With five days until free agency begins, it’s time to officially start naming names as ideal targets for free agency. This week, The Two Man Game will go through each position and determine who appears to be ideal fits for the Mavs.
Money is always an issue, but the Mavs will have their share of cap space to work with.
Meshing all the pieces is just as important of a part of deciding on the pieces. The number one option at shooting guard might not be an ideal match with the number one option at small forward. These rankings will be solely on my own projections. A quick blurb from Editor-in-Chief Rob Mahoney’s free agency primer on the SI.com’s Point Forward will be mentioned for each player.
Note: It’s clear that Dirk Nowitzki is the man at the power forward position for Dallas. They have options such as Shawn Marion and, if they bring him back, Brandan Wright who can log minutes at the four spot. They will only be looking for a backup. Outside of the first option on here, the Mavs are likely better off just working with Marion and Wright at the spot. If not, these are intriguing names to keep an eye on.
Let’s look at the free agent options at the power forward position.
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Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is good work today.“
- In theory, it’s less important for the Mavs to win this game than it was for them not to lose it; wins over lottery-bound teams late in the season don’t count for much aside from an uptick in standings, meaning no one is going to give the Mavs a pat on the back for taking care of business against the Kings. That makes it all the more impressive that they not only didn’t lose, but they won in decisive fashion. One of the Mavs’ weaknesses all season has been their inability to put away weaker opponents, often turning what should be walk-away wins into drag-out affairs. Not so last night, as the Mavs seized a double-digit lead quickly, gradually built it up to around 20, and held on despite some mini-runs by Sacramento.
- Dirk Nowitzki had a special offensive night. His previous game against the Blazers was impressive in its own right, but he was just on another level in this one. Only two turnovers? Expected. 60% shooting from the field? Nice. 13-of-13 free throw attempts (which allowed Dirk to break his own franchise record for consecutive free throws made, previously 60, by making 68 in a row)? Terrific. 39 points on just 20 shots? Unreal. The Kings threw several different looks at Nowitzki but it didn’t make a bit of difference. Dirk just did what he usually does only even more impressively, and his Dirk’s 39 is but a footnote on the day’s NBA slate because excellence is what we expect from Nowitzki. Cherish it, folks.
- If anyone out there is worried about the Mavs’ ability to beat the zone, check out their execution in the first quarter. Dallas started the game on an absolute tear, mostly due to their ability to pick apart Sacramento’s zone and bury it from mid-range. Dirk’s ability to operate from the high post is a big part of that, but just as important were smart passes that exploited the Kings’ over-rotations. The Mavs have the shooters, the playmaker, the high post threat, and the offensive rebounders (Haywood, Dampier, Marion, Butler) to absolutely kill the zone, and that’s exactly what they did in their match-up with Sacramento.
- That and, well, they’re the Kings. Their defense is better than it was at some of their darker moments this season, but it’s still nowhere near playoff-caliber. So everything I just said? Only true, not necessarily tried.
- DeShawn Stevenson was pretty decent defensively. He may actually be a quicker perimeter defender than Jason Kidd, though I wouldn’t advise putting DeShawn on a lightning-quick point guard (Aaron Brooks et al) for any considerable length of time. Against Tyreke Evans though, Stevenson at least managed to use his size and strength to make Tyreke’s 27 points…difficult…what was I talking about again? No one’s stopping Tyreke Evans. Descriptions of him as the point guard LeBron aren’t exaggerations, but accurate descriptions of his athletic talents relative to his competition. Honestly, if ‘Reke isn’t your pick for Rookie of the Year, you’re not doing it right.
- I’m not sure there’s a more likable power forward rotation in the NBA than the Kings’. You can’t help but cheer for Jason Thompson (12 points, seven rebounds, five turnovers), who’s far more than the energy player and rebounder he was expected to be coming out of college. Carl Landry’s (30 points, 10-16 FG, six rebounds) scoring efficiency, toughness, and professionalism make him one of the most interesting and endearing cats around. Then there’s Jon Brockman (two points, two rebounds), A.K.A. the Brochness Monster, a dude who literally just does one thing well (rebounding), but does it really, really damn well. No superstars in the mix there, but three talented guys that are just really fun to watch.
- Jason Kidd (11 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, three turnovers, two steals) had a complete turnaround from his struggles against the Blazers. Plus, he kicked a ball into the stands for pretty much no reason, which counts for something in my book. This performance was definitely impressive, and had Dirk not gone absolutely nuts in the 3rd quarter (Nowitzki scored 22 in that frame alone), Kidd would likely be taking home player of the game honors.
