Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
You wouldn’t know it from the game results (L, W, L, W, L), but the Mavs played at a fairly consistent level for the entire week (at least until the fourth quarter of the final game against Brooklyn). After being wildly inconsistent for most the season, the Mavs seem to have finally leveled out and settled into a groove.
So, if the Mavs were so consistent, why 2-3? Why alternating wins and losses? Well, that’s just the thing — the Mavs’ “consistent” level of play sits pretty much right in the middle of the league. Their season-long ceiling (as opposed to their single-game ceiling, which is largely a function of variance) sits right around the 50th percentile. By playing consistently over several games, then, the Mavs make it very easy to see exactly where they sit in the league pecking order. They’ll beat bad teams regularly (Cleveland); they’ll beat decent teams sometimes (Atlanta); they’ll lose to decent teams sometimes (Brooklyn); and they’ll lose to elite teams almost always (San Antonio and Oklahoma City).
Hence, the week that was.
Week 21 (@Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, @Hawks, Nets)
1) Brandan Wright
Wright’s offensive game is so fluid and efficient, it’s hard to imagine that he could barely get off the bench earlier in the year. Here’s how Wright’s key numbers shook out this week: 10.4 points per game, 24-of-43 (56%) shooting, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.0 blocks per game. It’s much more difficult to quantatively measure individual defense, but I thought Wright showed his continued improvement in that area. He’s got a long way to go, but his footwork in the defensive post has improved since November, and he’s being more judicious with his weakside defense (i.e., not wildly jumping around trying to block every single shot instead of boxing out). Wright earned numerous accolades during college while playing in the highly competitive ACC, and it’s easy to see why. His raw talent is undeniable. With hard work and on-point coaching (and I have no reason to suspect both won’t occur), his ceiling is fairly high.
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Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- This is just the way of the season’s early going, apparently. The Mavericks more closely resemble themselves for a few games, but then dissolve completely on offense against a pretty poor defense just a few days later. We knew to expect struggles. We knew it would take time for the new Mavs to work their way into the system, and time for the old Mavs to work their way into game shape. But now we also know to expect complete inconsistency, as there are no assurances at all of which Maverick team will show up on a particular night. In this one? A team that scores 87.2 points per 100 possessions, and will wither away even against the most questionable defenses.
- Dallas managed a brief return to normalcy with a fourth quarter combination of the zone defense and Dirk Nowitzki (21 points, 9-20 FG, four rebounds) attacking from all angles, but a timeout gave Rick Adelman a precious opportunity to calm down a jumpy young team. Ricky Rubio (14 points, 2-3 3FG, seven assists, four turnovers) drew the attention of defenders and hit spot-up shooters in the corners and bigs rolling to the rim, attacking the Mavs’ zone at two particular points of weakness. Kevin Love (25 points, 9-16 FG, 5-8 3FG, 17 rebounds) took over from there, and the Wolves finished the game on an uncontested 15-point spurt that left several minutes on the clock but no doubt in the game’s result. This year’s Timberwolves are every bit as entertaining as the manic team that ran up and down the court last season, but this year they’ve traded the unintentional comedy of a Michael Beasley-driven offense for a more sensible, balanced attack driven by pace and Rubio’s guile. It may not result in a playoff berth, but Minnesota is more than capable of “stealing” a game like this one against a supposedly superior team.
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By most measures — objective or otherwise — the Minnesota Timberwolves are among the worst teams the NBA has to offer. They have the league’s second worst offense and its fifth worst defense. Their rotation is a mess. Their system and personnel are an odd fit. Most everything on the court is a bit of a struggle, save for one particular dimension of the game: rebounding.
Minnesota is a top-five offensive rebounding team and a top-10 defensive rebounding team, which is fairly remarkable given their weaknesses in every other aspect of the game. Kevin Love is a huge part of their success on the glass, but contributions from Darko Milicic and Anthony Tolliver round out the Wolves’ rebounding numbers, and offer the franchise some small token of success amidst all their ineptitude.
