Rumor Mongering: Castle on a Cloud

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 24, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 6 Comments to Read

Chris Paul is brilliant enough as a player that teams have to indulge his whimsy. He’s the top point guard in the game — no, that is not up for debate — and depending on how you slice it, either a top-three or top-five player overall. He’s not the kind of player you dismiss out of hand. He’s the kind of player you send fruit baskets to, and offer a shoe polish if he ever steps through the door. His game absolutely, positively demands your attention, and there’s no use arguing around that.

Still, there’s no point in playing the trade game until the rumors start to get a little more serious. Yes, Chris Paul has the Dallas Mavericks listed among the teams he’d prefer to be traded to, and that matters. Still, the Hornets, if they even decide to trade Paul at all, can ship their star point guard wherever they’d like. They can shop him around to every team in the league in search of the most attractive return package, and say “To hell with him and his list.” It’s certainly relevant that Paul wants to be traded in the first place, because it’s likely in the Hornets’ best interest to cash out now if they’re unable to pacify him. However, it matters less and less where he’d like to end up, because if New Orleans does make the move, they’re going to do so on their terms.

If the Hornets insist on receiving young talent in return for Paul (which only seems logical), the Mavs’ chances are dead in the water. With all due respect to Dominique Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois is the only young asset on the roster worth having, and he just so happens to be a positional duplicate to either Darren Collison or Marcus Thornton. That should be enough to cut down any possible intrigue Rodrigue may have held for New Orleans. Plus, even if Beaubois were enticing to the Hornets, a deal of this magnitude would take more than one young, talented player. New Orleans won’t ever get equal value for Chris Paul via trade, but they’re also not going to entertain a low-ball offer centered around just one young asset.

However, if New Orleans is instead focused on clearing cap to start again, the Mavs are in business. Dallas has $29 million in expiring contracts to play around with, and a Paul-less Hornets team will have a few expensive contracts to dispose of. If Tyson Chandler’s expiring deal were to be involved, a trade couldn’t officially go through until September 13th due to trade restrictions on recently acquired players. If not, the Mavs may have trouble putting together an attractive enough deal to steal the Hornets’ glance.

The most palatable offer from Dallas would likely be Tyson Chandler’s expiring contract, Caron Butler’s expiring contract, DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract, Rodrigue Beaubois, two first rounders, and a trade exception for Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, and James Posey. Okafor and Posey are the two contracts that are likely to be moved along with Paul, as their departure (Okafor is owed $52 million over the next four seasons while Posey is owed $13.4 million over the next two) would help to facilitate the franchise reboot incited by Paul’s trade demand.

I have a hard time believing that such an offer would be competitive with the types of deals that will be thrown against the wall. Almost every team in the league will be after Paul, and while few teams can compete with the long-term savings the Mavs can offer, Dallas is likely still a few good, young players short of making a deal work.

Everything rests with the Hornets. Before it’s even worth it to fully analyze the Mavs’ trade potential, we need to know that New Orleans is seriously entertaining the option of moving Paul. Right now we don’t. So table your trade machine wizardry until things get a tad more serious, but with the tiniest bit of focus on what it could mean for Dallas to add one of the top talents the NBA has to offer.

Rumor Mongering: Just Like Last Time, Only Different

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 10, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 2 Comments to Read

Al Jefferson wouldn’t have been a suitable replacement for Brendan Haywood, nor is he a particularly wise usage of Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract. But what if he could be had for something far less? That’s apparently what the Mavs are asking of the Timberwolves, according to Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas:

Dallas, meanwhile, is determined not to ship out Dampier’s fully unguaranteed $13 million contract just to take back someone else’s long-term deal. The Mavs are telling teams that they have to furnish a clear roster upgrade if they want the ability to acquire Dampier, cut him instantly and wipe $13 million off the books.

Sources say Minnesota has been urging Dallas to part with Dampier’s contract and draft considerations in exchange for Al Jefferson, who has three years left on his contract at $42 million. The Mavericks keep telling the Wolves that they won’t surrender Dampier’s contract in a Jefferson deal because they have it earmarked for a Gasol-type trade, such as a theoretical sign-and-trade arrangement for James or as the centerpiece of Dallas’ longstanding pursuit of Paul. The problem? It’s a steep drop in terms of difference-makers that might be available after LeBron and his good buddy CP3.

