Center Stage

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 10, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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It’s time to wrap up the position by position evaluation. If the point guard position was the worst spot for the Mavs, the center position was the second choice. Folks got a harsh reminder that Tyson Chandler wasn’t going to be walking back through that door. Going into the 2011-12 season, Dallas had the likes of Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi that had to be replaced.

They got creative by replenishing their center spot by signing veteran big man Chris Kaman to a one-year deal. They also claimed Elton Brand off waivers as he was released by Philadelphia due to the amnesty provision. Brandan Wright continued to log minutes at the center spot, but he also saw more time at the power forward position.

Summing it up:

The centers definitely never had a chance to get into a groove as both Kaman and Brand expected to be playing off of the attention that Dirk Nowitzki received from the opposing defenders. Dirk’s time away due to his knee surgery definitely altered that plan for both big men. That certainly changes the expected results for the centers, but the numbers are still pretty poor over the course of the season.

In terms of rebounds from the center position, Dallas’ centers tied for dead last in the league at 4.3 rebounds per game. The two teams they tied with made the playoffs, but they definitely had more to work with. The teams were the Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat. Both teams were clearly limited with their size in the frontcourt, but they had athletes that helped masked that deficiency.

Those rebounding numbers for the center show a pretty significant correlation to the fact that they weren’t good at getting second chance points. Dallas’ centers were below average in second chance points as they only averaged 3.5 per game. New Orleans’ big men led the league in that category at 6.5 per game.

The Dallas centers had the 11th worst defensive rating for centers at 103.8. Elton Brand was brought in to be the enforcer and anchor in the paint. His defensive rating for the season was 102, better than his career average. He wasn’t necessarily outmatched in his position. Brand isn’t the tallest center in the world, but he’s able to use his frame and long arms as leverage as a defender. The problem was that he wasn’t necessarily set up in a position to succeed as the perimeter defenders weren’t exactly staying in front of their man. That forced the centers, like Brand, to help more than they probably should have needed to.

 What do they need?

You either believe you need a dominant center and pair him with Dirk, or you need a highly-skilled point guard and pair him with Dirk. Both would clearly be ideal, but it’s entirely possible the Mavs might have to select just one option.

It’s always ideal to now follow the blueprint that was created with Tyson Chandler. Dirk has said it over and over again that a mobile center who can play defense is one that works best alongside him. Comparing this summer to next summer, this summer’s crop has the potential to bear more fruit as next summer has intriguing names but the options are relatively limited. That means centers, which always get paid, will really get paid next summer because the options are just so limited.

Through free agency and the draft, there will be plenty of options for Dallas when looking at centers. It is very evident that, like the point guard position, they really need to take care of the center position this offseason. It will be very interesting to see which route they take when it comes to the center spot.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.

Power On

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 9, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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As the position evaluation moves on, we land at the power forward spot. Needless to say, the Mavs haven’t had to worry about filling this position in terms of a starter for an entire season for a long time. Dirk Nowitzki remains the franchise. If all goes well, Dirk will likely retire a Maverick when the time is right. The good news in that situation is that possibility still seems further down the road.

Dallas has had Shawn Marion become the ultimate security blanket for them as he’s been able to move up and fill the backup power forward position for the team over the last couple of years. They also took a chance and gave Brandan Wright more of an opportunity to play at that position. With Dirk firmly established as the starting power forward, it’s worth looking at how the team is in terms of depth behind him.

Summing it up:

The guys did an admirable job doing what they could while Dirk was out for the first portion of the season. Dallas had quite a few options to work with in terms of backups. As it was mentioned above, they had Shawn Marion and Brandan Wright log minutes behind Dirk. Wright logged time as the backup center, but they found certain lineups that allowed the lanky big man to slide down to the four spot.

It was actually surprising that the Mavs went ahead with playing Wright at that spot. When he joined the team prior to the 2011-12 season, he said he felt more like a power forward than a center and Rick Carlisle immediately said afterwards that they envisioned him being solely a center.