That makes the Mavs’ performance on the glass Wednesday night all the more significant. Dallas out-rebounded their opponents on both ends according to the single-game rebounding rate. Not worthy of a commemorative plaque, but considering Dallas’ relative struggles on the boards (the Mavs rank 13th in the league in defensive rebounding rate and a horrible 24th in offensive rebounding rate), it’s a showing that warrants a moment’s notice.
Or maybe more than a moment in the case of one particularly exemplary rebounding performance.
Tyson Chandler came out of the first half with four rebounds, but somehow finished the game with 18. Nice, right?
Oh, one more thing: he didn’t play a single second of the fourth quarter.
Chandler grabbed 14 boards (10 on the defensive end and four on the offensive end) over an eight-and-a-half-minute stretch in the third quarter. It was a favor to Chandler that the Wolves are the fastest team in the league and managed to pull the notoriously slow Mavs into playing an uptempo game, but 14 boards are 14 boards. Even the healthy push of pace doesn’t devalue that kind of volume.
It’s not that Chandler did anything out of the ordinary. This is just one of those occurrences in which effort and luck formed that perfect cocktail, one which all of us on this side of the lines had the pleasure of drinking in. Eat, watch Tyson Chandler, and be merry, folks.
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
- Unreal. Did this possibility even cross your mind last June, when the Mavs drafted a semi-unknown French point guard? Roddy has come such a long way since draft night, and he still has miles to go before he sleeps. Rodrigue Beaubois is going to be a star in this league for a very long time, and this was a giant hop toward that stardom. It’s going to hinge on a ton of factors that are too tough to gauge right now, but his climb seems inevitable at this point. Rookie seasons can yield many mirages, but I don’t think you can explain away Beaubois’ talent, physical tools, and natural instincts. Roddy just looks at home with a basketball in his hands, and with his willingness to learn, talent, and physical tools, he seems like a can’t-miss prospect at this point. I know that’s easy to say after an incredible outburst against one of the worst defenses in the league, but it’s an observation that’s been nearly a season in the making.
- The already one-sided debate that’s been raging on over Rodrigue Beaubois’ playing time? It should be nonexistent after tonight. Beaubois went off for 40 points in an absolutely surreal display of shooting prowess, in which he shot 9-of-11 from three and scored just one of his 40 at the line. But here’s the thing: the debate won’t disappear. The fact that Beaubois’ big night came against the Warriors will mark it with an asterisk, and the idea that this is exactly the type of game Beaubois should excel in will somehow demean just how impressive of a game this was for Roddy. It’s not fair, honestly, but I have a bad feeling that the perceptive powers that be will try to negate what we saw on March 27th, 2010. Don’t let them. It was a hot night against a bad defensive team, but this was a thoroughly dominating performance.
- That said, the beauty that was this 40-pointer came with Beaubois at the two. This may be some incredible evidence for Roddy’s value as a player, but not really as a point guard. Or basically, we could be right back where we started, simply with confirmation of Beaubois’ value as a scorer.
- Other than that, what is there to say? It’s a bit refreshing to have the most dynamic, high-scoring guard on the Mavs’ side of the Dallas-Golden State match-up for once; Monta Ellis (14 points, four assists) and Steph Curry (17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, seven turnovers) each shot 6-for-16 from the field, and neither could stabilize the sloppy Warrior offense. The Mavs’ defense wasn’t all that impressive, though I do appreciate Rick Carlisle’s decision to cover Ellis with Shawn Marion to start the game.
- The Warriors just couldn’t shoot. Credit to the Mavs for forcing the Dubs into plenty of long two-pointers, but Golden State missed a ton of open looks from three and completely shut down offensively in the second quarter. The same second quarter that was home to 36 Maverick points, 21 of which were Rodrigue Beaubois’. A 20-2 run and a separate 10-0 run (all Beaubois) in the second pretty much sealed the game. If not for an uncharacteristically high turnover rate for those twelve minutes, it could very well have been the Mavs’ best offensive quarter of the season. I’m pretty sure it was Roddy’s best offensive quarter, regardless.