- Dallas finished shooting 13-of-21 from long range. Hot, hot, hot.
- Slight trouble as Brendan Haywood tweaked his right ankle after landing on Francisco Garcia’s foot. It doesn’t appear to be serious (Haywood went to the locker room, but returned to the bench), but Haywood played just eight minutes. On the plus side, Erick Dampier (seven points, six rebounds, three blocks) played 28 minutes, his highest total since February 16th.
- Shawn Marion sat out another game with his strained oblique, and remains day-to-day.
- Jason Terry finished with 25 points (8-14 FG) with six assists and two steals, and Caron Butler chipped in 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. That’ll do, gents.
- If you’re combing this win for negatives, I’d point you towards the Kings’ offensive rebounding (14 to the Mavs’ 7, good for a .326 ORR). It wasn’t enough to really give the Mavs’ trouble, but had the conditions of this game been different, it could have been a noticeable problem. Haywood’s absence didn’t really help, either.
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.”
I’m going to miss these Mavs-Rockets games. No opponent has been a more compelling foil for the Mavs all season. In the first two games, the Mavs flipped the script on huge second quarter runs, turning the game’s momentum on a dime and completely demoralizing the Rox. In the last two, Dallas and Houston have battled for 48 minutes (or more) only to see the Rockets edge out the Mavs by way of just a few more successful possessions. All four contests were particularly noteworthy for a variety of reasons, regardless of whether the final margin was three or 31.
As far as losses go, I don’t see anything revolutionary or catastrophic about the Mavs’ final L of 2009. Dirk Nowitzki (11 points, 3-12 FG, seven rebounds, three turnovers) had a pretty terrible offensive game, and though the rest of the Mavs provided ample support (including 46 bench points), Dallas simply couldn’t overcome such a woeful shooting night from the undisputed leader. Dirk didn’t have to make every shot for the Mavs to stay competitive, but he couldn’t make any shot when the game was very much up for grabs. A few long misses on Dirk jumpers segued perfectly into Houston’s transition offense, which exposed the Mavs’ real troubles. Though the Mavs would often stop or stall the Rockets’ primary break, there was entirely too much damage done on the secondary offensive wave. Trailing three point shooters and late cutters put significant pressure on the defense, and though the trailers and cutters themselves didn’t always convert opportunities into points, they did force the Mavs to scramble in order to compensate. It was a non-issue when the Mavs were playing small ball (Kidd-Terry-Howard-Marion-Gooden), because that lineup switched on every screen and rotated onto every shooter. But with a more traditional lineup, the Mavs were often out of position to contest the Rockets’ threes or their entry passes.
In a game where Dirk’s offense isn’t clicking, that makes all the difference. Add in a poor performance on the defensive glass, and the shortcomings compound into a loss. Not exactly a perfect storm, but the Mavs’ woes on the defensive end were notable enough that the Rockets were able to seal the game late on a pair of 3-pointers from Aaron Brooks (who was sensational; 30 points, 6-12 3FG, four rebounds, four assists) and Shane Battier (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists). It’s never a good thing to see an opposing player go off like that, particularly one in the mold of previous Maverick-killers. But Brooks had one of those nights, and the bizarre decision from Rick Carlisle to shift to the zone defense only made matters worse for the Mavs on the perimeter. There are essentially three things which break down the zone defense: long-range shooters, mid-range shooters that can make smart passes, and offensive rebounds. The Rockets boast plenty of the former, the second is practically Luis Scola’s epithet, and Houston is 8th in the league in offensive rebounding rate. Brooks’ quickness and activity creates a certain illusion, but using a zone defense against the Rockets plays right into their hand. That team is simply too smart and too skilled in all the right ways for a zone to work, and it gave Houston a boost when the Mavs had them on the ropes.
But that decision wasn’t symptomatic of some greater fault that lies within Rick Carlisle, just as the Mavs’ sub-par defense wasn’t symptomatic of anything other than the realities of an 82 game season. There will be nights where some things don’t quite come together and there will be nights where nothing comes together. The key is to make sense of them and deal with them accordingly, understand what went wrong, and move on. There is entirely too much going on in the regular season to get bent out of shape over a three point loss to the Rockets that very nearly went into overtime. Last night’s game wasn’t the ideal way to usher in the new year, but 2010 is here and the Mavs face the Lakers on Sunday. Hit the film room, gents.