The Mavs’ hard-line stance could always change if they miss out on their other summer targets. For now, though, look for them to take a measured look at their options on the trade market for the next month or so, disappointing as it would be if they can’t turn their best asset into tangible help for Dirk Nowitzki after so much hoopla. Just to be clear, though: Sources say Dallas does remain interested in Jefferson if the Wolves prove amenable to a deal that does not involve Dampier’s contract.

The Mavs would understandably want to pick up Al Jefferson for expiring contracts and Matt Carroll while holding on to their most valuable trade chip, it just seems awfully unlikely that Minnesota would ever agree to such terms. Al’s contract is rather large for a player with such glaring holes in his game, but he’s not enough of a burden that he warrants unloading for cap savings alone. If Dallas really wants to add Jefferson, it’s most likely going to take Dampier. Expecting anything less is just a part of the negotiation, but hardly worthy of anything more than a rumor.

There are only a few core deals that the Mavs could use to trade for Al Jefferson without using Erick Dampier’s contract, assuming that the only player coming to Dallas is Jefferson:

  • DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract, Matt Carroll, and Eduardo Najera (with his partially unguaranteed 2011-2012 salary) for Al Jefferson
  • DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract, Matt Carroll, and J.J. Barea for Al Jefferson
  • Jason Terry (and his partially unguaranteed 2011-2012 salary) and Matt Carroll for Al Jefferson
  • Jason Terry (and his partially unguaranteed 2011-2012 salary) and DeShawn Stevenson’s expiring contract for Al Jefferson

Terry and Stevenson make the most sense for the Wolves, but only if their intent is to clear as much salary as possible. They would trade Jefferson’s $13 million salary for $5 million guaranteed if they opt to waive Terry, and Dallas could include cash and draft picks to sweeten the pot if they so choose. Would all of that be worth it to earn the right to pay Jefferson over the next three seasons? Perhaps, but only if the Mavs don’t intend to force him into an uncomfortable role: playing center alongside Dirk Nowitzki.

Dirk is a unique cat, and his game isn’t easy to build around. It takes a particular set of players that can complement his strengths while making up for his weaknesses, and in that regard Jefferson disappoints. They’re not comparable, just familiar; even if Nowitzki and Jefferson aren’t the same in form, they are in function. It’s a neat diversion, but wouldn’t work as a starting pairing.

Now, a big rotation of Dirk, Brendan Haywood, and Al Jefferson? $13 million is a lot to pay for a big off the bench, but yeesh. Diversion turns to full-time fancy, and concerns about fit are obliterated. It would likely be painful for Mark Cuban to absorb both Jefferson’s deal and the tax implications, but considering it’s salary the Mavs would have been paying out to benchwarmers (and possibly Terry) this season anyway, the financial difference this season would be rather negligible. It’s all about how optimistic the Mavs are in their ability to move under the tax line (and conceivably the cap) in the coming seasons. With Nowitzki, Haywood, Marion, and perhaps another player yet to be determined all eating up space until 2014 at least, it may not be as financially liberal as it seems to throw in Al.

Rumor Mongering: Tastes Like Chicken

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 9, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 10 Comments to Read

Though the Mavs would theoretically be best served picking out their main off-season course before pinning down the plate presentation, NBA teams are rarely given such an opportunity. Teams grasp at every attractive free agent within their general vicinity, mostly because they have to; with other franchises presenting all kind of offers from every imaginable angle, free agents can rarely be seen as secure pursuits. Some players obviously lean heavily one way or another, but for us to assume an outcome does disregard both the power and influence of their agency.

So teams pitch, and they pitch and they pitch and they pitch. They evaluate, negotiate, offer, and counter-offer, until everyone is rightfully tired of the entire process. It’s continuous and tiresome, yet it’s the avenue teams are given to acquire new talent and that players are given to make bank.

So they play along. Free agency is difficult enough on its own merits to worry about temporal order. Even if the comprehensive vision isn’t yet apparent to the public eye, GMs are working the phones as part of something bigger than an individual signing. Even if that GM is David Kahn, and the “something bigger” is an elaborate practical joke on the Timberwolf faithful.

With all of this in mind, consider the following: According to Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas, the Mavs have expressed interest in signing free agent wing Rasual Butler. It’s still not the big splash Mavs fans are waiting for, but it’s the type of peripheral signing that can make Dallas a better team overall. Even though Butler would likely be the backup to the backup (he’d be safely behind Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, and Rodrigue Beaubois on the depth chart), Rasual is a usable player and an asset to have deep among the reserves.