- The Mavs on the other hand, could. Dallas shot 48.4% from the field, and an incredibly impressive 53.3% from three (on 30 attempts!) thanks to Beaubois’ handiwork. Eddie Najera (nine points, nine rebounds, two steals, one block) was an unexpected contributor from the perimeter, where he hit three of his six three-point attempts. Najera saw plenty of court time due to a minor injury (middle finger jam) to Brendan Haywood and the Warriors’ unique style of play, and he played rather well.
- Shawn Marion (18 points, 9-12 FG, four rebounds, five steals) had another strong night, and even if the Mavs on the whole aren’t rounding into playoff shape, he certainly has been. He’s been so much more effective with his runners and mid-range game over the last few weeks, and that makes him a pretty effective half-court weapon. He still misses some of his looks at the rim and isn’t a huge threat off the dribble, but Shawn’s value in the offense has improved significantly in about a month’s time. Defensively, Marion was incredibly active in the passing lanes, and if the NBA tracked deflections his stat line would be that much more impressive. Shawn was everywhere, and he was a big reason why one of the more confident offenses in the league looked a bit tentative on Saturday.
- Dallas shot just ten free throws and collected just four offensive rebounds. It didn’t make a bit of difference. The Warriors’ shooting was so awful and the Mavs’ shooting so effective that half of the Four Factors were deemed irrelevant. The bottom line, and proof that there’s truth in simplicity: the team that shoots better wins almost every game. Dallas had nearly a 20-point edge in effective field goal percentage, which was more than enough to trump the Mavs’ weaknesses in other areas.
- Caron Butler finished with 15 and four, Dirk Nowitzki dropped a 13-10 double-double, and Jason Kidd tallied 11 assists, but this was Rodrigue’s show. The game was never in doubt after the Roddy Show in the second quarter, which mean plenty of rest for the Mavs’ big guns (only Marion played more than 30 minutes).
- Brendan Haywood played almost nine minutes, but Erick Dampier did not play at all. Most of the minutes at center went to Najera, with Nowitzki playing back-up.
- The Mavs had some serious problems finishing at the rim, despite of the number of uncontested run-outs the Warriors’ defense gifted them. Scoff and shake your head at the Mavs who blew layups (Dirk blew an easy one, Marion airballed a finger roll, and even Roddy couldn’t convert on a fairly rudimentary look), but don’t forget to credit Ronny Turiaf, who only finished with two blocks but was one of the few Warriors interested in playing some real defense.
- A mixed bag for J.J. Barea, who finished with five points and five assists in 20 minutes, but also turned the ball over four times. Point guards should be allowed to make mistakes, but high-turnover games like this one don’t really indicate high value as a PG. We know J.J. is better than this, even if our love affair with Roddy makes it tough to admit. Barea is a pretty decent point guard, and for some reason his hands were a bit slippery against Golden State.
- Anthony Tolliver had 21 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. Shame on every GM who thought this guy couldn’t be an NBA player, or who looked to use a roster spot on a name rather than a player. His fellow former D-Leaguers, Reggie Williams and Chris Hunter, weren’t as impressive. But those guys are NBA players, and for everything that has gone wrong with the Warriors this year, their ability to scout D-League and their willingness to sign that talent is pretty much unparalleled.
- Two points for Matt Carroll! He had 20% of the Mavs’ free throw attempts, and boy can that guy make his free throws.
The Kris Humphries-Eddie Najera swap is still pending league approval, but one of the latent benefits of trading two players for one is the open spot on the roster the Mavs now have the benefit of filling. More than likely, they’ll fill the spot with a minimum salary guy who will play very, very little, or they’ll fill it with a string of 10-day contract players before settling on someone they like. The point of all of this, remember, is to save a little bit of coin. So the Mavs will likely wait as long as possible before making any kind of monetary commitment, and then sign an efficient, low-baggage vet for as little money as possible.
