Running the Weave: Upgrade or Downgrade

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on August 23, 2013 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

Teamwork-is-essential

We wrap up the staff’s Q&A this week with a rather simple question. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the various voices giving their insight on the topics.

We’ve got a great staff here at The Two Man Game. I can’t thank them enough for their contributions towards this. They were the driving force for the project.

Let’s run the weave one more time.

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Deep Thoughts

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 17, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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I think. I probably think way too much. That’s just what happens when you have time on your hands. Again, I just sat and thought about random things revolving around the Mavs. Answers popped up, and this is the end result. Another batch of 10 questions and answers in regards to the summer and the future for Dallas.

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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.

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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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, New Orleans Hornets 87

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 17, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Clouds

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.

  • The 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks’ season ended as it began about six months ago, with a victory.
  • Darren Collison (10-15 FG, 25 points, four assists) led the charge and scored at will over the course of 28 minutes, deftly darting into the lane and finishing at the rim in textbook Collison-y fashion.
  • And yes, he deserves his own adjective.
  • His 10 fourth-quarter points helped silence any chance of a fledgling Hornets’ comeback.
  • When it comes to Collison’s future and the Mavericks, possibilities remain difficult to quantify. When Collison plays like this, on the odd one of three games when his mid-range jumper is working and everything else follows, he fulfills the role of starting point guard without question.
  • But the other type of Collison performance, the one that includes wayward perimeter defense and a frequent disappearing act, makes it difficult to believe in such an idea. Perhaps Collison would function best in a sixth-man, heavy-minutes backup PG role, one in which he could score at will and not be tasked with running an offense for 30+ minutes a night.
  • It’s up to Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson (as well as Rick Carlisle) to decide if they think bringing Collison back next season in such a role would be a wise course of action. But unless free agency fails the Mavericks for a third consecutive offseason, it’s unlikely Collison will return as the 2013-14 Mavericks as the team’s starting point guard.
  • Shawn Marion (7-12 FG, 15 points, seven rebounds) and Dirk Nowitzki (7-15 FG, 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists) carried the team the rest of the way, as they have done for what now seems like an eon.
  • Marion’s flip shots were in full splendor, and Dirk embraced his old Dirk persona by simply making standstill mid-range jumper after standstill mid-range jumper. Neither of them were at their individual best, but they both played well enough to defeat a young and injured Hornets’ team.
  • “It begins with defense.” Those were my first words after a Mavericks’ victory against the Lakers on opening night, and the same is true 81 games and a lost season later. Disregarding Chris Kaman’s (3-5 FG, six points, five rebounds) slight struggles with Robin Lopez (6-11 FG, 14 points, 13 rebounds), the Mavericks played quite well defensively, especially within the interior, limiting the Hornets to 36.9% shooting from the field.
  • It’s rare that a team out-rebounds another team by a margin of 21 (58-37) and still loses handily, but the Hornets managed it tonight. This was partly due to the Hornets’ 19 turnovers, and partly due to the Mavericks’ typically strong mid-range and three-point shooting.
  • With this final bullet point of the campaign, I’d like to say goodbye for the year and thank everyone here at The Two Man Game for a great season, irrespective of win-loss record and turmoil. Thanks to Rob Mahoney, thanks to Bryan Gutierrez, thanks to my fellow recapper Kirk Henderson, thanks to the rest of the staff, and most of all, thanks to all of our readers. The 2012-2013 season was not one of emotional triumphs and stunning success, but it was one of unwavering resiliency and ever-present hope. For that, I am grateful.

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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A Glimpse of Greatness

Posted by David Hopkins on April 9, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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“Know me… and know fear.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

This offseason, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will need to look at the current roster and evaluate which players are a priority. It’s difficult to decide if a good game represents a glimpse of greatness or a fleeting moment. In other words: should we expect more from them or are these anomalies, outliers, from subpar players? Of course, consistency would be nice, but so few of the new players this season were consistent.

To help Cuban and Nelson, I offer my rundown of “best games” from the players who had their first season in Dallas (thus, no Brandan Wright, but I already covered him last week). I also limited my list to players who had significant minutes this season (no Anthony Morrow or Jared Cunningham).

