone thought the Pau Gasol was in the spring 2008…That transaction spurred Dallas’s acquisition of Jason Kidd, the Suns’s wholesale conversion to the church of Shaquille O’Neal, and the Cavs trading their entire team and coming up with Delonte West where once Larry Hughes was…at the time, it felt like everyone was loading up for the end of the world…For the Mavs, it was a fine time to make a move. Butler was there for the taking, their 2010 hopes were always slim – locking down Dirk should be enough – and Kidd’s days are numbered. But all of us little people want to know: Will this deal set off another arms race, or be seen as an isolated case of opportunism?…Suppose, though, that Dallas trade is interpreted as a sign, and every other big team moves. Cleveland pairs Amare and LeBron, Wade and Bosh become best friends in Miami. Would these be trial runs, ploys to keep these superstars close to home, or actual long-term plans that just happen to unfold a few months in advance?…Dallas has raised the stakes; ergo, Cleveland and Miami might be in a scramble to win a title and seriously contend (respectively). Or, an equally likely possibility: Dallas goes for it now, as Boston might, because their window is closing. However strange it may sound, the more cluttered this season becomes for the Cavs or Heat, the fewer promises/surprises they have to pull once 2009-10 winds down.”

Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus: “Having Butler means Rick Carlisle has the kind of flexibility with lineups he anticipated coming into the season. For the most part, Shawn Marion has played at small forward, stepping into Howard’s old role as a starter and rarely swinging down to the four-spot. A forward duo of Butler and Marion could be very difficult for opponents, especially with Dirk Nowitzki creating matchup problems at center at times…Besides their financial situation, Dallas was in an ideal situation to upgrade at the trade deadline because the Mavericks’ position in the standings has been better than their play on the court. At 32-20, Dallas is just 2.5 games behind second-place Denver in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the West, but the Mavericks’ have outscored opponents by just 1.7 points per game. Even accounting for a more difficult schedule than average, their +2.2 schedule-adjusted differential is 12th in the league in eighth in the conference. As a result, you’d expect a correction in Dallas’ record the rest of the way, but this trade may prevent that from happening and allow the Mavericks to take advantage of their good fortune so far.”

Josh Howard, Washington Wizards:

Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images.

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: “We often talk about the Mavs “having a plan’’ as opposed to simply “spending to assemble a Fantasy Basketball Team,’’ or worse, grab-bagging their way through moves. This? It all looks like the result of ‘having a plan.’’…A Draft-Day trade. A Summer of 2009 free-agent Sign-and-Trade. A minor deal with New Jersey. A major deal with Washington. And (with the help of ‘JES’ and David Lord of the 75-Member Staff) here’s what Dallas has done, depth-chart-wise, with its dollars and sense:

Shifted from paying $94,743,434 for:
Dampier – Hollins – Williams
Nowitzki – Bass – Singleton
Howard – George – Stackhouse
Wright – Green – Carroll
Kidd – Terry – Barea
and drafting BJ Mullens

To paying $87,707,016 for:
Haywood – Dampier
Nowitzki – Thomas – Najera
Marion – Stevenson
Butler – Terry – Carroll
Kidd – Beaubois – Barea
with Calethes, Nivins, OKC’s 2010 2nd-round pick an a $2.9 mil trade exception[.]”

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: This is hardly just a Caron Butler trade, however. In fact, for the Mavericks, the big prize of the day may well be center Brendan Haywood…The Wizards have been pretty miserable this season. But they have been dramatically less miserable with Brendan Haywood on the court. Basketball Value pins his adjusted plus/minus at better than plus-eight points per 100 possessions. That’s one of the top 30 ratings in the NBA, ahead of the likes of Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and even Caron Butler. 82games.com says that Haywood is part of the Wizards’ nine most effective lineups. When a player has those kinds of plus/minus statistics, but is not an All-Star, if typically means he knows something about playing D. When he’s on the court, Brendan Haywood grabs about 18% of the available rebounds. At age 30, that’s the best rate of his career. It’s also good for 21st in the NBA, in nice company with Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins and the like. It’s also slightly better than Drew Gooden, whose place Haywood would take in Dallas.

Marc Stein (@STEIN_LINE_HQ), ESPN.com: “In response to any suggestion out there that Haywood could have been held onto by Wiz: Mavs would never have done this deal without Haywood[.]“

Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: “In Butler, Dallas knows they are getting a former All-Star, but they don’t know if he’ll be compatible. Sure, Butler liked to be seen on the scene, but he always kept it classy. Caron Butler is a good guy with strong character. But can his game get along with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki? Will he adjust for them as he did not do for Flip Saunders? Brendan Haywood has been playing motivated enough in a contract year, what happens to the games of Butler and DeShawn Stevenson in their respective fresh starts?”