Of course, how much Dallas would be willing to spend to sign Rasual would obviously be of some import. Picking up Butler could cost the Mavs most of their mid-level exception, and while that’s not an evil in itself, it could prevent Dallas from adding another real center. And as quaint of player Rasual may be, he’s not quite worth the chance of the Mavs walking into the regular season with Brendan Haywood as the only proven center under contract.

That said, Butler’s fine. A bit bland, but fine. He’s a decent outside shooter, a perfectly competent wing defender, and a nice complement. He just doesn’t quite hit the spot.

Rumor Mongering: Happy Together

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 8, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 2 Comments to Read

Ed. note: Now that the Mavs have re-signed Brendan Haywood and the Celtics have signed Jermaine O’Neal, consider this a comparative piece explaining the Mavs’ choice. Haywood was the better option all along for a number of reasons, and if it came down to Dallas choosing between which center to pursue, they made the right call.

There is no poetry to Brendan Haywood’s game. Many of his moves lack polish, and he isn’t easily captured in cliché. Haywood is simply an effective individual defender and a capable finisher at the 5 who is somehow unspectacular enough to live comfortably under the radar and skilled enough to be a vital part of the Mavs’ off-season plans. Regardless of what you’ve read elsewhere, Haywood is the option at center. Any reasonable alternative (Chandler, Biedrins, Jefferson, Shaq, etc.) save from Jermaine O’Neal would be a clear defensive downgrade, and none of those players can boast Brendan’s two-way utility.

That’s why it warms my heart that the Mavs are now linked to the fairer O’Neal, even if he’s not quite the catch that Brendan is. Their defensive abilities are certainly comparable, but what worries me most about Jermaine are his offensive delusions and relatively inferior rebounding. Last season, O’Neal averaged about six more FGAs per 36 minutes than Haywood, despite the fact that the two are roughly equal in terms of their offensive efficiency. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be rather important for O’Neal to not see his roles on the Mavs and Heat as congruent. Miami’s dearth of scorers last season afforded Jermaine an opportunity to be more of a focal point, whereas he would fall down a few pegs on the Mavs’ scoring ladder.

If not for a few rather glaring asterisks on O’Neal’s application, he could be considered Haywood’s equal. Jermaine is 31 going on 60, and heavy minutes, significant usage, and a long NBA career have sent O’Neal’s athletic abilities through a meat processing plant. Even though Haywood isn’t likely to improve from here on out, his career is at least moving laterally, which in this case functions as an advantage. O’Neal’s injuries are also a bit of a concern, as he’s played 70+ games just twice in his last seven seasons (Haywood played five 70+ game seasons over that same span).

However, the most frightening footnote of all — fair or unfair — is O’Neal’s latest playoff performance. Jermaine completely disappeared against Boston’s defense in the first round, when Miami needed offense more than ever. Dwyane Wade desperately needed some kind of help to make the series competitive, but Jermaine could only manage 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds on 20.5% shooting. In case you’re curious, that’s good for a 2.5 PER. The Celtics were operating at a special level all throughout the playoffs, but that’s the same level at which the Mavs hope to compete. If Jermaine couldn’t even manage to be competent against the turned backs of the Celtics while all eyes were on Wade, would he really be a wise choice for the Mavs’ starting center?

Haywood was merely himself during the Mavs’ abbreviated postseason run, and made three more field goals than O’Neal (12 to 9) despite taking about half of the attempts (21 to 44). He didn’t step outside himself, defended well when given the opportunity, and played the victim almost as well as Rodrigue Beaubois. There should never have been any dispute over who was Dallas’ rightful starting center, yet Brendan was denied both minutes and opportunities on the basis of some ridiculous criterion. It didn’t stop him from posting a 19.3 PER over six playoff games, but Haywood was clearly restricted from making his full impact by forces outside his control.

A Haywood-O’Neal center tandem would be fantastic for Dallas, but it’s admittedly a bit of a long-shot. The Mavs and Jermaine were both reportedly interested in a union, but since, the Celtics have emerged as the front-runners to sign O’Neal. On top of that, Miami is a legitimate option for Brendan Haywood if they fail to entice LeBron James (luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any other serious competition). LeBron would eat up the cap space with Haywood’s name on it, and while his joining with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be the bane of the league at large, it would be a positive development for the Mavs. With no one left to bid against, Dallas would likely be able to come to reasonable terms with Brendan, and the starting five for next season would be secured. Throw in a coup for Jermaine and good return on Dampier, and the Mavs have the potential to be one of the most complete teams in basketball.