I expect more. The classic move here is to find the vaunted “locker room guy”: a player-sage with experience and leadership who has mastered the art of playing without playing. He influences the mood and effort of others by having a positive impact on team chemistry, and he’s a net-gain to the franchise without playing many minutes. That’s all well and good, but I’d very much prefer the Mavs go for someone who’s younger and hungrier. They should try looking for a diamond in the rough, or at the very least a piece of quartz. You’ll find that while there aren’t many all-stars to be had on the open market in January, rotation players can be found if you look in the right places. And though right now the Mavs are likely only looking for a 15th to fill out the practice roster, provide chemistry intangibles, and to have another live body around, wouldn’t it be nice if said 15th man had rotation potential?
Luckily, I know just the place to start looking: the D-League. Consider me an advocate of the system and what it represents, and as you may remember, I’m particularly fond of Donnie Nelson’s venture into D-League ownership in Frisco. That said, while I like to escape to the D-League for some sightseeing, I decided to enlist the help of someone a bit more familiar with the landscape: Steve Weinman of the wonderful D-League Digest. Maybe at the moment, D-League ball doesn’t quite tickle your fancy. That’s cool, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But I hope you’ll acquaint yourselves more and more with the the league and the process over the next few months, if only because I think that the new Frisco affiliate can be very fruitful if used properly. Weinman’s work at the Digest is a fine way to do that, and though the specific players, teams, and match-ups may not interest you just yet, they’ll give you a feel of what’s to come. With a firm understanding of the system and a realistic set of expectations concerning what that system can produce (specialists, hustle players, and hopefully contributing members of a rotation), the Frisco experiment should prove to be a boon for the Maverick brass.
But I digress. In the meantime, the Mavs have a spot on the bench that needs filling, and a league full of prospects they could potentially do it with.
According to Weinman, “the place to start is with Anthony Tolliver – who might well be the best all-around player in the league.” Steve honed in on Tolliver (who you may remember from short stints with the Spurs last season and the Blazers this season) following his ubiquitous brilliance in a losing effort:
I can’t find a word more descriptive of Tolliver’s performance than “everywhere.” At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Tolliver is a large man, even by basketball standards. But the seven threes he took weren’t typical of the 21st century pseudo-bigs who hang around the perimeter waiting for kickouts. On several sets, he facilitated the Idaho offense from the top of the circle, displaying his deft ball-handling skills and comfortably creating his own outside shot off the dribble. That he went just 2-for-7 from the three-point line can be forgiven because Tolliver has a fine track record as a bomber from deep: He shoots 40 percent from three for his D-League career and hit a scorching 47.8 percent of his attempts in the first week of the new campaign.
But this was no post-Detroit Rasheed Wallace-type showing either. For as much time as Tolliver spent on the perimeter, he somehow seemed to be involved in everything that went on inside for the Stampede as well. AT routinely established position down low, delivered several great feeds to cutters from the blocks, made a couple of post moves of his own and earned himself eight trips to the foul line. Though he didn’t finish consistently around the bucket, he seemed to constantly materialize wherever the ball came off the rim.
It was Tolliver who sprinted to the sideline to snare long rebounds from unsuspecting Dakota guards and revive multiple Idaho possessions, and it was Tolliver who fought his way to loose balls amidst the pack inside as well. Defensively, we saw more of the same. One second, Tolliver was jumping out to double a guard on a high screen-and-roll; the next, he was waiting at the rim to provide help on penetration or swat a shot out of vicinity of the basket.
There are plenty of guys on the basketball circuit who can fill up a stat sheet, and Anthony Tolliver did his share of box score-stuffing on Wednesday night: 20 points, 17 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 6 turnovers. But to borrow the type of term Walt Frazier enjoys using, I can remember few other occasions when a player seemed as omnipresent as AT did on Wednesday. Given that he posts a career D-League true shooting figure near 60 percent, to think that he is often most of what he was on Wednesday night plus a considerably more efficient scorer is scary.