Mike Prada, Bullets Forever: “It’s not just about getting no talent back or not clearing enough salary to get under the luxury tax this year.  It’s not just about sacrificing two somewhat valuable assets for nothing more than a little extra room under the luxury tax and flexibility in 2011.  It’s not just about bringing in two guys who aren’t great characters and would take away minutes from the young players. No, it’s about the coalescence of bad planning, a bad read of the market, a lack of creativity, misplaced priorities and a lack of understanding about what the fans want and what they want to hear.  That’s why this trade stinks.”

Mike Jones, Mike Jones Sports: “Did the Wizards come up on the short end of the stick by not being able to get a draft pick in the mix? Possibly. But given Washington’s situation — their 17-33 record and the fact that it was no secret that they needed to blow this team up — they didn’t have as much leverage as they could have. I’m told they approached — and continue to approach — the trade deadline with somewhat of a checklist. They wanted/want to make deals that give them A) salary relief, B) young talent and or C) future picks. The Wizards would have viewed a deal that gave them all three as fantastic, a deal that gave them one of the two as great, and a deal that at least gave them salary relief as pretty good. Since they didn’t really get any young talent in this trade, then this is a pretty good trade because in it they got a former All-Star in Howard and a player with starting experience in winning situations in Gooden, who also provides a low-post presence. And they get two players (Ross and Singleton) that they can evaluate.”

Dave Berri, Wages of Wins Journal: “Given this roster, how good are the Mavericks today? Looking back at Table One we see that Howard was the least productive player on the Mavericks this season.  So replacing Howard with Butler is an upgrade.  And once again, Haywood is very productive.  Consequently, it’s possible the Mavericks could win about 21 of their final 30 games (this estimate is based upon my guess of how many minutes each player will play down the stretch).  Had the Mavericks stayed the same, this team could have expected to win about 17 more games.  So in terms of the final standings, this move doesn’t really alter the final record dramatically. But that’s because there are only 30 games left.”

Ernie Grunfeld, Washington Wizards Press Release: “Our four new players bring versatility and the experience of playing in a winning situation. Josh and Quinton can each play both the shooting guard and small forward positions while providing athleticism and outside shooting.  Drew can play both the power forward and center positions and he and James give us an inside presence that combines skill and toughness.”

James Singleton, Washington Wizards (via Eddie Sefko): “I’m finally going to get a chance. I think it helps both teams and it’s the best situation for me, really. I spoke to coach Carlisle and I told him he did right by me. I think it will work out good for me and good for both teams.”

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brandon George): “[I] love [Caron]. There’s one thing about this league, you can’t substitute toughness. He’s very good everywhere he’s been, in LA, Miami and now Washington. He’s a very, very good player who complements a lot of good players. He was an All-Star last year, and he’s definitely one of those guys you have to key on when you play him.”

Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (via Brandon George): “Caron’s a great player and Haywood, and those guys will definitely help us. The big thing as a whole, we haven’t played well since the new year. Even taking away talking about a trade, us as players, we have to play better and get more wins under our belt…We’re a veteran ball club, so it shouldn’t be as big if we were a younger team and trying to fit in. They just have to come in and do their job, and we have some great guys who will make them feel welcomed and have fun doing it.”

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (via Brad Townsend): As a franchise sometimes, you’ve got to make tough decisions. It’s always tough and sad to see teammates leave, especially when you’ve played with them for a long time like we have with Josh. We’ve been through battles with him. So it’s always tough to see guys go, but sometimes a franchise has to move on and make decisions…It’s going to be tough to get everyone together that quick. We’ve got a tough stretch with four games in five nights, but nothing is easy in this league and you’ve got to go out and earn it. Hopefully we’re going to put some basics in Monday, just a couple of plays, tell them our defensive philosophy and go out and play. That’s what good players do, play off each other.”

Michael Lee, The Washington Post: “They surrendered Butler, Haywood and Stevenson in what essentially is a salary dump that provides almost $15 million in cap relief for the 2010-11 season. Ross is the only player the Wizards receive who is signed through next season. The deal would also provide nearly $2.6 million in luxury tax relief this season for the Wizards, who will ship out $19.7 million in salaries while getting back $17.3 million. Coupled with the savings that the Wizards will already receive for suspensions to Arenas and Crittenton, the luxury tax penalty could be reduced by nearly $7 million.”