UPDATE 11:59 AM CST: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Jermaine O’Neal has agreed to sign with the Boston Celtics. Well, it was fun while it lasted, folks.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 6, 2010 under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

  • In ESPN’s Ultimate Team Standings (Insider), the Mavs came in as the 24th best franchise in all of professional sports. The only NBA orgs that rank ahead of Dallas are San Antonio, Orlando, and Cleveland. Not too shabby, Mark. Here’s the blurb: “…it’s easy to understand why owner Mark Cuban is appreciated by the Mavs faithful. Yes, the retooled Mavs — with recently acquired Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood — fizzled in a first-round exit, but the effort (and salary absorbed) can’t be faulted. In the meantime, the Mavs lowered their average ticket price by 7.5% (the highest slash by any team with a winning record last season) and offered a $59 Dr Pepper Family Night package, with tickets and food for four. Plus, as Cuban says, “we probably spend more on in-game video production than any team in the world.” It’s no surprise, then, that American Airlines Center was tops in the NBA for Stadium Experience, or that yet another early summer vacation hasn’t soured Mavs loyalists.”
  • Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside goes through the the Mavs’ Summer League roster to better acquaint us with some of the relative unknowns. No Beaubois or DoJo here, just intros into the Eric Tramiels of the world.
  • Bad luck for Shawn Marion.
  • Dirk Nowitzki on free agency (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “Obviously, a couple teams were interested,” he said. “But it never really got to the point where I was ready to listen. My heart’s here. To go through the whole process that everybody’s going through, I don’t like that. It was just weird. And to have two-hour presentations when I know I’m not really interested. I didn’t see any sense in that. It didn’t really get that far…When it was all said and done, to me, I feel like I started this thing here and after 12 years now, I feel like I got unfinished business here. I just wanted to not run away from something that’s right there. I met with Cuban, and he said: ‘You know we’re all in this together.’..And he’s right. We started this and it wouldn’t even feel right to go somewhere else and chase something that nobody can promise me.”
  • Dan Feldman analyzed Brendan Haywood’s game as part of his free agency coverage over at Piston Powered, and asked me to chip in with a breakdown of Haywood. Check it out for more reasons why Dallas really needs to hold on to Brendan.
  • Tough break for Dirk: the world’s most famous psychic octopus picked Spain to win out over Germany in the World Cup semi-finals.

Rumor Mongering: Flawed Defenses

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 30, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 2 Comments to Read


Another day, another rumor, this time less of the free agent variety. From Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:

The Dallas Mavericks’ search for help to support star forward Dirk Nowitzki included inquiries about Minnesota Timberwolves center Al Jefferson prior to last week’s NBA draft, according to sources close to the situation. Sources with knowledge of the Mavericks’ thinking, however, told ESPNDallas.com that Jefferson is a “down the list” target for the team who is unlikely to be pursued further until after Dallas makes a series of sign-and-trade bids for top free agents.

Two sources said the initial round of Mavs-Wolves discussions never got beyond the preliminary stage. Minnesota still wants more than mere salary relief for Jefferson, and Dallas is not willing to part with any of its prime trade assets — such as Erick Dampier’s $13 million non-guaranteed contract — to acquire a player with proven low-post scoring skills but a troubled injury history. Sources with knowledge of Minnesota’s thinking told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Wolves are determined to move Jefferson before the start of next season, seeing Kevin Love as a better (and more cost effective) fit.

Al Jefferson has long been a popular solution for armchair GMs who diagnose the center position as the Mavs’ most glaring weakness. That it may be, but acquiring a scoring 5 without considerable defensive abilities could be a mistake that would lock-up Dallas’ long-term options. I know the Mavs are in win-now mode, but it’s important that they don’t disregard their evaluation of skills in their acquisition of talent. Jefferson is a terrific back-up plan, and the fact that the Mavs have him somewhere down the list of their preferred targets is an encouraging sign.

At this point, the inner-workings of a Mavs trade are fairly well established: Dampier’s contract would be the centerpiece, with complementary talent or picks thrown in to sweeten the pot. With Jefferson, a line would need to be drawn: if a trade would include Rodrigue Beaubois or multiple first rounders, the Mavs would be wise to walk away. If not, aiming for Jefferson is worthy of consideration.

