Once More, With Feeling: The Four Factors

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 26, 2009 under Previews | 3 Comments to Read

This is a part of the multi-part season preview, Once More, With Feeling. To read an explanation, click here. To read Act I (the Network preview), click here.

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Dean Oliver, in his book Basketball on Paper, isolated four factors that determine NBA success:

  • Shooting
  • Rebounding
  • Turnovers
  • Free throws

That’s it. An entire game of nuance and complexities boiled down to four bullet points.

Of course it’s never really that simple; behind these four headings lies each team’s offensive and defensive numbers boiled into a few metrics. They’re a step beyond your run-of-the-mill counting statistics, but still a bit of a reach from your more advanced measures. But they give tremendous insight into the particular successes of a basketball team, and they’re well worth your attention.

Let’s break it down, now.

Original photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images.

Shooting

You’ll find that Oliver’s four factors are determined on an offense vs. defense basis. So when I say shooting, what I (and Oliver) actually mean is the comparative shooting success between a team and their opponent.

In terms of their own shooting, the Mavs are certainly above average, but not quite elite (.504 effective field goal percentage or eFG%, 11th league-wide, .004 better than league average). The culprits of a normally potent’s offense decline into near-mediocrity? Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard. Dirk and Josh are good scorers and efficient scorers, but their reliance on two-point jump shots is impossible to ignore when calculating effective field goal percentage, a measure that weighs three pointers appropriately with their additional value. When your primary offensive weapons are shooting jumpers, their eFG just won’t measure up to the league’s premier interior or 3-point shooting outfits.

Keeping the Mavs afloat were the dunkers, Erick Dampier, James Singleton, and Ryan Hollins, and the three point shooters, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd.

In theory, new additions Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden would seem to fit right into that bunch. But their affect on the team’s eFG may be much more difficult to quantify. Shawn Marion was a dynamo during his time in Phoenix, with his eFG topping at .561. But much has happened since Marion’s run-and-gun days, and though Rick Carlisle and the Mavs are vowing to push the pace more than ever this year, it’s a line we’ve heard many times in the recent past. The good news is that last year’s much less effective Marion still managed a .491 mark, which matches J.J. Barea and bests Josh Howard.

Gooden, on the other hand, has posted a much lower career eFG (.474 compared to Marion’s .511), but may be poised for a bump. The only time in Gooden’s career where he has played alongside an above average playmaker was his time in Cleveland. The passing prowess of LeBron James brought Gooden’s eFG all the way up to .511. Jason Kidd shares James’ penchant for assists, and his helpful passes (along with some skilled teammates to relieve defensive pressure) will likely give Gooden more open looks around the basket than he’s ever had before. Hopefully that would at least shoot him in Damp’s direction in terms of eFG, but I’d settle for something right around last year’s team average of .504.

In terms of shooting defense, the Mavs were better than you might think (.493 eFGA, 10th, .007 better than league average). We’ll find the true source of the Mavs’ defensive woes in other areas, but in terms of forcing opponents into difficult shots, the Mavs weren’t too shabby. Though the now departed Antoine Wright’s eFG allowed last season was actually better than Marion’s, the Mavs hope that familiarity with the system as well as his teammates will help return Marion’s production to its previous highs. That isn’t a misguided notion; though familiarity and comfort level matter a great deal on the offensive end, they’re an absolute necessity for operating effectively in a defensive system. Marion needs to know where to rotate and when, and that’s a tough thing to do when the only constant in your life is Marcus Banks. Shawn Marion and Josh Howard are the keys defensively, and if the Mavs are going to transform into a top-notch defensive squad, the improvement will have to come on the wings. If not, there will be nothing to offset Jason Kidd’s lead feet or the Mavs’ lack of help-side shot blocking, and we’re looking at yet another year of average-ish defense.

