You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
With 2:03 in the third quarter and Dallas down 79-73, Darren Collison took a three point shot which rebounded badly off of the front of the rim. Vince Carter made an attempt at a tip out and Shawn Marion and J.J. Redick chased the rebound past half court. Marion saved the ball from going out, slapping it towards an open O.J. Mayo. Oddly, Mayo did not react to the ball bouncing towards him. Jameer Nelson hustled and beat Mayo to the ball and passed to a cutting Redick for a lay in. Somehow, Mayo recovered defensively and blocked Redick’s lay up attempt. Mayo grabbed the rebound, drove the length of the floor and found Carter for an ally-oop dunk. This play, and the following Carter three pointer, brought the momentum back to Dallas in a game they could not afford to lose.
I rewound and watched this particular sequence five times. As delightful as the end result was, that Mayo was even beaten to the ball by Nelson is inexcusable. Mayo was closer, but made no attempt to get the ball. The Maverick announcing crew made no mention of this initial lack of effort and I wonder if they would have had Redick converted the lay in. Though the narrative will be “O.J Mayo’s effort saved the day” and it did, apparently Dirk pointed out post game that Mayo should’ve gotten to the ball before Nelson. In a way, it felt like the O.J. Mayo experience in a nutshell: unbelievable poor decision making followed by a high light reel play.
Vince Carter had a season high assist night, dishing eight out in a mere 26 minutes and only posting one turnover. His best assist occurred in the fourth quarter: Carter stole an outlet after an Orlando rebound and whipped a behind the back pass to Shawn Marion for a dunk.
The Mavericks have the league’s worst point differential in the first six minutes of a game this season. An emphasis on getting off to a good start was an apparent sticking point during all star break practices. The Mavericks answered the call, outscoring Orlando 22-14 in the first six plus minutes and scored 51 points in the first 15 minutes of game action.
On Tuesday, Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned Darren Collison’s atrocious defense, saying Collison is “lost on defense, prone to confusion and especially to veering way off course negotiating picks. Point guard defense matters, and Collison’s is a big net negative.” Early in the season it felt as if the main Maverick problem was the lack of a solid rim protector (and because I pine for Tyson Chandler). As the season has progressed it’s become glaringly obvious that the Maverick back court would have a hard time staying in front of a bolted down park bench. Orlando is not a good basketball team and that the Mavericks had trouble stopping their penetration all night long is really concerning.
Elton Brand (17 points on 6 of 9 shooting) showed his value repeatedly against the Magic. His shot making abilities bolster the Dallas offense, particularly on nights when the Big German’s shot won’t fall. At the end of the first quarter, he scored on three straight possessions: a face up jumper from the left block, a driving lay up after facing up on the same block, and a fall away jumper from the free throw line. His lift may be limited, but in the right situations he can carve up a defense.
For some reason, I felt Chris Kaman looked like a giant substitute history teacher with his bench wardrobe. Get well soon, Mr. Kaman.
During the week long break, I spent a fair amount of time watching Dirk Nowitzki highlights from the 2011 title run. To call him a different player now is a mild understatement. The level of explosive strength in his legs simply isn’t there in his moves this season. That’s an obvious side effect of his knee surgery, but it’s also been two seasons without a training camp for Nowitzki. Dirk hasn’t been ready to play in a way that he’d be satisfied with since the summer of 2011. It’s clear in the way he’s shooting, and while he looked better before the all star break, a 4 for 13 shooting night for 12 points is not a the kind of game Dallas can get from Dirk if they expect to make any sort of run for the final playoff spot.
Mike James (12 points, four assists) received back up point guard minutes and his numbers were solid. I think we’d all prefer Roddy Beaubois at this point, mainly because decent statistical nights like this one seem to bolster the confidence Jones has in himself. Prior to the game against Orlando, Jones was shooting a dreadful 26.9% from the field.
