Block Life

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 5, 2010 under Commentary | 7 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2010-11-05 at 7.07.40 AM

The elusive regular season home-and-home series is perhaps the best way to artificially generate a playoff-like atmosphere. The two games may lack in post-season gravity, but by pitting two competitive teams against one another in consecutive contests, players are allowed to slide into their narrative roles while coaches make more detailed game plan adjustments than usual. It’s another regular season game in the grand scheme of things, but it’s hardly an independent entity; perhaps we could view the second game as vaguely episodic, but each outing only makes thematic sense when evaluated within the context of a two-part series.

The Mavericks are in the middle of such a series at this very moment, as they’ll take on the Nuggets this Saturday albeit on more familiar turf. I’ve already harped enough on the relevance of the Mavs’ defensive performance in Wednesday’s game, so naturally that’s a point of interest in the follow-up. However, just as important will be the sustainability of the Mavs’ offensive execution, and more specifically, the Nuggets’ response to a dominant performance by Dirk Nowitzki.

With Denver’s primary bigs sidelined, Nowitzki was free to score at will from the low block. In Dallas’ first concentrated effort to isolate Dirk in the post, Shawn Marion freed him up with a baseline screen that ultimately proved to be counterproductive; the 6’5” Arron Afflalo had previously been assigned to defend Nowitzki, but Afflalo switched with the more sizable Carmelo Anthony on the screen. Dirk was still able to draw a foul while battling for post position, but the play setup made Dirk’s post-up far more complicated than it had to be.

Dallas then ran a nearly identical set with one caveat: rather than having Marion set the baseline screen (and have Anthony switch onto Nowitzki as a result), the Mavs used Dominique Jones. Rather than having to wrestle with Melo to allow the entry pass, Dirk was free to catch and finish easily over venerable statesman J.R. Smith.

Next trip down, the Mavs executed the exact same play with the exact same result. Smith decided to chase the entry pass, but Nowitzki finished with the same easy two.

Following a timeout, Denver tries something a bit different. Anthony is designated to follow Nowitzki, and the Nuggets ditch their plan to switch on low screens. It didn’t matter much. Although Nowitzki would obviously have preferred going to work against Chauncey Billups rather than Carmelo Anthony, he faces up, his teammates clear out, and Dirk rains a jumper over Anthony, who can’t even make much of a play on the ball.

Which defender Denver opted to use was irrelevant to Dirk. He scored over and around everyone placed in front of him, and in the few instances when the Nuggets were caught doubling? Dallas’ shooters were ready and waiting on the weak side. In this sequence, a fast break matches Nowitzki against Billups, which urges Smith to cheat off of Marion. Dirk finds Shawn in the corner, who swings it to Terry, and the ball moves back to the strong side to J.J. Barea for a wide open three. He doesn’t convert, but that’s a quality shot created by moving the ball out of the mismatch.

Later, a side screen sets up Nowitzki with prime post position, and his subsequent back down draws three Nuggets defenders. Dirk kicks the ball out to Jason Kidd, who is relatively open at the three-point line, but the ball doesn’t stop there. Kidd swings the ball to an open Jason Terry — who actually triggered the initial screen action — in the corner. Boom, as they say, goes the dynamite.