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

Rebounding

The Mavs are not a good offensive rebounding team (.266 offensive rebounding percentage or ORB%, 16th, .001 worse than the league average). It’s an ugly truth that comes along with playing a perimeter-oriented power forward, talented though he may be; If Dirk is fading away at the elbow, he’s not going to be in position to hit the boards.

That leaves the primary offensive rebounding duties to fall on the shoulders of the Mavs’ centers, and for the most part, they’ve stepped up to the task. Erick Dampier, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Hollins were among the team’s leaders in ORB% last season, and though they didn’t perform at All-NBA standards (actually, Dampier did nearly match Dwight Howard in this ORB%), each performed admirably when acting as a one-man boarding crew.

It’s no big. Offensive rebounds are tremendously important and help create possessions out of thin air, but it’s hardly a requirement for team success. Though the Blazers and Lakers were near the top of the league last year in offensive rebounding, six of the top fifteen teams didn’t even make the playoffs. The Magic and Spurs were worst and next to worst in the league, respectively. I don’t feel too bad about the Mavs’ mediocre ranking in that department for exactly this reason, and though we should probably expect more of the same in 2009-10, it’s hardly a reason to panic.

That’s only because the Mavs are a competent defensive rebounding team (.746 defensive rebounding percentage or DRB%, 8th, .013 better than average). Dirk more than makes up for his poor offensive rebounding numbers with his work on the defensive glass, and he’s helped by Erick Dampier and the best rebounding point guard in the game, Jason Kidd. This is another area where the additions of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden will pay dividends, and if each rebounds at a rate equal to their career averages, they would immediately be two of the top three defensive rebounders on the team. And, if the preseason is any indication, Kris Humphries should be a contributor on the glass as well, supposing he can carve the minutes from Dampier, Gooden, and Nowitzki’s hands.

Even if the Mavs don’t improve in rebounding by rank, they should at the very least improve in terms of rebounding percentage.

Photo by the AP.

Turnovers

In the days before Jason Kidd’s return to Dallas, the Mavs were a low assist, low turnover franchise. It got them all the way to the NBA Finals, and created a team ethic after the departure of Steve Nash. Typically, with the return of a true point guard comes the return of the high turnover numbers. Yet somehow, the Mavs have maintained their status as elite ball protectors despite Kidd’s sometimes reckless (yet effective!) passing style (.121 turnover percentage, 3rd, .016 better than league average).

That’s largely because Dirk, JET, and Josh Howard are all unusually careful with the ball. When your team’s (qualified) leaders in usage rate are also the most careful, that translates to some pretty impressive team numbers. Kidd can throw lobs and full-court bounce passes all he wants because at the end of the day, the Mavs’ big possession stars are handle the rock with care.

Now, if you’re an endless optimist, this might be the part where you turn away, cover your ears and eyes, and sing “LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” Even though the Mavs low turnover numbers are worthy of your awe, their opponent’s almost equally low turnover rates are at the very least worthy of an exasperated sigh (.123, 25th, .010 worse than the league average). The Mavs are not very good at creating opportunities by forcing turnovers, and their lack of speed on the perimeter has brought on-ball pressure to a grinding halt. So much emphasis is put on staying in front of a man rather than trying to exploit him, and though that might be a necessity on a team that lacks a lockdown defender on the outside, it also results in a painfully low amount of opponent’s turnovers.

Though the addition of Shawn Marion (and, to a lesser extent, Quinton Ross) would theoretically improve upon this weakness, I’m not quite so optimistic. I do think that Marion will find success in Dallas, but it’s impossible to argue against the fact that he’s lost a step. And as Shawn gets older and older, his utility as a defender will certainly dwindle. I still think he’s a capable defender in many ways, but Marion has less athleticism to compensate for gambles, leaving in a position to play more “honest” defense than ever. If less aggressive perimeter defense translates to less forced turnovers, then Marion will likely fall in line with the more defensively conservative Mavs.

Photo by the AP.