Case and point with Collison’s defense happened with 3:29 in the first quarter. Jameer Nelson saw Collison open himself up defensively as he anticipated a high screen. Nelson simply drove to the basket, right past a bewildered Collison. Shawn Marion had to leave his man and rotate to the driving Nelson, who passed to a wide open DeQuan Jones for a dunk.
The rare jump shot from Brandan Wright (eight points, eight rebounds) is something to see. He jumps very high and when he took and made one in the forth quarter on the right baseline, the ball nearly went out of the TV camera’s range, so high was his shot arc.
One of the simplest defensive principles when trying to stop fast break is this: you must make the ball handler make a decision. With five minutes in the first, Shawn Marion grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. He was facing a three on two with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo on the wings. Oddly, the two Magic defenders stuck with Mayo and Collison, never forcing Marion to do so much as alter his direction. Marion drove the length of the floor and finished with a monstrous dunk.
Dirk has been reduced to a jump shooter this season. His shots tonight all came within the flow of the Dallas offense, but the offense doesn’t seem to end up with Dirk getting the ball, back to the basket, in his former sweet spots. It’s unclear to me whether this is by design, a matter of the Dallas guards being unable to make entry passes, or if Dirk isn’t working for the ball the way he used to. Against the Magic, Dirk did not take a single shot closer than 12 feet from the rim.
Watching J.J. Redick move without the ball is entertaining. There wasn’t a single Maverick assigned to him tonight that had much success at all in staying in front of him. His career numbers compared to O.J. Mayo are not that different, but Mayo could learn a thing or two from Redick about how to get the most out of his talent.
This recap seems overly negative for a game Dallas won by 15. It was a close game from the 2nd quarter until the 5 minute mark of the fourth, when Carter hit a three to push the Dallas lead up to seven points. Within three and a half minutes the lead ballooned up to 18 points. This late game 14-0 run masked a number of problems which aren’t going away for the Mavericks.
Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.
A few weeks ago, Kevin Pelton of ESPN looked at the best contracts in the NBA by multiplying a player’s WARP (wins above replacement level) by the average amount that teams pay for each WARP. I’d like to approach this same problem from a different angle: namely, how much value are teams getting out of the salaries they pay their players? Instead of looking at WARP, I’ll focus on win shares, another metric of player value. While Pelton’s methodology assumes that the overall NBA salary market is priced correctly (therefore attaching a value to each WARP a team pays for), my method makes no assumptions about overall pricing accuracy and instead seeks to evaluate relative player salary and performance.
At a basic level, my goal is to quantitatively evaluate the best and worst contracts in the NBA. To do so, I construct a simple metric that I call the “value ratio.” This is defined as: (Player Salary/Median Salary)/(Player Win Share/Median Win Share). In effect, I am comparing the amount over (or under) which a player is being paid vs. the median NBA player with that player’s production over (or under) that of a median player. Comparing salaries and win shares with median values serves as a way of normalizing these metrics and making them more readily comparable to each other. A simple way to think about this metric is the following: if the ratio is less than 1, the player is undervalued; if the ratio is greater than one, the player is overvalued; if the ratio equals one, the player is properly valued. In short, the most valuable players will be those with the smallest value ratios.
To get a more full picture of player production, Wang used a three-year average of a player’s Win Shares. To compensate for the fact that salary is not consistent in every year of a contract he averaged the per year salary commitments of this year and each remaining year on a player’s contract. There are several holes in his method, which he acknowledges at the end of his post, but if you know the context for specific players and specific teams, the stories told by his numbers become much richer.
Several Mavericks showed up in different places in Wang’s results. With a value ratio of 0.131, Elton Brand’s contract provided the 7th greatest value of any player who has played at least 500 minutes this season. At a value ratio of 0.259, Darren Collison’s contract provided the 10th most value of any player who had played at least 1,150 minutes this season. Driven by curiosity, I pulled together his results for all of the Mavericks to see how the team’s current crop of contracts rated in value.