I’m not sure there’s a proper counter for Denver. Nowitzki can abuse any one-on-one matchup the Nuggets throw his way, and he’s also smart enough to find the open man in the case of a double/triple-team. Terry, Kidd, and Caron Butler have been hitting their looks from outside, which means that the Nuggets merely have their choice of execution. It’s not a flawless offense (all it takes is an off-day from Dirk and the whole scheme dissolves), but considering the Mavs’ clear positional advantage, there’s no excuse for Dallas to have anything but sterling offensive efficiency come Saturday.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 4, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones: “If Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd were a wrestling tag team, their combined age would be 71.”
  • Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse: “Dirk Nowitzki has a seen a lot of basketball. Entering Wednesday, he had played in 923 career NBA games. He had no clue who the guy guarding him was at the start of his 924th game. ‘I actually did not. I had no idea,’ Nowitzki said. The 13-year veteran Dallas forward wasn’t alone. Mavericks center Tyson Chandler also had zero knowledge of the guy wearing No. 0 and starting at forward for the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. ‘I didn’t know who he was before the game and, for a while, when he kept hitting jump shots, I was trying to figure out who he was,’ Chandler said.”
  • Dallas Mavericks: you got dunked off.
  • It seems like ages since Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry were both Bulls, but Chandler still has a pretty clear soft spot for his former teammate. (via Henry Abbott)
  • Matt Moore of CBS Sports’ NBA Facts and Rumors: “The trap we often fall into when evaluating great performances is that somehow, the defense was useless. That they were pathetically overmatched by the greatness we just witnessed. But in truth, it’s often a great performance in the face of great defense. Great players hit tough shots and figure out a way to get it done. And that’s what Dirk Nowitzki did against a surprisingly good defensive approach from the Nuggets. Rookie Gary Forbes and Al Harrington did everything they could, had position, got a hand in his face, and Nowitzki just kept working them over with the fadeaway. There were a few times when questionable switches and assignments doomed the Nuggets. J.R. Smith trying to defend Dirk? Aaron Afflalo? That’s not going to work, kids. He may be “Euro-soft” or whatever (averaging 9.8 rebounds this season), but he’s still 7 feet. And he took advantage of it.”
  • Dirk Nowitzki, as Fabio-esque smutty romance novel cover boy.
  • I recently joined Brian Doolittle on his radio show, At the Buzzer, to preview the Mavs’ season and the Southwest Division. Check it out if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • From the Elias Sports Bureau, via Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas: “Wednesday’s victory in Denver marked the 21st time in Jason Kidd’s career that he registered at least a dozen assists while managing no more than one field goal. Which is, obscure as it sounds, an NBA record.”

Dallas Mavericks 102, Denver Nuggets 101

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps, Video | 2 Comments to Read

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Box Score
Play-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas91.0112.150.620.231.614.3
Denver111.051.710.128.312.1

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
-Abraham Lincoln

This was a game that the Mavs needed to win. This was not the way that the Mavs needed to win it. Denver provided the Dallas’ first real challenge on the schedule, and rather than prove that their defensive success in the first three games was indicative of a real and sweeping change, we’re now left wondering how many of the season’s first 144 minutes should be taken seriously at all.

Dallas was, statistically speaking, an excellent defensive team before last night. Yet when the Mavs had a chance to make a statement against a top-10 offense, they allowed an unpalatable 111 points per 100 possessions. The Mavs’ defensive performance in the first three games matters, but the value of that performance has withered under high heat. There are better offenses out there than the Denver Nuggets. There are surely better offenses out there than the Denver Nuggets sans Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Chris Andersen. And when those offense come, the Mavs may not get the lucky bounce they need to leave the floor as victors.

Dallas will have to be better. Luckily, we’re now a mere four games into the season, and the Mavs have innumerable opportunities to solidify their defense before the games stop meaning something and start meaning everything.

We shouldn’t let this win soak up too much gloom, though. Offensively, Dallas was pretty fantastic. That’s an idiomatic Maverick way of saying that Dirk Nowitzki was pretty fantastic. With almost all of Denver’s bigs sidelined, Nowitzki (35 points, 15-31 FG, 12 rebounds, three assists) went to work on a cast of undersized defenders. George Karl refused to throw any kind aggressive double teams Dirk’s way, and his team paid the price with each move on the low block, and each jumper dropped over the hand of a defender that could barely reach Nowitzki’s eye level.

Dirk dominated the game and the Maverick offense, and pushed Dallas’ offensive efficiency just far enough to overcome their deficiencies on defense and the glass. On a typical night this season, Nowitzki uses 24.7% of the Mavs’ possessions. Last night against the Nuggets, he used 47%. Forget alpha and omega, Nowitzki was the entirety of all alphabets of all times, all that had been and all that ever would be for the Mavs’ O.

Others thrived from Dirk’s resplendence. Jason Terry spotted up on the break beautifully and balanced the weak side when things slowed down. JET had 16 points and went 4-of-4 from three in the third quarter alone, keying a 14-4 run that gave Dallas the lead. Of those 14 points, Terry scored 11.