Free throws

Dirk shoots jumpers. JET shoots jumpers. Josh Howard shoots jumpers. Jason Kidd, Tim Thomas, and Matt Carroll all shoot jumpers. Even Marion and Gooden dabble. That’s almost an entire offense predicated on successfully making jump shots, and while it’s not exactly conventional, it is successful.

That doesn’t mean we should expect many free throw attempts.

The Mavs are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league in terms of percentage, but most fans probably wouldn’t know that because of just how rarely the Mavs go to the line (.224 free throw attempts per field goal or FTA/FG, 22nd, .012 worse than league average). That’s not likely to change in the Dirk Nowitzki era, barring the acquisition of a big-time offensively skilled center. And I’m pretty sure MFFLs stopped holding out hope for that years ago.

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Values for the Four Factors from Basketball-Reference.com.

If I Could Save Time in an Embeddable Video

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 14, 2009 under xOther | 4 Comments to Read

NBA.com compiled the top ten Mavs plays of 2008-2009, with a disproportionate amount of James Singleton. There’s even a Devean George sighting. I’m a fan of big shots and game-winners as much as the next guy, but I still can’t see how JET’s hanging dunk on Anthony Randolph didn’t top the list.


Thoughts?

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 2, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Charles Barkley talked to Zac Crain of D Magazine/Inside Corner about his anti-Mavs rep. I’ll agree that it’s based in perception more than MFFLs often realize, and that we Mavs fans generally turn a blind eye to the fact that the Maverick teams prior to 2006 (when Chuck rocked a Mavs jersey on-air) generally lost to superior teams or teams that provided match-up problems. Of course the margin between the Mavs and those other teams was often close and this generally ignores the fact that the Mavs were still in the upper echelon of NBA competition, but you can’t blame him for picking other teams that played better defense.
  • Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Bass still text each other, on occasion.
  • Kris Humphries is turning heads in training camp. Seriously.
  • Dirk talks about the upcoming season, followed by an Eric Snow sighting (via Slam Dunk Central):

Brandon Bass Settles In

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 17, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

Eddy Rivera from Third Quarter Collapse had me over to his place for for cocktails, Bugles, and some ball talk.  Considering all that’s gone down between the Mavs and the Magic lately, there was plenty to discuss.

Check it out here…but you should really be reading TQC daily, anyway.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 15, 2009 under xOther | 11 Comments to Read

  • The usual pleasantries to Jared Wade and the newest TrueHoop Network blog, Eight Points, Nine Seconds.  An explanation of the blog’s name shouldn’t be necessary for die-hard NBAers.  As noted on TrueHoop, Wade also fills out the TrueHoop Network roster.  Big ups to Kevin Arnovitz
  • Bethlehem Shoals of The Baseline: “The Mavs have to be devastated, at least insofar as a franchise has emotions like a person. [Marcin] Gortat wasn’t the cornerstone of their new look, but he certained anchored it. Now that team has gone from improved, albeit out of necessity in the West, to a far shakier proposition. While Marcin Gortat isn’t a star, yanking him away just might ruin the modest renaissance on the horizon in Dallas.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz names Rodrigue Beaubois to his Summer League “Halfway Home” Awards.  
  • Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram doesn’t pull any punches in his discussion of Donnie Nelson’s flub on Marcin Gortat: “For me it’s hard not to come back to Nelson on this. A guy who’s been in the league for most of his life shouldn’t have his pants taken down in public like this…Cuban or not, the general manager is supposed to be able to work the NBA buddy network, not get snookered by it. Before submitting an offer sheet, doesn’t a good GM weigh the original team’s intentions? If I were Nelson and Smith had openly misled me, I’d be telling the whole world about it. Since Nelson isn’t, however, we have to presume the same things that ESPN’s John Hollinger did, that this is a classic case of Lucy snatching the football from Charlie Brown. For Cuban to let that go with a shrug and a ‘We’ll just move to Plan B,’ is hard to believe…He probably won’t fire Nelson, not in the middle of a busy NBA summer and not without having someone ready to take Donnie’s place. But after this episode he’d better, at least, be thinking about it.”  Look, I know this situation really, really sucks for everyone around the Mavs.  But it’s not like Nellie Jr. lobbed a low-ball offer down there and waited for it to come back and hit him in the face.  Nelson offered the most money the Mavs were able to offer, and the Magic decided to match.  The situation with Bass was sorely and surely mishandled, but you don’t fire your GM over Brandon Bass.
  • The Mavs are listed as having interest in Ike Diogu, another undersized 4 who could potentially fill the void left by Brandon Bass.  Provided Diogu comes at a decent price, I’ve got no problem adding some frontcourt depth and some inside scoring.
  • If there was a window for signing Lamar Odom, it’s wide open now.  But write this down on a post-it and stick it in your pocket for later: the Mavs’ best chance of getting Odom (assuming of course, that their reported interest is legitimate) remains a sign-and-trade.  That would require the Lakers having some semblance on a reason to play ball, and if Mitch Kupchak’s patience with Odom has truly worn thin, he may be an unwilling partner.  So essentially, the Mavs’ chances of obtaining Odom hinge on putting together an attractive offer for the Lakers, or finding a team with ample cap space to play facilitator.
  • For those of you interested in pointing and laughing at members of the Spurs, I guess you may be able to find some joy in the latest episode of Richard Jefferson’s personal life.  Dude is as cold as ice.