The trade deadline is always an interesting time for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has always said two things when it comes to that time of the year: the team will always be opportunistic and don’t believe what you hear or read when it comes to them. The team is at a crossroads. The chances of making the playoffs are slim and the team has to do what they can to ensure they don’t waste any more time off of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The deadline on the 21st is one way they can help build for the futre. How do the Mavericks assess things as the trade deadline approaches? Let’s look at the assets and what could be out there.
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Another week of the Mavs’ season is in the books, and it’s yet another 2-1, not-really-sure-how-I’m-supposed-to-feel week. To be sure, the Mavs played very well for much of the week. They beat a quality Golden State team handily, and they put away a miserable Sacramento team for the third time this season (boy, when you’re struggling for wins, it sure is nice to play the Kings repeatedly).
On the other hand, the Mavs’ game with the Hawks was a big step backward. They played pretty much the entire game uphill, and when they finally had a chance to close it out, they (read: OJ Mayo) repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. The end result: what easily could have been an excellent 3-0 week instead was yet another wasted opportunity to gain serious ground in the standings.
Week 16 (Warriors, Hawks, Kings)
1) Dirk’s Moves
Did you see it? If my eyes don’t deceive me, Dirk started to look a lot more like Dirk this week. His weekly numbers were fairly strong overall: 15.3 points per game, 17-of-35 (49%) cumulative shooting, and seven rebounds per game. But what really caught my attention was how he moved very purposefully, both on and off the ball, particularly in the Mavs’ latter two games. Last night against Sacramento, Dirk looked like the superstar of old. He created shots for himself; he got to his spots and broke down the defense; he created open looks for his teammates (six assists). It’s been so long since Dirk’s been physically capable of playing that way that I’d almost forgotten what it looked like. Almost. The Mavs may be in too deep a hole to salvage this season, but even if so, Dirk’s viability as an impact player and offensive creator are an integral part of whatever the Mavs’ future plans may be.
In a season rife with inconsistency, disappointment has been the lone constant for the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks. Dallas is experiencing its least successful season of 21st century. The losses have taken a frustrating toll on devoted fans, players and coaches alike.
No one seems more bothered by the team’s performance than Rick Carlisle, who rarely allows himself the pleasure of celebrating or accepting credit for victories but often makes it a point to take personal responsibility when losses mount. The accountability Carlisle displays speaks well to his character but is also misleading. As much as Dallas has struggled, Carlisle has masterfully captained a ship that could’ve easily sunk long ago.
That point was strongly reinforced in Carlisle’s 500th victory one week ago against the Portland Trailblazers. The fans and players awarded Carlisle a standing ovation, an act which Carlisle predictably greeted with the same modesty he’s displayed throughout. Dubbed the “Baller of the Week” by our own Bryan Gutierrez in this week’s Rundown, Carlisle remarked that “It’s meaningful, but I’m not into those kinds of things. … One relief I have is I think after tomorrow I won’t have to hear about it again for a while, so that’s good.”
Carlisle doesn’t want the attention, but his achievement marks the season’s single most impressive feat in Dallas. With few other causes for celebration, win number 500 provides an appropriate moment for basketball fans to pause and appreciate this great coach’s work. One week later, the magnitude of the event, and the thought of all the work that it took to achieve it, is still a challenge to fully appreciate.
The beards are going to be extremely itchy as the Dallas Mavericks suffered a heartbreaking 105-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The loss put a wet blanket on the run the Mavericks were on as they had won three of their previous four games and three home games in a row. Josh Smith tallied a game-high 26 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes for Atlanta in the win.
Dirk Nowitzki scored a team-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds, two steals and one block in 36 minutes. It his fourth game with 20-plus points this season, and his second-highest scoring game of the year (26 at Portland Jan. 29). One of Nowitzki’s team-high seven boards came on the offensive end. He is now tied with Mark Aguirre (1,259) for second place on the Mavericks’ all-time offensive rebounding list. James Donaldson is Dallas’ all-time leader with 1,296 offensive boards.