Kidd should also be credited, even if he scored just three points of his own. 83.3% of Terry’s field goals were assisted, and 100% of both Caron Butler’s (16 points, 7-14 FG, seven rebounds) and Shawn Marion’s (eight points, six rebounds, two blocks) field goals were set up by a teammate. Kidd’s 12 dimes don’t account for all of those FGs, but his execution of the offense was masterful. Kidd is just so unbelievably patient; Kidd is kind; Kidd is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. He does not insist on his own way; yada, yada, yada; He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Nowitzki had the ball in his hands an astounding percent of the time, but it was Kidd who got it there. He was making perfect entry passes, waiting for plays to develop, and finding Dirk (and JET, and Caron…) when he leaked into open space.

When Kidd is functioning at this level, the Mavs are a rather brilliant offensive team. But when Nowitzki is left purely to his own devices to fuel the entire offense, the well-oiled machine tends to sputter. Both players are essential if Dallas is to have a top-shelf offense again, and games like these give us a glimpse — however stilted it may be in terms of usage — of the Mavs’ offensive potential with both Kidd and Nowitzki playing effectively.

Final thoughts:

  • Carmelo Anthony finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, but had a pretty frustrating night overall. He shot 42% from the field on 19 attempts, and while I’d love to attribute some of Anthony’s rougher patches to Shawn Marion and the Mavericks’ defense, Melo didn’t do himself any favors. Dallas played him well, but it was a bit of an off-night.
  • A silver lining to the Mavs’ defense: Dallas utilized a match-up zone in the second and third quarters that was fantastically effective, but relied on it less and less as the game wore on. The Mavs shouldn’t want to be in a place where their defensive future hinges on the effectiveness of the zone (which, for all of its strengths, is still a bit gimmicky), but knowing that it can still be effective in spurts against rhythm offenses is valuable knowledge.
  • Speaking of: Nowitzki could probably stand to not hedge quite so heavily toward the middle when playing zone with Chandler. Tyson can cover plenty of ground on his own, and considering the potency of Denver’s three-point shooters, Dirk might be better served honoring the impact of the corner three. Dirk did what he could to close out, but sometimes he was just too far out of position. I realize that threes are a realistic concession of the zone, but in this case some of those attempts (and makes) might have been preventable.
  • This was not Brendan Haywood’s finest performance.
  • Gary Forbes is now an NBA player. Forbes started for the Nuggets, and drew the short straw on being the first defender to face Dirk Nowitzki. He did an admirable job, and the former D-Leaguer dropped 12 points on 50% shooting to boot.
  • Jason Kidd is doing a great job of giving up the ball early on the break and then spotting up as a three-point shooter. In traditional fast break situations, I’m always surprised that opponents pay so much attention to the threat of a Kidd layup. He’s not a very good finisher at all, and the thought of a pass always comes first, second, and third for him. But by giving up the ball early, Kidd turns himself into a fast-break weapon. No longer is he only looking to set up a bucket with a pass. Instead, he’s capable of completing transition opportunities of his own on both the primary and secondary break:
  • J.J. Barea’s three turnovers hurt, as did his defense at times. But does anyone dare discount the impact of his nine points in a game decided by a single bucket? Barea made mistakes, but he also drew offensive fouls and got to the rim when Dallas needed offensive help.
  • Arron Afflalo (known affectionately in some circles as “Spellcheck,”) is the real deal. Afflalo had a tremendous year last season with the Nuggets, but he’s become an even more versatile offensive player while continuing to groom a rather potent three-point stroke. Fans of every other NBA team are jealous.
  • Again: no Kenyon Martin, no Nene, no Chris Andersen. Yet the Nuggets nearly matched the Mavericks in offensive rebounding rate. Dallas has to do better work on the defensive glass. The Mavs’ offensive rebounding on the other hand, was fine. And, might I add, clutch:
  • All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again. In games like these, it’s hard not to wonder if going small is a more viable option than Rick Carlisle and his coaching staff acknowledge. Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler are very good defenders, but in games like this one, they become strictly help defenders and rebounders. Taking on-ball post defense out of their job description leaves them slightly less useful, and I do wonder if running a lineup of Kidd-Terry-Butler-Marion-Nowitzki might have been more effective at times. It’s not the most intuitive way to get better defensive results, but having more natural match-ups could be a conceivable boon for the Dallas D.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: Come on. Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs won with their offense, and their offense won with Dirk.