No Baby, No Cry

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

The Magic may have left the Mavs Gortat-less and alone, but they also gave Dallas back their midlevel exception.  All of a sudden the Mavs have all kinds of options in terms of available players, though none is a clear fit, fulfills a startling need, or comes at a price tag deserving of their talent level.  The player that epitomizes all three incompatibilities is Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

Davis is a restricted free agent, a term which Mavs fans should be all too familiar with.  As such, any offer designed to swipe Davis out from Boston would require enough of a contractual obligation that the Celtics would be crazy to match it.  We’re talking well more than Davis is actually worth here, the bane of the midlevel exception.  If the Mavs use their MLE on Davis, it will not be the same apparatus the once locked up Chauncey Billups in Detroit and almost brought Marcin Gortat to Dallas.  It will be a weapon of evil, the likes of which we’ve seen in the money owed Beno Udrih and DeSegana Diop.  The Mavs would need to pledge the average salary to a well below average player (career 10.9 PER) just to get him out of Boston, and that’s a move I simply cannot advocate.  Or even give a thumbs up to.  Or even do anything but wince when I read about it.

Most of my hesitation comes from the fact that Davis hasn’t yet shown himself to be that great of a player.  The Celtics likely wouldn’t have gotten past the Bulls or kept up with the Magic if not for Davis’ efforts, but in the playoffs he performed at a level far above reasonable expectations.  It screamed outlier more than progress, an abnormally efficient stretch of games in which Baby probably made his next contract.  His stats jumped almost across the board from the regular season to the playoffs.  His efficiency actually increased along with his usage rate, which is pretty unusual for an undersized four shooting more midrange jumpers than ever.  His turnover percentage dropped while his shooting percentages increased, resulting in the quality rotation big man we saw against Chicago and Orlando.  But just because that Glen Davis was the last thing to flash before our eyes does not mean we should expect anything similar.

The problem with Glen Davis last season was that he had trouble making his presence on the floor a truly positive one.  He worked well as rotation filler for a high-level team with few other options, but that’s a far cry from a super-sub worthy of almost $6 million per year.  According to 82games.com, Davis logged a negative net production (player production – opponent counterpart production) at both center and power forward.  It wasn’t close (-3.5 at center, -4.8 at power forward).  For comparison’s sake, Brandon Bass, a player deemed not worthy of the full midlevel by the Mavs, registered a +5.7 at center and a +3.9 at power forward.  That’s a pretty startling drop-off in bench production, and one that would be damn hard to justify from a salary perspective.