- Shawn Marion (16 points, 8-12 FG, nine rebounds, a steal and a block) and Jason Terry (20 points, 7-12 FG, four assists, two steals) were excellent. Marion started the game brilliantly and Terry more or less closed it, with both taking advantage of Houston’s lack of shot-blocking inside. Marion went to work with his usual runners and post-ups, but he also had great success simply cutting to the open spot around the rim for easy finishes. Plus, Marion showed his defensive versatility in his ability to defend both Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry. Terry used perimeter picks and his pure speed to drive around his defender, resulting in six of JET’s 12 attempts coming at the rim. Terry was legitimately looking to finish his layups, rather than driving into the lane simply as a means of getting to the free throw line. It showed, as JET converted five of his six attempts deep into the paint.
Jason Terry's FGA Breakdown
|At Rim||<10 ft.||10-15 ft.||16-23 ft.||Threes
|12-31-09 vs. HOU||6.0||0.0||2.0||1.0||3.0
- A rough night for J.J. Barea (four points, 1-6 FG, four rebounds, three assists), which makes sense considering I spent yesterday singing his praises. Sheesh, you try to do a guy a favor…
- Neither Dirk Nowitzki, nor Jason Terry, nor Josh Howard, nor J.J. Barea scored in the first quarter. The Mavs trailed 17-24 at the end of the frame.
- Drew Gooden (10 points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block) could very well be on his way another roll, as he completely outplayed Erick Dampier (three points, five rebounds, a steal and a block). Damp had previously had some success against the Rox (8.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks in the first three games against Houston), but could only manage to stay on the floor for about 17 minutes last night. That said, it wasn’t a very productive night from the center position as a whole. Dampier really struggled offensively (0-3 at the rim), and though Gooden contributed on that end, he struggled defensively.
- Shane Battier reacted pretty dramatically to an out of bounds call (and to his credit, he was pushed in the back by Dirk) with 44 seconds remaining, and he was assessed a technical foul with the Rockets ahead by four. That’s a pretty huge call late in the game, and though the Mavs weren’t able to capitalize on it (though Jason Kidd had a good look at a game-tying 3-pointer), I’m still a bit surprised it was even called.
- It’s odd that the Mavs had a pretty significant advantage in terms of free throw rate, but still coughed up the game. Especially considering that Dirk only got to the line for four attempts, which is a bit more than half of his season average.
- Carl Landry (15 points, including nine of the Rockets’ final 15) and Luis Scola (12 points, 6-12 FG, 13 rebounds) did their jobs. Nothing to see here, just a couple of pros getting done what needs to get done. Move along, sir, move along.
Shot distribution data courtesy of HoopData.com.
The Mavs have pleasantly surprised. Although it might be easy to dig up a Maverick die-hard who had faith in Dallas’ ability to develop a top-notch defense, I think you’d be hard pressed top back that argument with warrant and logic. Expecting such a prolific defensive display could possibly have labeled you as some kind of maniac, or worse, a homer.
But the Rockets have been a surprise in a completely different way. Whereas underestimating the Dallas defense was natural given the personnel (a supposedly slowing Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion, and the near-liabilities turned competent defenders, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry), the Rockets were underestimated due to a complete oversight of the power of a basketball cooperative. Each player compensates for the weakness of another, and though high-level talent separates Houston from the West’s elite, we all should have expected competence from a batch of skilled, highly-motivated ballplayers:
I don’t know if you heard, but over the Summer, the Houston Rockets essentially swapped Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza. The former is a bit of a wildcard, known for ill-advised 3s, elite perimeter defense, and something about snake eggs. The latter is a superb athlete, a tremendous wing defender, and an emerging shooting threat.
So why is it that the Houston Rockets were so woefully underestimated coming into the season, when the only significant difference between last year’s playoff team and this year’s would-be playoff time is the (occasionally bad) shot creating abilities of Artest?
I…I don’t know. Count me among the many that refused to acknowledge Houston’s potential. I didn’t see where the points were going to come from, even if Ariza is a young, talented player on a perfectly reasonable salary. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t sold on Aaron Brooks’ ability to score consistently, much less run an offense. And I saw some problems among their rotation of bigs, which had fallen to three productive if undersized power forwards in the absence of Yao Ming. Not only is none of that true, but we’ve seen virtually the opposite.
Read my thoughts on the Rockets in their entirety on Hardwood Paroxysm.