.

Denver Nuggets 127,681, Dallas Mavericks $0.75 and Half of a Moldy Sandwich

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 10, 2010 under Recaps | 10 Comments to Read

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

“…All the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
-William Shakespeare

It honestly does not get much worse than this.

Worst loss in nearly a decade? Check. Embarrassing effort level on both ends of the court? Double check. Truly horrid execution? You betcha. Completely whiffing in a ‘statement game?’ Probably an understatement, but yes. The Dallas Mavericks failed in just about every conceivable way on Tuesday night, giving the players, coaching staff, and front office personnel plenty to think about going into the All-Star break.

You’ll find no more cogent and persuasive argument for the Mavs to make a trade than last night’s misery. The Nuggets just seemed to be operating on a completely different plane of existence, one that was simply beyond that of the pitiful, mortal Mavs. All Dallas could do was stare wide-eyed as Denver’s shooters nailed shot after shot, and marvel at every backdoor cut and spot-on defensive rotation. Nothing the Mavs did on the court could really be classified as actively playing the game of basketball, so don’t misunderstand my rhetoric; the Mavericks were spectators on the floor, watching the true professionals do what they do. They simply couldn’t be bothered with offering the slightest resistance or competition.

Dismissing the Mavs didn’t even require a spectacular game from either of Denver’s biggest stars, Chauncey Billups (16 points, 6-8 FG, six assists, three steals) and Carmelo Anthony (19 points, six assists, four rebounds). Instead, the Nuggets simply cashed in on the ordinary performances of their top players, and supplemented with some ridiculous production off the bench. Four of Denver’s reserves finished in double-figures, and it was actually the ridiculous second quarter runs of the Nuggets’ bench players that put away the game early. The Mavs expect, scheme, and tech to stop the players that are difficult to stop otherwise; Billups is so crafty and Anthony so talented that if you’re not preparing for them, you’re doomed to allow a monster scoring night from one or both. But Ty Lawson? Arron Afflalo? Johan Petro? These aren’t supposed to be the guys that give a team like the Mavs trouble…and yet here we are, looking at a decisive 18-33 quarter that says otherwise.

Without a healthy, fully-functional Erick Dampier, the Mavs have no hope of stopping Nene (21 points, 8-9 FG, eight rebounds). Eddie Najera got the start at center in Dampier’s absence (you know the drill – left knee effusion), but both he and Drew Gooden looked absolutely clueless in “guarding” (I use this term loosely) a player with such size, speed, and finishing ability. Nene was one of the unheralded difference-makers of last year’s playoff series between the Mavs and Nuggets, and his most recent domination of the Mavs was only more of the same.

J.R. Smith (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Chris Andersen (14 points, ten rebounds) were predictably troublesome, if only because the Mavs didn’t match their energy and activity. Based on everything else you’ve read and seen regarding this game, that shouldn’t be at all surprising.

Look, the Mavs were awful. Terrible, really. They slowed to a crawl when the should have (and could have) been sprinting, and now they’ll have to live with the consequences. So the best thing I can tell you to do is just laugh this off. Chuckle a bit at the thought of Ty Lawson running circles around the Mavs’ defenders. Let out a laugh because you know that Malik Allen, MALIK ALLEN, scored six points against Dallas. Just giggle with delight because you know that Denver shot 16-18 at the rim, and that’s probably not even the Mavs’ most embarrassing defensive feat of the night. But most importantly, laugh this off because there’s really nothing else you can do. This loss was so bad that it’s probably beyond anger or frustration, and qualifies as pure comedy. I mean, this is all some sort of elaborate joke…right?

Shot distribution data courtesy of HoopData.com.

Dallas Mavericks 104, Denver Nuggets 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 28, 2009 under Recaps | 8 Comments to Read

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas102.0102.052.431.719.515.7
Denver94.141.032.621.812.7

“Change is the only constant.”
-Unknown

Everything has changed.