On top of that, just as an item of interest, 82games indicates that 100% of Davis’ field goals in the 2008-2009 regular season were assisted.  It’d be nice to have players on the floor capable of creating their own shots, especially when Jason Kidd is resting comfortably on the bench.

The real hole in the Mavs’ rotation left by the departure of Brandon Bass and the sudden denial of Marcin Gortat is not power forward, but center.  Shawn Marion is more than capable of playing power forward when Dirk goes to the bench, and both Kris Humphries and Ahmad Nivins are capable of filling in the gaps.  But as of right now, Erick Dampier is the only real center worthy of minutes on the Mavs’ roster, unless Nathan Jawai is much better than he showed in his first summer league game.  Gortat would have solved this problem, and even Bass would have been a viable option.  But Glen Davis?  Is Davis really the Mavs’ plan to fill out the minutes at center?  Offensively, Big Baby is a hustle guy with delusions of having a jump shot.  On defense, he’s still very short to play center despite having the weight to throw down in the post.  I’m sure he’d work hard and make every foul count, but you don’t pay players of Davis’ ilk considerable dollars to play center poorly.  Not when you have a choice, anyway.

These rumors of a potential interest in Big Baby continue to surface not because of skills, or fit, or value.  If the Mavs do sign Glen Davis, they’ll be motivated by something far more powerful: Desperation.  If the Mavs react to their front-court losses with a sense of panic, Davis could very well be on the receiving end of some serious cash.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 14, 2009 under xOther | 9 Comments to Read

  • Kevin Arnovitz dotes a bit on Ahmad Nivins: “Ahmad Nivins looks like a pro player –  long, muscular, athletic, and coordinated. The but that usually follows this profile is … lacks fundamentals, or doesn’t have a post game. With Nivins, though, that doesn’t appear to be the case. He displays good footwork, moves around the floor with purpose, and is a beast on the boards. When you ask folks here why he dropped to No. 56 in the draft, you get a lot of shrugs, followed by a soft endorsement of his skills. He’s had a nice week thus far — 14 points and 6 rebounds per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the field. The only apparent drawback is that he looks waaaay too wound up on the court, and that intensity occasionally works against him.”
  • Kurt Helin of Forum Blue and Gold has some high praise for the other star of the Mavs’ summer league team: “For those of you who were high on Rodrigue Beaubois — You were right. Much better in person than expected. Absolutely lighting quick off the dribble, can shoot the three, and most impressively made really smart decisions. Not just me saying that, I was standing next to a front office guy (not Lakers) who was saying ‘We didn’t know he could shoot like that.’”
  • Brandon Bass in his new threads.
  • What did Otis Smith have to say about matching Gortat’s offer sheet?
  • And while we’re on a Magic-centric roll here: If you’re at all interested in following Brandon Bass in the future, I’d recommend starting here.
  • Yes, I do realize that Lamar Odom is still on the market, and that Mark Cuban threw Odom’s name out there in an interview with NBA TV.  He’s an incredible talent and a personal favorite of mine, but adding Odom would give the Mavs a whole lot of…something.  I’m not sure that something could ever be combined in an optimal way without some accompanying roster moves.  The available free agents and other trade candidates lack Odom’s intrigue and versatility, but I’d have serious concerns as to where the Mavs intend to find minutes for all of their forwards.  That said, Odom is a good enough player that if available for a reasonable price, you pull the trigger and worry about everything else later.
  • John Hollinger (Insider) reflects on The Gortat Incident: “When Dallas presented the offer sheet, Smith said he wanted all seven days to make up his mind and would have taken eight if he could have. But don’t believe him. He knew exactly what he was going to do all along. Every good team does — in preparation for free agency, it runs through all the scenarios of what another team might offer its players, and if so whether it would match. The Magic almost certainly knew on July 1 whether they were matching this deal; they just didn’t let everyone else in on the secret until today…it was a brilliant stroke, because it allowed them to get a second player at a discount price…By making Dallas believe that they wouldn’t match the offer for Gortat, they were able to throw the Mavs off the scent of Bass. At the time, the Mavs were thinking letting Bass go to the Magic would eliminate any chance of losing Gortat…Psych! This is Lucy pulling the football out from Charlie Brown, folks. Orlando created the impression that it was going to let Gortat leave, the Mavs fell for it hook, line and sinker, and as a result the Magic got to sign the player they coveted at power forward (Bass), in addition to keeping Gortat like they always knew they would…And in case you get any sneaky ideas, remember that Gortat can’t be traded until Dec. 15, can’t be traded without his consent for a full year, and can’t be traded to Dallas at all until next summer. So don’t think the Magic are holding Gortat for ransom — the rules on offer sheets are set up to avert those kinds of shenanigans. This is strictly a buy-and-hold maneuver…Meanwhile, the Mavs are left high and dry by today’s news. They had planned for Gortat to start at center and let Bass, last season’s primary frontcourt backup, leave because of it. Now Dallas has to scrounge through the free-agent leftovers because the Mavs basically lost two weeks waiting for the Magic to stick it to them. Wherever the Mavs go from here, they don’t look nearly as strong on paper as they would have if they had wrested Gortat from Orlando … especially since the Magic bluffed them out of Bass along the way. All that happy news I wrote last week about them rivaling San Antonio for second-best in the West is dripping in cold water right now; they still need frontcourt help and that’s the hardest help to find.”
  • Hollinger makes some salient points, including one that brought me to a particular conclusion: This wasn’t a last-minute back stab by the Magic, and history won’t remember it that way.  If Orlando is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy next summer, the commentary will insist that Otis Smith pulled a fast one on good ol’ Donnie Nelson.  And he did.  As much as we’d like to cry shenanigans or claim underhandedness (myself included), there was no foul play here.  There was certainly some behavior to be frowned upon, but Smith found a way to have his cake, eat it took, and then move on to the Mavs’ piece.  That’s not the kind of thing that causes a shift in karma, but it certainly is the kind of thing that hangs over the heads of the entire Mavericks’ fan base.