Al is a fine scorer, and one of the better face-up post threats in the game. Yet his defense could end up holding the Mavs back from truly progressing. It’s no secret that Dirk Nowitzki’s defensive abilities are a bit lacking, and even though he’s worked on that part of his game and become a decent (if unimpressive) defender, he needs a center beside him that can not only guard the most imposing big the opponent has to offer, but also protect the rim from penetrating guards and wings. Jefferson just doesn’t do that. He’s improved his defensive fundamentals since his early days in the league, but at best he’s a passable one-on-one defender in the post. At worst, he’s slow on his rotations, biting on fakes, and failing to use his size to his advantage.

The Mavs can’t afford that. Kidd is too slow, Terry too unreliable, Beaubois too green. The Mavs’ perimeter defenders need a safety net behind them, and Jefferson is talented enough to demand big minutes without providing it. That’s the problem with Al; he’s too good to leave off the floor and not a good enough defender to substantially improve the Mavs while on it. Plus, if Dallas acquired Jefferson, it’s highly unlikely that Brendan Haywood would re-sign with the team, regardless of the offer.

The question then becomes whether or not Dallas could be a dominant enough offensive outfit to make up for their other deficiencies. Without seeing how a Dirk-Al tandem would operate, it’s impossible to say for sure. While I’m confident that the two could coexist (Nowitzki and Jefferson are simply too versatile not to), additions such as these are hardly quantifiable. The Mavs would definitely be a better offensive team, but the trade talks haven’t developed enough to warrant a serious and specific analysis.

Rumor Mongering: Now Starring as the Hero: The Villain

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 28, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Getty Images.

The morning’s rumor of a potential Joe Johnson sign-and-trade isn’t likely to satisfy Maverick fans’ insatiable palates for additional stars. After months of hoping and wishing that Erick Dampier’s contract would be able to score a truly remarkable player in return, Johnson may seem rather bland.

There’s nothing wrong with Joe. He’s a fine shooting guard. One of the best in the league, in fact. He’s just not a talented enough player to radically change the way the Mavs operate. Dallas would be a better team on both offense and defense, but Johnson isn’t the kind of transformational talent some may have been hoping for.

Dwyane Wade is, and after months of internet silence concerning the possibility of him becoming a Maverick, it seems Wade may be more interested than initially thought. From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (via DallasBasketball.com):

The Miami Heat just might win a triple crown. A source close to Dwyane Wade said the Heat guard believes his team is poised to pull off a free-agency coup of landing himself, Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James and Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh.

However that same source, as well as a party inside the league, told the Sun Sentinel that Wade also plans to cover himself during the initial days of the free-agency negotiating period by scheduling interviews with the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and, in somewhat of a surprise, the Dallas Mavericks.

There are a number of reasons why Wade is unlikely to end up in Dallas, most of which I’ve already articulated. That said, the fact that Dwyane is considering the Mavs a legitimate possibility speaks to both the quality of the franchise and this opportunity. If Winderman’s source is indeed correct, Dallas has secured a spot at Wade’s table, even while other teams with cap space — New Jersey and Los Angeles being the most notable — are on the outside looking in. That’s big for not only the Mavs’ chances of stealing away one of the best players in the game, but also their viability in other trade or sign-and-trade scenarios.

Most reports concerning Wade’s future point to him staying in Miami while luring other talented players to the Heat. That seems a realistic outcome, given the ridiculous amount of cap room Pat Riley has cleared in anticipation of free agency. Supposing there is some truth to those reports — and there does seem to be, particularly to Wade’s affinity for Miami — the Mavs’ best chance of luring Dwyane would be a doomsday scenario in which Wade was somehow left out in the nuclear winter. For instance, if LeBron James and Chris Bosh go to the Bulls, Joe Johnson and Amar’e Stoudemire sign with the Knicks, and Carlos Boozer picks the Nets, that would put Wade in a bit of a bind. Sure, he could push for Riley to sign David Lee and Rudy Gay, but something tells me that’s not quite the payoff Dwyane is looking for.

Even if the chips fall as described, Wade coming to the Mavs would hardly be a sure thing. Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would face the same sign-and-trade pitfalls as they would with any other free agent target, putting a lot of power in the hands of competing GMs.

Regardless, I’m still entranced by the idea of a collision between Mavs fans and the man that set the 2006 Finals ablaze. It’s something I’ve discussed numerous times in this space as the possibility of Wade playing for Dallas has come and gone throughout the last year. Still, I remain fascinated by the potential acquisition as an invaluable case study in the power of laundry.