The Mavs were once destined to rely on Dirk to conquer their demons, and in doing so, doomed themselves against more talented foes. But Dirk shot 6 of 15 from the field against the Nuggets last night, and was anything but the Mavs’ offensive centerpiece. He was more a fancy napkin or a nice tablecloth, an appropriate setting and a suitable distraction from the true forces at work. His offensive efforts were largely complementary, and though Nowitzki managed to drop a dagger of a three-pointer with just 50 seconds remaining, he was ultimately but a part of the Maverick machine. Dallas has had its fair share of struggles in making their offense a team affair, but they’ve had seven double-digit scorers in each of the last two games. Nowitzki’s shot attempts have remained down, the rest of the offense has picked up, and for perhaps the first time all season we have reason to believe that the Maverick offense is ‘getting it.’

The Mavs were once fated to be a step slow on the perimeter, and the league’s elite wings licked their chops at the opportunity to tear up the Dallas D. But add Carmelo Anthony (16 points, 5-19 FG, 12 rebounds) as the latest to fall under the constant pressure of the Maverick defense, a mighty juggernaut that has bested the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Kevin Durant. To call this defensive outfit “for real” is a tad understated and a few months too late, and all the credit in the world for that goes to Shawn Marion and Josh Howard. The two drew the primary defensive responsibilities of covering Anthony, and though the Maverick plan of attack featured frequent and early double teams, it was Marion and Howard’s execution on and individual level that kept Melo’s shooting percentage so dreadfully low. Anthony absolutely torched the Mavs (who at the time depended heavily on the defensive skills of Antoine Wright) in last year’s playoffs, but the addition of Shawn Marion and a healthy Josh Howard proved to be a world of difference. This is the defensive tandem that will largely determine the outcome of games against the Western elite, and they added another line to their already impressive resume with the way they shackled Carmelo Anthony.

The Mavs were slated to be soft inside, as perennial punchline Erick Dampier and non-center Drew Gooden formed the entirety of Dallas’ center rotation. But Dampier nearly notched a double-double (10 points, nine rebounds) in just 21 minutes, and Gooden (19 points, 8-8 FG, 10 rebounds) was completely and utterly dominant against Nene, Chris Andersen, and the Denver bigs. The Nuggets seemed to only have a fleeting interest in playing solid defense, and Dampier and Gooden positioned themselves to best exploit Denver’s lackadaisical attitude. Damp was able to capitalize on the Nuggets’ D in a way he had failed to do in last year’s playoffs, and Gooden showed what is perhaps his most valuable skill as a Maverick: interior shot creation. Creating shots is a crucial part of any offense’s success, and part of the reason why the Mavs have struggled this season is the inability of players (outside of Dirk Nowitzki) to create good shot attempts for themselves. Gooden is certainly capable of that, as his array of hook shots and finishes around the basket demonstrated beautifully. And to drop a cherry on top, Gooden and Damp were instrumental in the Mavs’ shot-challenging and defensive rebounding (to the tune of a 22.6 and 33.2 defensive rebounding rate, respectively). Damp and Drew were nothing if not tough on the interior, and they moved earth, expectation, and Nuggets in search of rebounds and scoring opportunities.

Though supposedly aged and wise, the Mavs were foretold as a team that would inevitably falter in the face of adversity. Not only have the Mavericks completely flipped that theory on its head with their performance in clutch situations this season, but against the Nuggets they played with the poise of a contender while closing out yet another strong opponent. Denver was visibly distracted by the overly and overtly physical play, but Dallas simply executed their sets, got their stops, and scored just enough to keep the Nuggs at bay. It wasn’t the prettiest finale (late turnovers, blown free throws, and missed opportunities can put a blemish on even the most beautiful of wins), but the Mavs pulled together enough scoring and rebounding to secure a victory.

Everything has changed.