It wasn’t sunshine and daffodils the entire time, though. For a brief time, try 81 minutes, they tried Elton Brand as the power forward next to Chris Kaman. Those two worked together well when they played together for the Los Angeles Clippers between 2003 and 2007. It didn’t necessarily work in 2012 as the combination was a -26 in their time together.

What do they need?

First off, they need Dirk to stay healthy. It starts and ends with him being ready to go for as many games as possible. There’s been a question that’s lingered over the last 5-7 years when it comes to the backup power forward position. Do you go with someone who operates closer to the rim at the power forward position or do you go with a stretch 4? The Mavs certainly tried to go with the stretch 4 when they brought Troy Murphy into the mix. Remember him?

If the Mavs intend on bringing Brandan Wright back, I doubt it’s with the primary intention to back up the team’s best player. He can operate in that position, but they probably want to continue their development with him as part of a platoon at the center position. If they could establish another three-headed monster at that position, that would be ideal.

If Wright is coming back, it would probably be ideal to have more of a physical presence backing Dirk up. It’s not that Wright is soft or anything, but he’s not going to be confused with a bodybuilder. What makes him dynamic as a player is his size and mobility. It only makes sense to match that up with someone who will be physical and battle in the trenches.

The free agent pool isn’t that stacked for talent in that position, at least not in the form of a cheaper backup power forward. The draft could be a route the Mavs look at replenishing that position. That being said, it’s not incredibly likely that they would find a power forward to eventually groom into Dirk’s spot. It’s not like they would necessarily want to do that either since both Dirk and the franchise believe that he has more than a year or two left of prime basketball left in him.

If the pieces work out, they’re likely hoping that they can bring Wright back, and have him as a third option behind Shawn Marion.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.

Breaking It Down Like a Fraction

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on April 30, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Dollars and sense. When it comes down to it, that’s what it is all about.

There is a lot of work ahead for the Mavs as they look to make the 2012-13 season an aberration and not the new norm in the new CBA world. It is a new world for the Mavs, and everyone else in the league, as everyone continues to adapt to what the implications are with the new CBA. I think Donnie Nelson hit the nail on the head when he discussed it during his exit interview. “It’s not like the good old days where there’s all kind of financial freedom where you can sign checks into the wind,” Nelson said.

It is a big summer, and the Mavs will have to trust their instincts based on all they work they do and they are currently doing.

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The Rundown, Volume XX

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on April 22, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday during the regular season (unless there’s a better feature to run with), The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavs, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.

The end is here. The 2012-13 season for the Dallas Mavericks is officially over. There is some solace that the Mavs were able to finish the season with a record of 41-41. They became the 13th team in NBA history to be 10 games below .500 in a season and finish at .500 or better. The most recent team to achieve that feat before the Mavs was 2010-11 Philadelphia 76ers. The last Western Conference team was 1980-81 Portland Trail Blazers.

That’s a great accomplishment for a team that looked dead in the water back in December and January. That being said, there’s a lot of work to be done this summer for the Mavs if they want to get back to where they were just two years ago. They don’t need to be the number one overall seed in the Western Conference, but they need to get into a spot where they’re not having to scratch and claw just to have a chance to make the playoffs. There will be plenty of time to dissect what the Mavs can do this summer to fix what is ailing them. For now, let’s just look at what exactly happened this season.

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Thermodynamics: The 2012-2013 Season

Posted by Travis Wimberly on April 21, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Black hole

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

And with that, the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks will ride off into the sunset.

Sixteen NBA teams will play on, but the Mavs’ season is over. It wasn’t exactly a ceremonious ending, but it could have been worse. The Mavs closed out the year exactly at .500 (41-41), tallying their final win ever against the New Orleans Hornets Pelicans.  In the process, they became the first Western Conference team in over three decades to finish at .500 or better after being 10-plus games below that mark at any point during the season. That says something (although I’m not sure exactly what).

In honor of the season’s end and the final 2012-2013 installment of Thermodynamics, this week’s column will be a little different. Instead of the usual “weekly recap” approach, this one will address the three hottest and coldest performances for the entire season. For each item on the list, I’ll include one of the first things I wrote about that player from early in the year, and we can see how those initial impressions line up with the player’s season-long outlook.