The game saw Atlanta start on a 10-0 run and lead the entire first half. The Mavericks continued to scratch and claw their way back into the game and even took their first lead of the game with just over 11 minutes to go in the game. With a chance to take the lead and less than a minute to go, O.J. Mayo raced down the floor in transition. As he was about to make his final approach to the rim, Devin Harris swatted the ball out of Mayo’s hands and caused a turnover. The Mavericks were still within 3 with less than 30 seconds to go and Mayo’s pass to a rolling Vince Carter went astray.
The Mavericks’ playoff chances took a major hit with the crippling loss to the Hawks. It also showed the late-game execution continues to haunt Dallas. According to TV play-by-play voice of the Mavericks Mark Followill, the loss to the Hawks dropped the Mavericks to 8-13 in games where the margin is within 3 points in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
Here are some notes before the quotes:
- Dirk went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc against Atlanta. His third trey of the game at the 6.4-second mark of the fourth quarter was the 1,300th triple of his career. He became the 29th player in NBA history with at least 1,300 triples (he’s shot 1,300-of-3,423, .380, from deep for his career).
- Brandan Wright 5-of-6 from the field and contributed 11 points off the bench. It was his 13th double-digit scoring game of the season.
- The Hawks outshot the Mavericks 50 percent (22-of-44) to 45.7 percent (21-of-46) from the field in the first half. Atlanta outscored Dallas 14-2 in transition and 28-18 in the paint in the first half. But the Mavericks outshot the Hawks 41.7 percent (5-of-12) to 16.7 percent (2-of-12) from beyond the arc before intermission and trailed by only one (49-48) at the break.
Here’s the quoteboard for Dallas’ loss to Atlanta.
The 2012-2013 NBA season is barely past the halfway mark, but the campaign has felt much longer for Dallas Mavericks fans. Heartbreaking overtime losses, a carousel of starting lineups and a steady spate of sloppy play have made this team difficult for fans to attach themselves to. With little hope of reaching the playoffs and a roster of tourist free agents, Mavericks fans may soon decide the team as constructed simply isn’t worth watching the rest of the way.
That view was discussed in a brief Twitter exchange between two insightful analysts, our own Kirk Henderson (@KirkSeriousFace) and CBS Sports’ Zach Harper (@talkhoops). Henderson asked if Harper’s lack of recent Mavericks coverage on the Pick and Troll podcast was due to the team being generally unremarkable, prompting Harper to reply: “There just isn’t anything there right now. Team in transition without their Hall of Famer? What’s there to say?”
Although Dallas is all but certain to miss the playoffs, there is still quite a bit for devoted Mavericks fans to discuss regarding the remainder of the season. No, the Mavs won’t soon replicate the high-flying, must-see moments of the Los Angeles Clippers or offer the same star-power-meets-train-wreck appeal of the Los Angeles Lakers. This season offers the Mavericks a glimpse at the twilight of the franchise’s best player, a great coach doing fine work, veterans trying to energize unlikely bids for the Hall of Fame and a likable, unselfish roster that still gives its all in good times and bad.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
For years and years, the Mavericks prided themselves on winning close games, often on the heels of a Dirk Nowitzki (DNP; injury) fadeaway. With Dirk out of the lineup and this year’s Mavericks’ team performing dreadfully in close games, the team’s sputtering finish against a deep Warriors’ squad shouldn’t surprise. But it still does, and it acts an originator of a thousand “What if’s?” What if O.J. Mayo (8-13 FG, 3-5 3PT, 6-8 FT, 25 points, six assists, five rebounds) makes both of his free throws in the final minute? What if the possible foul on Brandan Wright (4-8 FG, nine points, three rebounds) is called? What if _______? In the end, that blank space can only be filled by disappointment.