Closing thoughts:

  • It simply has to be noted that Chauncey Billups missed the game due to injury. He changes the outlook and execution level of this Denver team, and though Carmelo Anthony has elevated his game over the last season or so, he operates much more comfortably with the safety net that Billups provides. When the Mavs really brought the heat against Melo, the rest of the Nuggets were left to sort out the mayhem. That’s the kind of situation in which Billups thrives, whereas his replacements, rookie Ty Lawson or the limited Anthony Carter, falter.
  • Arron Afflalo was a nice pick-up for the Nuggets, even if his jumpshot was absolutely erratic last night; he nailed a few of his early looks before throwing up some bricks in the fourth quarter. But as someone who has watched plenty of Nuggets this year, let me simply say that he makes sense as a defensive stopper/offensive contributor when Chauncey Billups is in the game and the Nuggets are on their game. He’s a contributor to the system, and that’s all you should expect from your role players.
  • It was a good night for the Shawn Marion hook shot, as the Mavs looked to engage Carmelo Anthony both offensively and defensively. The game plan was obvious: wear him out on both ends and frustrate him with constant pressure and movement. It worked beautifully, and Marion’s work in the low post against Anthony was a carefully executed part of that plan.
  • With Carmelo Anthony in and out of the game with foul trouble (he played just 31 minutes on the night), the Maverick defense turned its full attention to J.R. Smith. Rick Carlisle clearly had the utmost respect for Smith’s offensive game, and he wasn’t shy about throwing additional defensive pressure J.R.’s way. The results were often even better than they were against Anthony, as the flustered Smith committed offensive fouls (including one near-flagrant by introducing his elbow to Jason Terry’s head) and jacked up ill-advised three-pointers. In Billups’ absence, Smith is supposed to fill in with ball-handling and scoring, and instead, he stalled the flow of the Denver offense when met with the Mavs’ defensive pressure.
  • Again, Shawn Marion was not on the floor to finish the game. That said, the lineup of Kidd-Terry-Howard-Nowitzki-Gooden was entirely deserving and successful.
  • DNP-CDs for Tim Thomas and Quinton Ross. Defending Carmelo Anthony was one of the more obvious reasons for adding a player of Ross’ defensive caliber, and though I was thrilled with the Mavs’ coverage of Anthony last night, I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see Q give it a try. Maybe next time.
  • J.J. Barea (13 points, 6-10 FG, four assists) continues to excel in his starting role. Say what you will about the aesthetic of the starting lineup (a 6’0” shooting guard? Wha-wha-what?), but he’s adding a ton offensively while he’s on the floor. The defense may be another story, but for the moment, his time on the floor is certainly a net positive (he was a +4 on the night).
  • Dirk Nowitzki really was a virtual non-factor on offense, but he continued to influence the game through his rebounding. As far as defensive efforts go, Dirk’s night was merely so-so, but Nowitzki pulled in tough, contested rebounds at crucial times to help put this thing away.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Drew Gooden, whose perfect night from the field and tough interior D were highlights of the Mavs’ win. Dallas simply doesn’t get the job done without Gooden’s tangible and intangible contributions. This was perhaps Drew’s finest game in a Maverick uniform (his effort against Tim Duncan and San Antonio stands out as a potential equal, in my mind), and as such he gets the gold sticker bling.

Rumor Mongering: Dallas Gets Trade Crazy

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 27, 2009 under Rumors | 8 Comments to Read

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning New wrote a piece outlining which of the Mavs’ assets are the most tradable, and also gives a pretty hefty list of potential targets that could be on Dallas’ radar.  Pure speculation?  Maybe.  But Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com thinks there’s more to it, and that there may be some legitimate team sentiment behind the rumors.

Dallas needs to do something.  Rotation shake-ups and motivational speeches have gone just about as far as they can go.  The team has some appealing assets and they have plenty of needs.  There are really two questions though.  First, can the Mavs even get the “right deal” done?  And second, does the “right deal” do enough to get the Mavs out of the first round of the playoffs?  The fan in me says yes, but the realist in me says no.  To say it’s an uphill battle is underselling it.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it, right?  So without further ado, a breakdown of each of Sefko’s proposed trades:

Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier to Sacramento for Brad Miller and Kenny Thomas.