Off we go…

FIRE

1) Brandan Wright

“Last season [2011-2012], Brandan Wright was a very serviceable rotation-caliber big man. This year, he will move well above that status, if the first two games are any indication.” – Thermodynamics: Week 1 (Nov. 1, 2012)

Those first two games were an indication, indeed.

Like countless Mavs observers, I spent the early part of this season perplexed by Rick Carlisle’s handling of Wright. Even accounting for Wright’s weaknesses, there was never any real justification for him to ride the pine for long stretches in favor of 2012 Troy Murphy. Yet as the year went on, Carlisle grew more and more comfortable with Wright. The 25-year-old big man began to rebound and defend better (although he still has significant room for improvement), all while the Mavs’ mounting playoff desperation necessitated Carlisle’s compromise.

As many of us suspected, Wright turned to be one of the Mavs’ most efficient and productive players, effectively showcasing his potential as a long-term piece for the Mavs. He also drove up his free-agent asking price in the process, but Dallas has cap room aplenty, which if nothing else will give Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson room to mull over a competitive offer. I consider him a top priority for this offseason. It would be foolish to let him walk unless another team wants to drastically overpay him (which isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility). Wright is already a highly efficient offensive player, and he has plenty of upside to boot. It’s hard to ask for more.

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Knowns and Unknowns

Posted by Brian Rubaie on April 17, 2013 under Commentary, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

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The last game of a wild Mavericks season is now less than 24 hours away. Fittingly, uncertainty still looms even as game number 82 approaches; the result of tonight’s contest determines whether Dallas finishes the season as a losing team or achieves the respectable .500 mark they fought so hard to reach. Though that distinction in itself may prove to be of little consequence, the end of a troubling season introduces far more questions an uncertainties with precious few answers to speak of.

While most of Dallas’ future is unknown, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld provided a useful framework for understanding and classifying known and unknown forces. Rumsfeld famously responded to a journalist’s query about uncertainty by putting “knowns and unknowns” into three conceptual categories, explaining:

“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.
But, there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

In the first category, the “known knowns” which represent areas of total certainty, Dallas entered 2012-2013 with none and leaves with a very important one: Dirk’s still got it.

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Thermodynamics: Week 24

Posted by Travis Wimberly on April 11, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

The Mavs have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they say they won’t quit on the season. In that case, neither will we. We’ve got about one more week before most of our regular columns here at The Two Man Game go into offseason hiatus, so let’s make it count.

Week 24 (@Nuggets, @Kings, @Blazers, Suns)

FIRE

1) The Matrix

The 2012-13 Mavs have a handful of younger players whose grit and tenacity are sometimes easy to question. Meanwhile, they have a few older players for whom those traits are indisputable and unwavering. Shawn Marion is one of those guys in the latter category, and this week was the quintessential example. With the Mavs’ playoff hopes dwindling further and further, the Matrix rose to the occasion. After a respectable 10-point night in Denver, he produced 25 points against Sacramento, 20 against Portland, and 22 against Phoenix. It was the first time since 2007 that Marion has scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games. Not only that, he scored very efficiently — 34-of-58 (59%) shooting on the week — and contributed 8.5 rebounds per game to boot. I’m not going to say the Mavs have quitters on their roster, because I don’t think that’s true. But I will say this: Shawn Marion is the polar opposite of a quitter.

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Unpredictable

Posted by Brian Rubaie on April 10, 2013 under Commentary, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

Unpredictable

Encapsulating a team’s essence in one word is difficult, particularly when that team is the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks and one isn’t supposed to curse. Those conditions standing, however, the word which best describes both the current and future outlook of these Dallas Mavericks is “unpredictable.” The instability which characterized the Mavs this season will become the new normal as Dallas prepares to enter another hyperactive off-season.