The Spurs may be the closest thing the Mavs have ever had to a true rival, but no singular source has done more damage to Dallas as a franchise than Dwyane Wade. He denied the Mavs their best opportunity at an NBA title, the one elusive accomplishment that burns a hole in Dirk Nowitzki’s résumé. He’s at least part of the reason that Avery Johnson lost his job, that Dirk doesn’t get the respect he deserves, that the Mavs traded Devin Harris for Jason Kidd, and that Dallas remains something of an NBA punchline. I know time heals all wounds and all that, but I’m sure the thought of Dwyane’s parade to the free throw line still leaves plenty of MFFLs a little queasy.

None of that can be repaired. Nothing Dallas ever does will win back that 2006 title, or take back everything that happened in the fallout. Yet if Mark and Donnie were to somehow put Wade in a Maverick uniform, not only would he be absolved for his sins against the franchise we know and love, but he’d be revered as a pillar of the team’s present and future, regardless of his past. That’s a pretty huge reversal, and a testament to Wade’s abilities. The league’s top players are viewed in a vacuum, and regardless of who Dwyane is, where he’s been, or what he’s done, he’d be welcomed like a star to the city he burned to the ground.

Rumor Mongering: When Life Gives You a $13 Million Instantly Expiring Contract…

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Rumors | 7 Comments to Read

The weeks leading up to free agency predictably became a breeding ground for all kinds of rumors, most of which were no more than baseless speculation. Finally though, we have one Mavs-related rumor that passes the smell test, courtesy of Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will pursue a sign-and-trade to lure Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Mavericks are unlikely to engage the Cleveland Cavaliers into a sign-and-trade for LeBron James, but Johnson has emerged as a realistic target for the Mavericks. Johnson, is more likely to embrace a sign-and-trade to the contending Mavs than sign a free-agent contract with New York or Chicago, sources said. “New York is far from his first option,” one source with knowledge of Johnson’s thinking said.

Joe Johnson has been the most realistic free agent target for the Mavs all along; landing LeBron would be the longest of long shots, and neither Dwyane Wade nor Chris Bosh seem willing to even give Dallas a proper look. Johnson isn’t the answer, but he is an answer, which counts for something. It’s essential that Dallas cashes in on Erick Dampier’s value at some point this summer, and assuming they strike out on the bigger names as is expected, Johnson is a suitable replacement.

He’s not going to solve all of the Mavs’ problems; Joe is still, in his heart of hearts, a jumpshooter, and one who has grown accustomed to having the ball in his hands frequently, at that. Still, he can create his own shot and play some decent defense, which puts him a peg above Jason Terry on the shooting guard depth chart. Also, assuming the Mavs could hold on to their other rotation contributors, JJ would make Dallas incredibly deep. Supposing the Mavs start Kidd, Johnson, Marion, Nowitzki, and Haywood, not only would they have an excellent blend of offense/defense, but they would also have the luxury of bringing Jason Terry, Caron Butler, and Rodrigue Beaubois off the bench. That may not give Dallas the kind of size to counter the Lakers, but it could give them an eight-man rotation unparalleled in the Western Conference.

Then again, Butler could conceivably be part of the deal as well. That would still be something of a boon for the Mavs. Even though Caron is a solid player, Johnson’s talents and skill set seem a bit more in tune with the rest of the Mavs’ offense, and from a positional standpoint, he’s more of a natural fit.

Admittedly, this trade’s completion regardless of who is involved is a big assumption. The Hawks would have to be convinced that Johnson was on his way out, and agree to a trade centered around Erick Dampier’s contract and draft picks. Then, Joe would need to pick the Mavs over all of his other free agent suitors (name a team with cap space, and they’re probably at least a little interested), which is hardly a given. The sign-and-trade isn’t an impossibility, but also keep in mind that Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban would be dealing with one of the most disorganized and uncoordinated franchises in basketball. Too often, the Hawks’ ownership and management make even the most routine signings and re-signings seem immensely difficult, and I wouldn’t disregard that precedent with such a substantial trade. Securing a sign-and-trade is always a difficult proposition, but securing one with that front office? Good luck.