Falling Up

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 13, 2010 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | 9 Comments to Read

UPDATE: Per Stein, the deal is official. (Confirmed by Marc Spears)

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported last night that the ongoing trade negotiations between the Mavs and the Wizards have turned serious. Super serious. As in, we could have an official trade by later tonight. That’s a big jump from “the Mavs are interested in Caron Butler,” and based on the Mavs’ rumored acquisitions? I don’t see how Dallas fans could be anything but pleased.

The deal as reported would send Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, and (possibly) James Singleton to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. Butler will undoubtedly be the headline-grabber in Dallas, the real prize here may be Haywood.

Drew Gooden has been solid for the Mavs this year, but Haywood is a legitimate game-changer at center. He’s one of the most physical defenders at the position in the entire league, and an offensive superior to Erick Dampier. Dwight Howard ranked Haywood as the third best defender in the league, and an in-depth look at Haywood’s D over at Bullets Forever only tells us more of the same; the Mavs are adding a center that instantly upgrades their interior defense and rebounding, two things he was able to do in Washington despite some truly miserable circumstances.

Then of course, the Mavs would hope that Caron Butler can return to form, or at the very least, improve on Josh Howard’s production as a Mav. It’s incredibly difficult to tell which parts of Butler’s game are due to a genuine regression and which parts simply come from playing for a terrible team at a terrible time, but Caron has a lot working in his favor with the Mavs. Rick Carlisle is a top-notch coach, and Dirk Nowitzki is an insanely talented and productive player. Jason Kidd makes things so easy on offense, and having an offensive threat like Jason Terry and a defensive weapon like Shawn Marion relieves a lot of pressure. On top of that, Mark Cuban spares no expense in making his players comfortable, and the outlook of the team as a whole is decidedly more optimistic than that of the Wiz. It’s amazing what a change of scenery and a different disposition can do for a player’s performance, and Dallas has all of the ingredients necessary to facilitate a Butler resurgence.

DeShawn Stevenson is the filler element, and he’s essentially the price the Mavs have to pay for Butler and Haywood. Once upon a time he was something of a defensive stalwart, but even that aspect of his game has faded in the last two seasons. Now he’s merely an Abe Lincoln-tatted headcase with an overinflated ego and marginal on-court effectiveness. Stevenson can be destructive, but if his minor distraction is what it takes to bring such substantial talent to the Mavs, then Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have certainly pulled a fast one on Ernie Grunfeld (or at the very least, managed to capitalize on Grunfeld’s misfortune).

It’s honestly a shame to see the Josh Howard era end under such depressing circumstances, but the Mavs’ brass made a beautiful move. This is more than you could ever hope for from a trade deadline deal, and if the Wizards cut Drew Gooden loose only to re-sign in Dallas some 30 days later? The Mavs get that much deeper, with a pretty fearsome 10-man rotation. If Butler and Haywood indeed find themselves in Maverick uniforms, it might be time to get excited — this team will be absolutely tremendous.

Welcome Back, Eddie

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 11, 2010 under News, Roster Moves | 5 Comments to Read

The trade is official, and Eduardo Najera is the newest Dallas Maverick. Via the press release:

Najera (6-8, 235) will be returning to Dallas after playing his first four professional seasons for the Mavericks. Dallas originally acquired the rights to Najera in a draft night trade with Houston on June 28, 2000. He played in 208 games (34 starts) as a Maverick averaging 4.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per contest. Najera also played in 39 postseason games with Dallas, including 19 games (5 starts) in 2003 when the Mavericks advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

Here’s a classic American Express spot from Najera’s first stint with the Mavs, featuring Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Dirk, Steve Nash, Najera, and a slightly less crazy Don Nelson:

Passing Go

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 9, 2010 under Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

All indications show that Monday will be Kris Humphries’ last day as a Maverick, making his time in Dallas rather short-lived. On a basketball level, the swap of Humphries for Eduardo Najera accomplishes very little. Najera counters Hump’s athleticism and rebounding instincts with experience, defensive acumen, and veteran savvy, but at best, this deal seems to be a wash for the Mavs.

Najera is not the rebounder that Humphries is nor the finisher, but I think there’s legitimate reason to believe that Eddie is a superior defensive big man than Kris, despite his 33 years of age. Hump has the tools to be a pretty decent defender, but watching him defend the pick-and-roll is just brutal. And although he puts in the effort on the low block, he simply isn’t a good on-ball defender in the post. Wrap all of that up with a “somewhat lacking in defensive awareness” bow, and you’ve got the whole Kris Humphries package. Energetic player, terrific rebounder, and a limited defender.