This Too Shall Pass

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 13, 2009 under xOther | 17 Comments to Read

There are bad days, and then there are days where your prized free agent centers are pried from your fingers.  The latter is a bit more rare, but nonetheless accurately describes the maelstrom that has drowned the hopes of the 2009-2010 Mavs.

In a sense, Marcin Gortat would have been a luxury for the Mavs.  This team has no shortage in talent, and will even be able to bring a top-notch scorer off the bench as a sixth man.  There are two guaranteed locks for the Hall, two former All-Stars, and a serviceable center in the starting five.  The Mavs won’t fall to the bottom of the standings without Marcin Gortat, and frankly he’s not the type of player to single-handedly elevate the Mavs to contender status.

But when you evaluate a potential Gortat acquisition in the context of the rest of the summer’s moves (notably the Shawn Marion trade), the Mavs were positioned to make a serious run this season while assembling pieces as part of a long-term plan.  In Gortat, the Mavs had seemingly found a high-quality center at a perfectly reasonable price.  He was to be a Mav for the next half-decade, rocking rims until Erick Dampier was but a distant memory.  Marcin fit seamlessly into the Mavs’ future alongside point guard Rodrigue Beaubois, together forming a two-man foundation to one day relieve Dirk Nowitzki of superstar pressures.  Neither player is a sure-thing for stardom, but the Mavs had found “their guys” at the most difficult positions to fill on the floor.  That’s something.