Like so many other Mavericks’ losses of the same brand, it’s difficult to find much issue with any aspect of the Mavericks’ game plan beyond the team’s execution in the final minutes. The Mavericks battled back and forth with Golden State all night, and fought bravely to give themselves a chance to win, albeit one which they did not ultimately take. All the same, Mayo played brilliantly and nicely utilized his transition abilities, Shawn Marion (8-11 FG, 18 points, 17 rebounds) rebounded like it was 2006, and the rest of the Mavericks collectively provided acceptable play, despite struggling with help defense on Klay Thompson (11-18 FG, 3-7 3PT, 27 points) and allowing David Lee (6-13 FG, 15 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists) to corral seven essential offensive rebounds.
The potency of Lee’s game appeared in full force tonight. The Mavericks did a fine job of assessing and guarding Lee in the post-up situations he often thrives on, but also at times overcommitted or lost help defense awareness, leading to Lee’s nine assists (often from passes to open shooters) and a weighty rebounding total of 20 for the All-Star power forward. Lee’s offensive game is vast, and the Mavericks were quite often an audience to the power of that vastness on Thursday night.
This has been an incredibly turbulent season for the Mavericks from a player personnel standpoint. They faced their first 27 games without Dirk Nowtizki, and with just five other returning players on the roster. An NBA roster has 15 slots, but the Mavericks have already used 19 different players this season, not including Delonte West — with whom the Mavericks parted ways before the season began. Each week it seems there is a new addition to be welcomed to the fold, bringing with them the warm tidings of hope.
Since he took over in Dallas, Rick Carlisle has proved repeatedly that managing personnel is one of his greatest coaching strengths. He has been innovative and progressive in managing his lineups and always seems to pull the most from each of his players. This season however, putting the pieces together has been a constant challenge. No matter how he arranges them, they don’t seem to fit together quite as uniformly as they have in the past, and the image never becomes totally clear. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s because these pieces don’t all come from the same puzzle, and that no matter what five-man unit Carlisle runs out onto the floor, some part of it will be a hasty Spackle job trying to hold back the rising tide of flood waters. However, I thought it might be interesting to look at the different lineup foundations he’s tried by examining his success (and lack thereof) with various two-man combinations.
The visualization below lets you look at all the different two-man combinations the Mavericks have used for at least 100 minutes this season. Unfortunately, to create all the combinations I had to place several players on both axes, which can make for a slightly confusing view. The size of each square represents the number of minutes that pairing played. The color represents that pairing’s Net Rating, or point differential per 100 possessions. If you hover over any of the squares you can also see that combination’s Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. The filters below let you include or eliminate pairings based on any of those variables.
The three least efficient areas to shoot from are inside the paint (but not in the restricted area), from mid-range and straight ahead three-pointers. Altogether, 63.7% of this lineup’s shot attempts come from those three areas. Going back to my shot-selection metric from two weeks ago, the shot selection of this lineup gives them an XPPS of 0.988, where the league average is 1.047. They feature above-average mid-range shooters, but are using that weapon to a fault. Above-average ability isn’t manifesting in above-average success, and their Actual Points Per Shot is an even lower 0.936. From an outsider’s perspective, this group seems like they may be fundamentally incompatible offensively, even with Nowitzki’s eventual improvement taken into account.
Although you never like to see anyone injured, Kaman’s concussion offers the possibility for an interesting experiment. Kaman has had a solid individual season putting up 18.8 points per 36 minutes, the second highest of his career, on a TS% of 53.3, his highest since 2008-2009. However, his rebound percentage is the lowest since his rookie season and the Mavericks have generally struggled when he’s on the floor. Dallas’ defense is 3.6 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman in the mix, a margin that’s ultimately not all that surprising. However, the Mavs’ offense is also 2.9 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman involved. Turning back to the visualization above, we see that Kaman is featured in 12 different pairings, only two of which have outscored the opposition. Those two — with Brandan Wright and with Jae Crowder — have played a combined 343 minutes, 44 of which are overlapped.