It’s hard to know what to expect out of Najera at this point, given his recent injury history. He had yet to be effective in his limited time with the Nets this season (just 204 minutes in 13 games due to various injuries), so it’s difficult to determine exactly what he can offer at this point in his career. But there’s definitely reason to believe that Najera should perform better as a Maverick, if for no other reason than the superior talent surrounding him and the lack of dark clouds lingering overhead. Energy guys like Eddie operate at their best in systems where they don’t need to make regular, tangible contributions; it should be more about his influence on the team’s energy level than his rebounding totals. He won’t fly around the court like Hump, but Najera is plenty capable of physical play inside, scrapping for possessions, etc. Plus, New Jersey’s record is bad enough to get into anybody’s head, and to make the jump from a dismal 3-33 squad to the 25-11 Mavs should be a breath of fresh air for a vet like Eddie.

Keep your fingers crossed that Najera can make an impact defensively. Although Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden are doing a nice job at the top of the center rotation, it would be nice to have Eddie as a situational alternative.

But in all honesty, this trade isn’t about basketball. Looking at the levels of talent on both sides, Humphries is a better talent than Najera, and though he has holes in his game, he has plenty of time to mend them. He has a reasonable contract for this season and next, but in Najera, the Mavs have found a contract that’s even more reasonable. The slight savings there compounded with Shawne Williams’ contract (and the luxury tax savings from both) make this a nice, tidy cost-cutting move for the Mavs. Though it’d be nice to see if Humphries could stick around and become a more complete player, Dallas has managed to save nearly $5 million without making a significant drop-off. Hump was having a nice season for the Mavs, but he’s still and end-of-the-rotation guy. If Cuban can save $5 million by making a slight concession, that’s just sound management.

For those of you that are curious where this $5 million number is coming from, let’s break down the salaries:

Kris Humphries$2,900,000$3,200,000 (PO)$0
Shawne Williams$2,416,067$2,41,1487 (QO)$0

Eduardo Najera$3,000,000$3,000,000*$2,750,000*

Salaries from Storyteller Contracts.

First of all, a few things to consider:

  • The second year of Kris Humphries’ contract is a player option, which he will likely accept. 2010 may be a big year for the free agent market, but I don’t see teams knocking down Hump’s door.
  • The second year of Shawne Williams’ contract is a qualifying offer, which he would not have been given by the Mavs and will not be given by the Nets (reports indicate that the Nets intend to waive Williams).
  • The last two years of Najera’s contract are partially unguaranteed; the guaranteed values are $2,500,000 for ’10-’11 and $2,250,000 for ’11-’12. So if the Mavs decide to sever ties with Najera after this season, they can cut a bit of the longer-term salary commitment.

So in terms of ’09-’10 salary, you have Najera’s $3 million vs. Humphries’ $2.9 million plus Williams’ $2.4 million. The difference in salary commitment is roughly $2.3 million, which is doubled because the Mavs are well over the luxury tax. That’s $4.6 million back in Mark Cuban’s pocket, which is pretty substantial.

However, if you’ll take a look at the Mavs’ salary commitments down the line, some of that $4.6 million is hedged by the final years of Najera’s deal. Najera’s contract runs one year longer than Humphries’, and how the Mavs stand financially could very well be dependent on their decision keep or release Najera. If the Mavs keep him and choose to pay his full salary both next year and the year after, their total financial commitment from this trade is $8.75 million. By comparison, the total obligation of Humphries’ and Williams’ combined contracts (assuming Hump takes his player option) is $8.5 million. If the Mavs choose not to keep Najera, their total salary commitment is $7.75 million. So although Cuban and the Mavs shave their salary commitments now, you can see that down the line, most of those savings end up in Najera’s hands.

This, of course, assumes that the Mavs’ total salary remains more or less the same. If Nelson and Cuban would wiggle the team under the luxury tax line in the future (which doesn’t seem likely, given the talent and contracts on the roster), any minor savings from the deal over the long-term (such as the slight margin if the team cuts Najera) are doubled. Plus, it gives Cuban’s wallet a bit of a break today, in exchange for paying out tomorrow. Given the current state of the economy, that’s something.

While I’m sure Najera wasn’t exactly what Mavs fans were hoping to net in exchange for Humphries and Williams, it’s a sound deal. It’s far from a home run, but as long as the overall savings work out in the end, the Mavs have accomplished what they were looking to accomplish. This will also likely be the last that we hear of Shawne Williams, and good riddance. While the details of his indiscretions are still held in-house, I’m glad to finally have some closure.