They Smell Like the Future: Jon Scheyer

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 17, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 8 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Duke Senior
6’6”, 180 lbs (Combine measurements)
22 years old
Point guard/shooting guard
Projection: late second round/undrafted

Regardless of who drafts him, Jon Scheyer will face an uphill battle for NBA acceptance. For one, he’s from Duke; if there’s a more reviled American institution of higher learning, I know not of it. Beyond that, he’s the preeminent post-Redick, post-Paulus Blue Devil. Every iteration of Duke basketball has its lightning rod, and for the ’09-’10 squad, it stood as a 6’6” combo guard.

A combo guard. It’s a term that makes strict positionalists wet the bed, and more than a few GMs wary of such a prospect’s future. Scheyer certainly fits the bill, but in a more optimal way. Rather than being a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body, Jon has the shooting stroke of a knock-down wing, solid playmaking skills, and a legit off-guard size. He’s not a perfect draft prospect — hence the tag as a likely late second-rounder — but in terms of the value to be found at No. 50 overall, Scheyer could be a good get.

First, a disclaimer: odds are that Scheyer is in and out of the NBA or relegated to end-of-the-bench duty, but let’s dive into a vision of what could be. Selecting Jon would be a gamble, sure, but a low-risk one that could yield pretty decent returns. It’s tough to predict exactly how his overall game will translate from college to the pros, but at the very least Scheyer has skills that appear to be valuable for an NBA team.

Jon will never be the type of athlete that can explode off of a screen or penetrate at will, but his shooting abilities still make him a threat in the pick-and-roll and his experience running the point makes him an interesting selection. His ability to defend NBA shooting guards is a huge question mark, and that’s just about the last thing Mavs fans want to hear regarding a 2-guard prospect. Shawn Marion is really the only true wing stopper the Mavs have had in the Dirk Nowitzki era, and the shooting guard position has provided particular problems for the Mavs over the years. Caron Butler isn’t a terrible defender, but Jason Terry and the aging Michael Finley? The two longest tenured shooting guards weren’t exactly earning their paychecks on the defensive end.

I wouldn’t say Scheyer is more of the same, but well…yeah, he’s more of the same. Quite inferior to JET and Fin, actually, in terms of his defensive ability. He wasn’t exactly a great defender in college, and by upping the talent, strength, quickness, and size of his opponents, things are about to get far more difficult. That said, all Jon has to do is hold his ground on defense. He doesn’t have to lock anyone down, but provided he can prevent his match-up from going hog wild (a big assumpion, frankly), his offense should be good enough to earn him solid time as an NBA reserve.

Scheyer could possibly thrive in a Derek Fisher-like role, should he ever find himself in the triangle offense or a variant. But as an alternative, I could see him and Rodrigue Beaubois coexisting in an Eric Snow/Allen Iverson style backcourt. By playing Beaubois and Scheyer together, the Mavs would have two playmakers that can both create and score, with Scheyer as an oversized point and Beaubois an undersized shooting guard. Beaubois’ ability to penetrate would more than make up for Scheyer’s lack of quickness, and Jon’s shooting touch would be a welcome complement alongside a drive-and-kicking Rodrigue. They could share the ball, utilize each other’s strengths, and maximize the post-Dirk Mavs’ potential by having two entry points for the offense.

Both will have to prove themselves defensively. Beaubois still needs to improve his defensive fundamentals to prove that he has what it takes to really zero-in on NBA ball-handlers, and we have yet to see whether Scheyer can impress with average NBA defense. Still, because of Rodrigue’s athleticism and length and Scheyer’s size, imagining a world in which the two could succeed defensively isn’t that much of a stretch.

Of course, Scheyer doesn’t have to be an NBA starter for the Mavs’ pick to be a success. Even if they can bring him off the bench for limited minutes, Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban would have made something of a late pick. Most teams don’t expect to find a rotation player at 50, yet Scheyer is an NBA-ready shooter that works hard and could eventually contribute for an NBA team…supposing he can continue to find ways to succeed in spite of his lack of athleticism. He may not be an ideal off-guard, but he’s still a rather useful player whether spotting up on the perimeter or running the offense.

Scheyer doesn’t fill any immediate needs for the Mavs and his upside is limited, but if he’s on the board at 50, he’d be a nice value pick. Perhaps not one that yields immediate benefits (the learning curve of J.J. Redick is not only convenient, but fair), but a useful asset nonetheless.

Oh, and the Scheyer face.