Much of Carlisle’s rotation work this season has felt like tinkering around the edges. As long as they’ve been healthy, the foundational pieces of Kaman, Nowitzki, Mayo and Marion have been largely cemented in place. With Kaman out, Carlisle will be forced to manipulate his foundation, and there is an opportunity for Brandan Wright and Bernard James to find their way back into the regular rotation in a significant way. Both Wright and James have been featured in several successful (albeit scarcely used) pairings, and I can’t help but feel that they are under-utilized assets. Neither player is comfortable away from the basket on offense and each would give the Mavericks a very different look than with Brand or Kaman alongside Nowitzki. When we talk about spacing issues we are usually referring to a team with a lack of outside shooters, allowing the defense to clog the paint. In this case I think the Mavericks can actually improve their spacing by removing overly-willing outside shooters; the insertion of James or Wright will force the defense to expand their focus and defend more of the floor, more vigorously.
The visualization also makes it seem that there could be potential benefits in increased roles for Vince Carter and Jae Crowder. Carter has done tremendous work in keeping the second-unit offense afloat, but maybe it’s time to let him work long more court time with Nowitzki. His ability to work inside and out, particularly as a post-up threat, seems like it could also alleviate some of the one-dimensional reliance on the mid-range jumpshot. It would be a difficult pill to swallow, but perhaps Mayo would be better off swapping places with Carter. Moving to the bench might feel like a step backwards for Mayo and could have significant impacts on team chemistry, but at this point the Mavs’ current rotation isn’t doing much for the team’s present or future.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
The Mavericks’ win on Sunday night could be described as a story of beginnings and endings (and that’s how I’ll describe it).
The starting unit began the game well, on the heels of precise ball movement and an active Shawn Marion (9-19 FG, 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists), and finished equally adeptly, as Dirk Nowitzki (7-14 FG, 18 points, seven rebounds) closed out the fourth quarter with the scoring precision of, well, Dirk Nowitzki.
Bernard James (1-2 FG, two points, three rebounds, 11 minutes) started the game at center for the Mavericks and performed well enough, though James’ 11 minutes may be indicative of the move’s dual purpose as a means of motivating Chris Kaman (2-4 FG, six points, five rebounds, two turnovers, 11 minutes). Neither James or Kaman served as part of the best pairing with Dirk, however.
That distinction lies with Elton Brand (6-10 FG, 12 points, three rebounds, 17 minutes), as it has much of the time in recent weeks.
I’d be remiss to write any further without mentioning that Dirk passed Allen Iverson for 18th all-time on the NBA’s scoring list. Well done, Dirk.
And hopefully his ascension towards further tiers of that list continues.
Though their numbers weren’t gaudy, the Mavericks’ guards deserve credit for a job admirably done. O.J. Mayo (4-9 FG, eight points, six assists), Darren Collison (3-7, eight points, five assists), Dahntay Jones (4-5 FG, 11 points), Vince Carter (5-8 FG, 2-3 3PT, 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals), and Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, eight points, three assists, three rebounds) collectively played quite well, and their overall decision-making radiated excellency.
That excellent decision-making propelled the Mavericks to 26 assists and only 13 turnovers, good for an aesthetically pleasing 2:1 ratio.
All 13 active Mavericks earned playing time, which in this case was indicative of a comfortable win.
Another key to the Mavericks’ victory was how well they spaced the floor.
Guards were able to make post passes into feasibly-sized windows, and areas of the floor were often carefully sectioned off for the sake of Shawn Marion, Dirk, or cutting guards (Mayo, Beaubois, etc.) on their way to the basket.
That element of movement and spacing is absolutely crucial for a team that’s been frequently mired in offensive stagnancy.
Four Mavericks’ centers played significant minutes tonight, which give some insight into the current revolving door of Mavericks’ center minutes.
Brandan Wright (1-3 FG, four points, three rebounds, three assists) was the fourth center used tonight. He first saw minutes in the fourth quarter and helped spark a momentous run with keen passes near the basket and an important finish.
Wright was also the only Maverick to make less than 42% of his shots, another mark of a thoroughly efficient offensive performance.