Otis Smith apparently had other plans.  For the Mavs, the implications of Smith’s decision to retain Gortat are numerous and devastating.  Not only do they now have no established insurance policy for Erick Dampier, but face a huge hole if Dampier’s expiring contract is utilized in any sort of interesting way.  If the Mavs choose to cash in on Erick Dampier during the upcoming season, they’re faced with the harsh reality of relying on Dirk Nowitzki and likely Ryan Hollins for the majority of the minutes at center.  If, as discussed, the Mavs wait to move Dampier until the free agent gauntlet of 2010, then the current team is really only a slight upgrade over the previous model.  Adding Shawn Marion is a definite improvement, but with Josh Howard’s questionable ability to defend shooting guards on shoddy ankles and very little depth up front, the Mavs as currently assembled can’t claim to be in the running for anything notable.

From the Magic perspective, the move seems to make plenty of sense and absolutely none whatsoever.  Losing a free agent with no compensation can be crippling to a franchise, especially one just a few games short of a championship.  It’s not that Orlando needs Gortat specifically, but they may not be able to afford letting him walk.  The off-season arms race has seen the rich in both conferences get richer, and while the Mavs are trying to keep pace with the Spurs and Lakers, the Magic are fighting to stay with the Cavaliers and the Celtics.  I seriously doubt that Marcin will work into Orlando’s long-term plan (which is why he is “very, very disappointed,”), but this isn’t about what is best for Gortat.  This is about what’s best for the Orlando Magic organization, and you cannot fault Otis Smith for doing his job.

I’d still like to throw some less amicable names Smith’s way though, if only because these circumstances are so bizarre.  The Mavs and the Magic have essentially worked together twice this summer, first in the deal that brought Marion to the Mavs and a huge trade exception to the Magic, and second in the signing of Brandon Bass.  While the Mavs didn’t exactly grant Bass on a silver platter, it was incredibly clear that the Mavs’ position on Bass was largely contingent on acquiring Marcin Gortat.  One could certainly blame Donnie Nelson or Mark Cuban for counting their chickens before they hatched, but the whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Bass was looking to fill his pockets and log some floor time, and while the contract he signed with the Magic is certainly fair value for his skills and upside, I’d love to hear his take on this latest turn of events.  Bass was rumored to be coming off the bench prior to Gortat’s “return,” and now his role and minutes are likely to be decreased further by adding another big man.

On top of complications with Bass’ situation, the Magic will also find themselves in luxury tax territory, which is especially notable because of Orlando’s relatively small market status.  Orlando will need to shed salary in order to avoid paying some serious tax dollars, and will be virtually unable to trade Gortat due to his status as a base year compensation player.  John Hollinger also noted that the Magic are unable to trade Gortat to the Mavs for a year.  Lovely.

This is not easy to swallow.  The Mavs have lost out on a quality center so that last year’s Eastern Conference champions could cut their losses while possibly betraying the trust of former Maverick Brandon Bass.  As with all things, this initial disappointment will pass.  The Mavs still have plenty of time to make the appropriate adjustments in their off-season playbooks, and proceed accordingly.  But the ‘Gortat Incident’ may serve as a constant reminder that while the Mavs have plenty of things going right for them this off-season, those with wealth also have plenty to lose.

One Less Beast in Dallas

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 10, 2009 under News, Roster Moves | 2 Comments to Read

David Aldridge of NBA.com, on a hot tip from commenter David:

The Orlando Magic are trying to keep up in the arms race in the competitive Eastern Conference, agreeing to terms on Friday with free agent forward Brandon Bass on a four-year deal believed to be worth $18 million…even if he doesn’t start, Bass will provide toughness and size for an Orlando team that now has to contend with Shaquille O’Neal and re-signed forward Anderson Varejao in Cleveland and the return of Kevin Garnett and newly signed Rasheed Wallace in Boston. The Cavaliers made a last-minute push on Bass, according to a source, but didn’t have a way to get him the money he’ll get in Orlando…Bass’s contract has an out clause after three seasons.

It’s tough to lose Brandon Bass.  His meteoric rise with the Mavs came out of nowhere, and his slams, sweet jumpers, and periodic on-court flexing will be sorely missed.