As the primary topics of discussion shift away from the playoffs and beards, talk of free agency will ramp up. A rush of predictions, rumors and opinion pieces will attempt to assign a method to the ongoing Mavericks madness. It is a void into which I will willingly plunge as an analyst, but I wish to first beg your forgiveness. The task of predicting Dallas’ moves this offseason, or offering reasonable advice to its ownership, is a tall task, and potentially a fool’s errand. Anyone searching for a definitive answer would be wise to remember that little in this Mavericks era can be anticipated; most everything has yet to be determined.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 117, Sacramento Kings 108

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 6, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • I appreciate a good Shawn Marion (10-17 FG, 25 points, 12 rebounds) game, always. This was one of those.
  • The most relevant remaining Mavericks-related question is whether the team will finish the season bearded or beardless. Against a Sacramento Kings they should always beat when healthy, the Mavericks performed well enough to move towards that seemingly unreachable goal of .500.
  • A decent performance against a rarely impressive Kings’ interior (or perimeter, for that matter) defense serves as a small comfort against the grim reality of the imminent draft lottery.
  • This Mavericks’ win did not come about in the typical fashion – by perimeter excellence or an overwhelming Dirk Nowitzki (6-14 FG, 16 points, six rebounds) exultation.
  • Instead, Dallas achieved the rare award of dominating the lane, generally through the excellence of a cutting Marion or a waiting Brandan Wright (9-14 FG, 20 points, six rebounds).
  • Given what I’ve written in the past, I assume it’s quite clear that I enjoy Wright’s game. I think he will be one of the players the Mavericks may miss most if he leaves in the offseason, especially as Wright grows into himself as a player and post presence.
  • His athleticism conjoins with a growing skill near the basket more and more all the time, and when that combination reaches his peak, I expect he’ll already have established himself as a reliable starting center in this league.
  • Darren Collison (7 -10 FG, 18 points, 8 assists) also played with the fresh continuity and weaving motion that defines his better games, a feat made easier against the lax Kings’ defense but a feat still impressive nonetheless.
  • When Collison darts with this alacrity, he personifies the sudden fun and spontaneity of the point guard position, and makes one wonder what could have been if that relaxed personification had appeared with more frequency over the course of a long season.

Thermodynamics: Week 23

Posted by Travis Wimberly on April 4, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Ice

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

That’s all she wrote. While not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Mavs’ hopes of making the dance are all but dead. They came into this week with a discernible chance, but a 1-2 run against a slate of tough opponents changed all that. A loss to the top-flight Indiana Pacers put the Mavs on life support; another loss to the mediocre Los Angeles Lakers was the death blow.

To no one’s surprise, this will be the most downtrodden installment of Thermodynamics this season. But don’t fret. The Mavs won’t stay down forever.

Week 23 (Pacers, Bulls, @Lakers)

FIRE

1) Dirk Nowitzki (well, mostly)

In the first two games this week, Dirk was stellar. He scored 21 points on 10-of-20 (50%) shooting against the Pacers, and was essentially the sole reason a 25-point blowout wasn’t even worse. Two days later, in the Saturday matinee against the Bulls, Dirk turned in his best performance of the season: 35 points, an absolutely preposterous 14-of-17 (82%) from the floor, and a personal 8-1 run to end the game. That afternoon in Dallas, Dirk did what only a handful of players in the league can do — he single-handedly pulled a victory out of otherwise certain defeat, and he did so against a quality team. Nowitzki’s week didn’t end well, as he shot a poor 4-of-13 (31%) and was generally ineffective against the Lakers. Some will blame the team’s inability to consistently get him shots — “Well, of course he can’t shoot well if he only gets X shots in first half,” they’ll say. Although that complaint is indisputably valid as a general matter, as applied to Dirk’s shooting poorly in a particular game, it falls flat as an excuse.  Nowitzki is capable of shooting well on very few shots — in fact, he does it all the time. Exactly 125 times in his career, Dirk has shot better than 50% on fewer than 12 attempts. His poor shooting against the Lakers certainly didn’t cost the Mavs the game, though it most certainly didn’t help. Still, his week on the whole was vintage. The Bulls game alone has a firm spot in Dirk’s pantheon of greatness.

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