Why it works: The trade turns Stack’s contract into a player that’s immediately useful in Brad Miller, and Dallas doesn’t sacrifice 2010 cap flexibility.  Miller finally gives Mavs fans the scoring from the center position that they’ve always pined for, and he’s a much better passer than Dampier.  When Miller is focused, his ability to facilitate the offense can really open things up for the fringe contributors on the team.  Kenny Thomas also gives the Mavs another look at the second string power forward (or third string, whatever), and he’s not as bad as you probably think he is.  The Kings aren’t playing him, but Thomas hasn’t been all that bad in his few appearances for Sacramento this season, and could be able to contribute to a playoff team.

Why it doesn’t: Brad Miller just so happens to occupy the same offensive space as Dirk, meaning that someone is going to be out of their comfort zone on almost every play.  Miller also happens to be an inferior post defender, shot-blocker, and rebounder to Dampier.  Granted that Miller is in fact a more gifted scorer than Damp, he also relies on a higher usage rate that could require taking touches away from Dirk, Josh, and JET in order to accomodate Miller’s usual production.  Is that worth it?  Probably not.  You might be able to argue that this trade slightly favors Dallas, but even so it would be a marginal upgrade at best.


Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Golden State for Stephen Jackson.

Why it works: This one is definitely the most interesting to me.  The 2 guard has been a problem all season, and Antoine Wright/Gerald Green/Dwane Casey’s kid probably aren’t the answer.  Wright’s passable some nights and unspectacularly awful others, and Green ranges from smile-worthy offensive explosion to migraine-inducing “rookie mistake” factory.  Jax would give the Mavs a great defender, a vocal leader, and a player who can drive, shoot, and set up his teammates.  Plus, this trade would give Dallas a quality wing player without giving up Josh Howard.

Why it doesn’t: The bench would be a disaster.  Who plays power forward?  James Singleton?  Ryan Hollins?  Shawne Williams?  It wouldn’t be pretty on the backlines, and Dallas would be hit hard in the low post and on the boards.  Or, I guess Carlisle could just play Dirk for 43 minutes a night.  That would work really well.  But the trouble doesn’t stop there; Stephen Jackson signed what is actually a pretty reasonable three-year, $28 million extension this season.  The wittle bitty problem with that is the fact that Jackson is nearly 31 right now, and at the end of his deal (2012-2013), he would be 35 years old.  Who knows how productive he’ll be by that time, and it could be a nightmare to move an aging wing scorer if things don’t work out.

Photo from Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images via ESPN.

Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Chicago for Andres Nocioni.

Why it works: Noc gives the Mavs another weapon off the bench, or possibly a small forward to start alongside Howard.  He can stretch the floor, he’s a physical player, and would add firepower to a team that has trouble scoring at times.

Why it doesn’t: Nocioni’s contract is entirely too long, stretching to 2012-2013 (although that last year is a team option).  Some might call him an “irritant,” but I merely cite him as the primary example under the dictionary definition of “fake hustle.”  He’s almost constantly overaggressive both in terms of shot attempts and fouls, and while he is a physical defender he isn’t that great at D in general.  Trading Bass would open up a huge hole at the 4 (see above), and while Chicago may play Noc at the 4 for stretches, Dallas should have no business doing that.  He’s 6’7”, 201, and just tends to push people in the back.  Not exactly a dream come true.  Plus, his better offensive days look more like an exception than a rule at this point.


Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Minnesota for Mike Miller.

Why it works: Mike Miller is a great player on the down year of all down years, somehow appearing to be one of the worst players in the Wolves’ regular rotation.  And that’s saying something.  I’d find it hard to believe that the Real Mike Miller isn’t buried beneath layer upon layer of Minnesota-induced psychosis, and the Mavs would hope to save Miller from himself.  When he’s rolling, he’s creating for his teammates, getting to the hoop, and one of the deadliest shooters in the game.  When he’s not, well, just look at his stats on the season.  Not too pretty.

Why it doesn’t: This trade doesn’t really seem like a possibility.  All indications point to Minny demanding back more compensation that just Bass and an expiring deal, and I’m sure they have their eyes on draft picks around the league.  Beyond that, Miller only makes the Mavs better at doing what they already do: shooting.  He would fix the starting shooting guard problem but open up the power forward Pandora’s Box, which could actually end up being a wash.  On top of that, there’s no guarantee that Miller won’t continue his reign as the Archduke of the Royal Principality of EPIC FAIL.

Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier to Toronto for Jermaine O’Neal.

Why it works: It really, really doesn’t.

Why it doesn’t: Probably the worst deal on the list.  Turn our prized expiring deal and a healthy starting center into a possibly-more-talented-but-definitely-more-washed-up, oft-injured center.  Where do I sign up?


Brandon Bass To Detroit for Arron Afflalo.

Why it works: Arron Afflalo is exactly the type of young point guard the Mavs want to have going forward.  He’s already a good defender, shoots well, and plays the game without forcing the issue or making careless mistakes.  Another quality young playerdrafted by Joe Dumars.  Plus, dude has an awesome name.

Why it doesn’t: This trade could only make sense in tandem with another deal that would bring in frontcourt depth.  The Mavs already have J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, and even Matt Carroll to back-up Kidd if the situation calls for it, while Brandon Bass is the only line of defense between a potential Dirk Nowitzki energy and complete Maverick apocalypse.  I love Afflalo’s game and I love his potential, but this move doesn’t make sense for Dallas right now.

Photo from AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.

Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass to Oklahoma City for Earl Watson.

Why it works: I’m not really sure.  I guess Earl Watson would be another Kidd back-up, or possibly an insurance policy if Dallas decides to go another way this summer.  Otherwise, I’m speechless.

Why it doesn’t: Earl Watson just isn’t that good.  His jumper is errant, his playmaking skills are slightly above average, and his defense is unimpressive.  There’s a reason that his “steady veteran presence” has made its rounds throughout the league, let’s just put it that way.  Plus, giving up an expiring deal and arguably Dallas’ most promising young player for a piece that doesn’t fit on the team, isn’t a youngster, and isn’t anything better than average seems awfully silly.

Photo from NBAE/Getty Images/Kent Smith.

Josh Howard and J.J. Barea to Charlotte for Raja Bell and Raymond Felton.

Why it works: Raymond Felton would be the Mavs’ point guard of the future and Raja Bell would be a capable starting 2 guard who still retains some of the skills of a lockdown defender.  At once, this trade will fill a glaring hole for the Mavs at the 2 and procure Kidd’s protégé.

Why it doesn’t: The Mavs are giving up quite a bit for two ill-fitting pieces.  Josh Howard is still a hotbed of talent, whether he can harness it or not.  J.J. Barea not only holds status as a Mavericks folk hero, but penetrates well, knows when to look for his own shot, and has plenty of time to improve on a perfectly reasonable contract.  Meanwhile, Raymond Felton would possibly be forced into the shooting guard slot alongside Kidd or in a back-up role, meaning that he won’t have experience running the point full-time when he takes over and/or he won’t have the added experience of playing against top-flight players.  Meanwhile, Raja Bell could be an interesting addition to the Mavs roster if it still featured Howard, but in this case filling the hole at the 2 leaves an even bigger one at the 3.  Devean George might actually start.  I’m doing my best to keep in my enthusiasm.  Beyond that, Felton isn’t a great shooter, has stalled at times in his progression, and Raja Bell is already a shade behind his former self and only getting worse.

Photo from NBA.com

Josh Howard and Brandon Bass to Memphis for Mike Conley and Darko Milicic.

Why it works: Mike Conley is going to be a stud.  He has all the physical tools required of a great point guard, and while his play has been up and down, I see the good in him.  He’s probably the best option listed here in terms of young guards, and the Grizz apparently aren’t entirely opposed to the idea of parting ways with him.  If Memphis was rumored to be interested in Milwaukee’s Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander for Conley, why wouldn’t they be interested in Howard/Bass?  Darko on the other hand, despite his neverending status as a 2003 Draft punchline, is a pretty decent big man.  Like Conley, he’s had good days and bad.  But he’s also a legit 7-foot shot blocker with plenty of room to grow and a nice presence in the low post.

Why it doesn’t: It doesn’t help the Mavs this season.  Darko would be able to play either power forward or center on any given night, but the small forward position would be awful.  Conley doesn’t fill any specific short-term need,and would be a luxury I’m not sure the Mavs can afford on a roster that needs some help.