Bass definitely deserves a chance to spread his wings, and the Magic may be just the team to accommodate that.  May all of Bass’ wildest dreams come true…unless one of those dreams involves exacting revenge on his former team.  I doubt it, considering the relatively amicable departure, but Bass is a monster just waiting to go into beast mode on anyone that lines up against him.  But all the respect in the world for the noble Sir Brandon of Bass, and look for a more thorough farewell post for the man known affectionately as “The Animal.”

Of course there is a bright side to Bass’ departure: the Magic committing additional salary to Brandon Bass virtually ensures that they will not match the offer sheet Marcin Gortat signed with the Mavs.

Clear to Launch

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 9, 2009 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

The Mavs and Raptors finally agreed to terms on a deal that landed Shawn Marion in Dallas, but not before roping in a third team…and a fourth.  In a bit of creative trade engineering, Toronto and Dallas pulled off a once-in-a-blue-moon four team deal that involves a signed-and-traded Hedo Turkoglu and the Grizzlies’ available cap space.

The deal is awaiting finalization from the league, but the principles of the deal include the following acquisitions:

Dallas:

  • Shawn Marion (five years, ~$39 million)
  • Kris Humphries (two years, $6.40 million, player option for the second season)
  • Greg Buckner ($2,126,914 guaranteed money, expected to be released)

Toronto:

  • Hedo Turkoglu (five years, ~$53 million)
  • Antoine Wright (one year, $1.99 million)
  • Devean George (one year, $1.60 million)

Memphis:

  • Jerry Stackhouse ($2 million guaranteed, expected to be released)
  • Quincy Douby (one year, $855,189)

Orlando:

  • Trade exception worth ~$7 million

From a Mavs-centric perspective, they flipped Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George, Antoine Wright, and cash for Shawn Marion and Kris Humphries.  It’s a trade that undoubtedly makes the Mavs a better team.  How much of a better team is something we’ll have to wait until the season starts to find out…or you can wait a little while to get a thorough analysis of what to expect on this very blog.

The Raptors were actually big winners here, and showed what good can come by doing right by your own free agents (even departing ones).  Marion’s impending departure meant the Raps would be left with no compensation for the loss of a very good player.  Rather than simply wish Shawn the best and tear up as he walked out the door, Bryan Colangelo helped to engineer a hell of a trade with the Mavs that not only helped to fill a need at shooting guard with the acquisition of Antoine Wright, but also gave Toronto an even more valuable asset: their full mid-level exception.

If Toronto had signed Hedo Turkoglu as a free agent as per their initial plans, they would forfeit the right to the mid-level exception by using up their available cap space.  But by having Orlando sign-and-trade Turkoglu instead, the Raptors still have use of their MLE.  A nice maneuver, to say the least.

Things were equally clever from the Mavs’ end, as Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have turned a creative out in Stackhouse’s contract into a four-time All-Star.  With all of the pieces changing hands, this deal was way more complicated than it should have been, and it’s a credit to Mark and Donnie for sticking to it and getting Marion to Dallas.

Kris Humphries could be an interesting role player for the Mavs, and his presence has to make you question whether Brandon Bass and/or James Singleton really have a place with Dallas next season.  I’m personally big on both players over Humphries, but the Mavs are obligated to cut the check to Kris.  That gives him the edge to not only stay on the roster, but to fulfill a role as a reserve forward.  With Shawn Marion also a shoe-in for minutes at power forward, this could be the nail in the coffin for hopes of Brandon Bass being a Maverick in 2009-2010.  Bass wants the money and the minutes, and though the Mavs may be able to give him a competitive offer, he’ll likely be scrapping for minutes with Dirk, Marcin Gortat (supposing the Magic don’t match the Mavs’ offer), Erick Dampier, Kris Humphries, Shawn Marion, and possibly Ryan Hollins.  That’s a bit of a log-jam, and likely too much of one to generate any kind of intrigue in Bass’ camp.  James Singleton remains a more likely candidate, for no other reason than the commitment (in almost all senses) to him would likely be minimal.