Elton Brand
Best game: December 1st vs. Detroit, Mavs win 92 to 77
Stats of note: 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks
From the game recap, Kirk Henderson wrote: “A healthy round of applause for Elton Brand (17 points, 12 rebounds) is in order. While its exciting to see Mayo shoot well, seeing Brand hit those 10 to 15 foot jump shots was such a relief. Last season Brand shot a fantastic 45% clip from that section of the floor and was a big reason many were initially so excited to pair him with Dirk who would, in theory, open up the floor for Brand the way he has for so many others. Prior to tonight’s game though, Brand has shot an absurd 23% from that range. Tonight Brand hit three shots in that area and it forced the Detroit defense to close out on him, thus opening the floor for his five makes at the rim.” “Brand’s confidence on offense bled over into his defense; his four blocks helped keep the momentum in favor of the Mavericks. Pairing him with Bernard James (six points, 3 rebounds) was a different look for Dallas in the second quarter. It’s probably a rare sight though, both Brand and James are around 6’9″ and Carlisle was looking to steal minutes while Chris Kaman was in foul trouble.”
My thoughts: Elton Brand averages a double-double per 36 minutes, but he’s not going to get 36 minutes from the Mavericks. While he may be the most balanced (offensive and defensive) player on the Mavs—with Shawn Marion certainly in that mix—Brand isn’t going to be a high priority in the off season.

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The Rundown, Volume XIX

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on April 8, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday (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.

As the season is starting to wind down, the odds look incredibly bleak for the Mavs and extending their playoff streak to 13 years. With five games left, they still trail the Utah Jazz by 2.5 games. Utah owns the tiebreaker over both Los Angeles and Dallas, so it’s essentially a three-game lead Utah owns over Dallas. The dark number for Utah is 2 and 3 for Los Angeles. That means Dallas needs to avoid any combination of actual losses and Utah wins equaling out to two to stay alive and three for Los Angeles. It’s going to take a miraculous run, and some luck, for Dallas to sneak into the playoffs. With a win against Portland, Dallas will have the chance to accomplish something they’ve set out to do since late January – shave their .500 beards.

Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, Portland Trailerblazers 91

Posted by Kirk Henderson on April 7, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

WindingRoad

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game 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.

  • Another bizarre game for the Dallas Mavericks. On the one hand, Dallas built a 20 point lead in only 16 minutes of action; on the other, the Mavericks managed to let Portland fight back within three points after a furious fourth quarter rally led by two rookies, Damian Lilliard and Will Barton. Dirk Nowitzki did not play in the fourth due to his foot bothering him, but it is still frustrating that Dallas was unable to win comfortably against a young team like Portland that is also dealing with a variety of injuries. Dallas is now 14-19 in games decided by 6 points or less.
  • The early Maverick lead was primarily due to Chris Kaman (26 points, 11 rebounds). His first quarter work out of the left wing pick and roll with O.J. Mayo was very effective, scoring three different times in the period. The Blazers elected to hedge the screen with J.J. Hickson, but Mayo was able to split any attempt at a double team with a simple bounce pass which resulted in a Kaman jumper. When running a similar pick and roll with Dirk later in the first, the Blazer defender went under the screen and Dirk’s defender did not leave his side, forcing Mayo to drive and take an awkward floater which didn’t connect.
  • I’m now firmly in the camp that believes the Mavericks must make a competitive offer to keep Brandan Wright (12 points, nine rebounds) for next season. His progression has been one of the few success stories to come out of Dallas in a season filled with disappointment. He’s managed to survive the ebb and flow of Carlisle’s ever changing rotations to contribute in a variety of ways. Against Portland he finished the half with two tough baskets, a block , and awarded Dallas an extra possession after fighting for a rebound after a missed Darren Collison floater. His fourth quarter help defense on LaMarcus Aldridge was huge. His game has limitations, mainly due to his lack of strength and body weight, but athletic big men with touch out to 15 feet are uncommon.
  • Outside of the fourth quarter collapse, this was a solid defensive game for Dallas. After Wesley Matthews left the game with a sprained ankle, the Mavericks put some form of pressure on the ball handler every time up the floor, knowing Portland had limited options at the guard position. Portland was not able to get into an offensive set until late in the shot clock, resulting in rushed shots. Only after Portland went very small in the fourth did they negate this ball pressure, and they stormed back as the Dallas offense stalled.
  • My favorite play of the game came with 2:30 left in the second quarter. Vince Carter tried to get the ball to a posted up Shawn Marion on the left side of the floor. Marion’s defender fronted him, so Brandan Wright flashed to the free throw line. Instead of passing to the open Wright, Carter opted to skip the ball cross court to Dirk Nowitzki on the right wing. Marion sealed the fronting defender and simply rolled to the open spot in the paint behind Wright’s defender where Dirk fed him for two of his twenty points.

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.