Tolliver is, in many ways, the class of the D-League. And though he doesn’t fit the Mavs’ most obvious need (another big man, preferably one capable of filling in minutes at center) in an obvious way, he could still be a nice addition to a team like Dallas. AT is probably best served playing in the big leagues as a combo forward, and he could essentially offer an alternative to Tim Thomas. That doesn’t give any extra rest to Erick Dampier or Drew Gooden (unless it involves Dirk sliding over to the 5), but it does fill the last spot in the rotation with a capable, versatile player that’s just 24 years of age.
In Tolliver, the Mavs could get another spot-up three-point shooter, a capable defender at either forward position, and a good defensive rebounder. He’s not a perfect player, but he has clearly defined strengths that could be of value to a NBA team. I just hope that NBA team is the Mavericks.
Weinman also offered three alternatives in the way of big men:
Rod Benson (Reno): He of the Boom Tho movement recently announced a halt to his blogging in an apparent effort to curtail any possible reasons for NBA teams to shy away from him. Long arms make him a very good shot-blocker in addition to being a solid rebounder. There are many out there who are bigger fans of his game than I am – there isn’t a particular part of his game that has really wowed me when I’ve watched him this year. He has a decent offensive game, and he has started working on Tim Duncan’s bank shot from the wings, which is a work in progress. He’s a legit 6-10, although a bit more bulk and further refinement of his offensive game would make him a stronger candidate.
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.
Carlos Powell (Albuquerque): The lefty has been an offensive dynamo all season, averaging nearly 23 points per game, and knocking down more than 34 percent of his threes in addition to doing plenty of scoring inside. Problem is, he’s only 6-7 and more of a 3-4 tweener at the next level. And while he is a serviceable defender, I’m not sure he does anything aside from scoring that will be particularly valuable from a big man at the next level – and you’re not bringing a guy up to give him 20-30 touches per game. This is a guy who wowed people at the Showcase and is headed for an eventual call-up, but he probably isn’t the one for this spot.
That said, Rick Carlisle may not be solely interested in an additional big man. Rodrigue Beaubois found a bit of playing time in the Mavs’ last two games, but Carlisle doesn’t seem quite ready to trust Roddy as the team’s third point guard. Supposing he wants to keep Jason Terry in his natural 2-guard position, picking up another PG would seem to be an understandable temptation. I’m all for the “FREE RODDY” movement, but Carlisle is a guy who knows what he wants; if he’s not ready for Beaubois to initiate the offense, then get him a third PG whom he is comfortable with. Since you mentioned some interest in a point guard:
Dontell Jefferson (Utah): Nearly universally regarded as the top choice for the next call-up…until the Jazz made the surprising call to bring up Idaho’s Sundiata Gaines last week. There were apparently some concerns about Jefferson’s knees, but if he is fully healthy, he’s the first choice at the one: Jefferson is a dynamic scorer and distributor who shoots the three-pointer well (39.7 percent from the field), defends and has great size at 6-5. Can moonlight at the two as well.
Antonio Anderson (Rio Grande Valley): My personal favorite player in the D-League. Not a point guard by nature, but he’s done plenty of ball-handling for an RGV team that regularly runs with three guards, and chats with the front office personnel from RGV while at Showcase last week yielded that they expect him to be a second or third-string point guard who can also guard twos at the next level. Anderson is a terrific passer with great size at the point (he’s 6-6), which allows him to see passing lanes nicely over his man much of the time. He’s also an excellent defender whose shooting from mid-range and beyond continues to improve. Just received Performer of the Month honors in the D-League, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t get a look at the next level down the stretch.
If Nelson, Cuban, and Carlisle see a superior player in the free agent pool, then so be it. I’m all about meritocracy, and if a player is talented and fits well in the system, then by all means. But the Mavs are doing themselves a great disservice if they don’t explore all available options simply because of convention. Veterans can add a lot to a team, but the Mavs have already traded Humphries’ youth and athleticism in favor of Najera’s savvy and leadership. Shouldn’t they use the remaining roster spot to regain a bit of that youthful energy in the rotation?