2009-2010 Traditional Per Game and Per 40-Minute Stats:

PTSREBASTTOSTLFG%3FG%
Per Game18.23.64.93.61.6.399.383
Per 4019.83.95.33.91.8----

2009-2010 Per Possession Stats (Offense):

TS%eFG%ORB%TO%AST%FTRUSG%
57.250.22.211.525.841.623.1

2009-2010 Per Possession Stats (Defense):

STL%BLK%DRB%
2.60.68.4

Other People:

Matt Kamalsky, Draft Express: “John Scheyer ranks as the most efficient overall scorer [among shooting guards] at 1.054 PPP. As one could guess, his tremendous jump shooting ability when left open afforded him success in spot up situations (1.16 PPP), but he surprisingly ranks well above average in isolation (.938 PPP 3rd) and is the most effective pick and roll player on our list (1.16 PPP). Despite his limited quickness, Scheyer is one of the savviest prospects around. If he’s able to show that he can defend his position on a consistent basis, he should be able to carve out a niche for himself in the NBA.”

Eamonn Brennan, ESPN.com: “Scheyer won’t sniff the first round of an NBA draft — he, like Reynolds, simply isn’t athletic enough to hang in the NBA. (Scheyer isn’t athletic even by college standards; much of his scoring came from crafty hesitation moves and efficient cuts around the perimeter). It’s not that hard to understand. But as a college player, especially in Duke’s 2009-10 national championship run, Scheyer was ruthlessly effective.”

Royce Young, Daily Thunder: “Did you know Scheyer was 6′6? I didn’t. I thought he was more like 6′4. But he’s a guy that can shoot, can handle and get even get to the rim. He could run point or play off the ball. Obviously again, like Rautins, you wonder if he could defend Kobe Bryant, but as for a marksman with other abilities, Scheyer could fit [with the Thunder].”

Stats courtesy of Draft Express and Stat Sheet.

That Dreamers Often Lie

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 2, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 7 Comments to Read

Mostly thanks to Bill Simmons, NBA junkies now have a new rumor du jour: a Dirk Nowitzki-Steve Nash reunion on the Phoenix Suns, in which the two former MVP pals could coexist in something of a basketball nirvana. Nash was never really given the full opportunity to explore his game while with the Mavericks, but now that each player has seen the full extent of their basketball talents, a reunion would be absolutely fantastic for NBA fans.

Not so much for Mavs fans, but that’s just the way it goes. Player movement, even of the hypothetical variety, has to leave somebody out in the cold. So sorry, MFFLs, but in alternate reality #184612823412734, Dirk goes the way of Nash and leaves the Mavs high and dry. Condolences.

Look, I understand the appeal. I really do. We all love to explore realms of fantasy, whether they exist solely in free agent rumors, in movies or video games, or in poorly-written, contrived vampire novels. But they’re enjoyable precisely because they’re unlikely, and that’s the thing everyone needs to keep in mind before they even consider discussing a Nash-Nowitzki reunion. It would take an incredible series of twists and turns for the mere option to even be on the table, and given Nowitzki’s import to Dallas and Phoenix’s extended playoff run, neither team would be particularly interested in accommodating the process. That’s especially important on the Suns’ side, as not only would Phoenix have to abandon the prospect of re-signing Amar’e Stoudemire in order to make a pass at Dirk, but they’d have to shed some pretty significant salary (in addition to Nowitzki agreeing to a suboptimal deal) by trading away quality players for nothing.

It’s fun, but this is all no better than the most ridiculous rumor mongering. There isn’t even the illusion of reported interest from either party aside from the obvious (the obvious being that Dirk wants to sign a new contract and I’m sure the Suns wouldn’t mind having him around), and the fact that this rumor is getting so much play is more a tribute to how fun the Nash-Nowitzki pairing could be rather than a representation of even a remote likelihood. Maybe this is the bias of a Dallas-centric writer talking, but I see all the possible landing spots for Dirk — the Suns, the Knicks, the Nets, etc. — being so unlikely, that there are essentially two outcomes: he stays with the Mavs or he doesn’t. Grouping all of those destinations together is the only way their chances even cause a blip on our radar, as the probability that Nowitzki re-signs with the Mavs is so, incredibly high.

Again, Dirk is an unrestricted free agent, so we all need to respect the possibility of him bolting this summer, even if it seems unlikely. That said, having a friend in Phoenix really doesn’t make this outcome very plausible. Feel free to daydream of Nash-Dirk pick-and-rolls, but the reality is that the beauty of their pairing will have to be confined to the All-Star game.