The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 91, San Antonio Spurs 92

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 14, 2013 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Storm Clouds

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.

  • I was hoping to get to rave about the brilliant play of Brandan Wright (10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks), who had an amazing all-around performance against a top notch front court. But with the sixth Dallas loss by three points or less this season, the missed opportunities against San Antonio are a harsh reminder of why this team is an extreme fringe playoff contender at best. The decision making from an offensive standpoint was baffling. Why is O.J. Mayo pulling up for a jumper on a three on one fast break? Why is Chris Kaman taking the ball up the court on a fast break after a steal? Why doesn’t Dallas get the ball to Dirk more often in the high post like they did during the 2011 Championship run? The Spurs managed to score on the final possession in each of the first three quarters while Dallas was unable to do so a single time. Defensively the Mavericks bickered with each other for much of the first half as seemingly every Dallas player was slow to rotate, particularly in instances of ‘helping the helper’ after a rotation had already occurred  The Mavericks also spent far too much time chasing players around screens as a San Antonio player caught a pass moving towards the rim, forcing Dallas to foul or rotate to help early in possessions. Kahwi Leonard snuck in a back door lay up from a high post feed by Jae Crowder because Crowder’s back was to the ball, a defensive cardinal sin. Tim Duncan (26 points, 19 rebounds) bullied Dallas from pillar to post. Finally, the final shot by Vince Carter left much to be desired. As TMG’s own Bryan Gutierrez pointed out on twitter, behind or tied within three points, Vince Carter has taken the final shot six times to Dirk Nowitzki’s one since Dirk’s return. The main reason for this, I suspect, is that Carlisle knows not a single Maverick guard can reliably get a pass to Dirk. There wasn’t enough time for a Carter-Dirk pick and roll in that situation, and even though Carter is the best in the NBA from that particular spot, the Mavericks have to get something going towards the rim when the margin is a single point. Tim Duncan told David Aldridge in the post game interview that a step back fade away is exactly the shot San Antonio was hoping to force. That Dallas was in this game at all with Dirk, Carter, Mayo and Elton Brand shooting a combined 36% from the field is impressive, but the small mistakes Dallas makes throughout the course of the game keep catching up to them.

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.

 

Escaping the Basement

Posted by Brian Rubaie on March 7, 2013 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 9.17.50 AM

Playing basketball in the NBA’s Southwest Division is not for the faint of heart. The division is less than a decade old, born in 2004 after the dissolution of the Midwest division, but has successfully produced three NBA champions in the nine seasons since, and accounted for half of the Western Conference playoff field on four separate occasions.

This season marks the first time Dallas has posted a losing (4-7) record within the division, one of countless other unsettling and unusual occurrences. Fans struggling to cope with the new reality hope this season represents an anomaly, a rare transition year providing an opportunity for hungry and promising free agents to earn a spot on next season’s squad, a unit which aims to return to the top of the division standings with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki and the expansive cap room necessary to facilitate a big-ticket free agent signing.

That outlook is far too rosy. While the 2013-2014 Mavericks will possess a former MVP, a great coach and the hope of a big addition, their division opponents will be equal to any challenge they’ve previously encountered. Other divisional foes have only improved in recent years and show no signs of letting up. Dallas, meanwhile, will confront several obstacles that make a return to the top half of the division much more difficult to foresee.

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Quoteboard: Dallas Mavericks 112, Houston Rockets 108

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks were able to avenge their catastrophic 136-103 loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday with a 112-108 win at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. O.J. Mayo recorded his second double-double of the season (fourth career) with 13 points, six rebounds, a career-high 12 assists and zero turnovers in 33 minutes against Houston on Wednesday. His previous high assist total was 10 (at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009). Seven of Mayo’s 12 assists came in the first half, including five in the first quarter alone. The seven first-half assists were tied for the most assists he’s recorded in any half in his career (7 in first half at Golden State Mar. 30, 2009; 7 in second half vs. Golden State Feb. 9, 2013).

The clean sheet for Mayo in the turnover department marked the sixth game of the year where Mayo did not commit a turnover. The Mavericks are 5-1 in those games. The one loss came in the team’s last game against the Rockets on Sunday.

Shawn Marion went 10-of-16 from the field and recorded a team-high-tying 22 points to go along with three rebounds, four assists and two steals in 36 minutes against Houston. With the win, the Mavericks improved to 4-1 this season when Marion scores 20-plus points.

Dirk Nowitzki tallied 22 points, five rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes against Houston. He scored 20-plus points for the fifth time in his last seven games.

The Mavericks made a change to their starting lineup. They started Mike James in place of Darren Collison and Brandan Wright in place of Chris Kaman. It marked the team’s 19th different starting lineup of the year.

Some notes before the quotes:

- Mike James made his first start of the season (264th career) against Houston on Wednesday. It was his first start since Mar. 25, 2009 vs. Charlotte (with Washington). The Mavericks used their 19th different starting lineup of the year.

- Shawn Marion passed Rod Strickland (1,616) for 25th place on the NBA’s all-time steals list with a theft (his 1,617th career) at the 6:37 mark of the third quarter. Marion finished with two steals against Houston and now has 1,618 for his career. Eddie Jones ranks 24th all-time with 1,620 career steals.

- With a block at the 1:16 mark of the first quarter, Elton Brand passed Rockets head coach Kevin McHale (1,690) for 24th place on the NBA’s all-time blocks list. It was the 1,691st block of Brand’s career. Moses Malone ranks 23rd all-time with 1,733 career rejections.

Here is the quoteboard for the Mavericks’ win against the Rockets.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 98, Brooklyn Nets 90

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 1, 2013 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

CautionNet

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.

  • Though his box score was not particularly impressive, the play of Chris Kaman (eight points, four rebounds) has set the tone for two straight games. Against the Nets he opened both halves with driving lay ups which seemed to catch their defense off guard. Prior to missing games with a concussion, Kaman had gone to his jump shot a bit too frequently, often at the expense of the flow of the Dallas offense. Though he still missed three long jumpers against the Nets, they were taken later in the shot clock and were not contested particularly hard.
  • The clash of play styles was obvious from the opening tip. A glance at the box score wouldn’t reveal this, but the Mavericks pushed the tempo on Brooklyn at every opportunity and the Nets seemed unsure how to cope. This became particularly apparent in the third quarter and the early part of the fourth as the Dallas lead ballooned to 20 points. The remaining influence of former coach Avery Johnson was clearly apparent, as the Nets ran an oddly methodical offense that bogged down into one on one match ups which Brooklyn could not exploit.
  • Easily the most entertaining match up of the game was Elton Brand (eight points, two steals, two blocks) against Andray Blatche (eight points, three assists). For some reason, they started barking at one another early and Brand managed to surprise Blatche early in the second with a catch and shoot from the post and a lay in after a botched steal attempt. Not to be out done, Blatche went back at Brand, using his superior size and athleticism for a driving lay in. It’s taken me nearly a whole season to figure out how Brand gets off a quality look against a larger defender, particularly out of face up situations. He’s always been a bit undersized for his position and has been robbed of most of his vertical leap due to an Achilles injury. When he gets the ball in the post or off of a pick and role, he nearly always sizes up his opponent before rising to shoot. He rarely seems to get blocked mainly because of the length of his arms combined with a slight fade. It seems as if defenders cannot accurately determine where his point of release is. Brand can make a living with that specific shot against second unit defenses for at least two or three more seasons.
  • It was strange to see the Nets not force feed the ball to Brook Lopez (19 points, nine rebounds), particularly in the third where he did not take a single shot attempt. His confidence and skill from the low block is rare in the modern NBA. He’s much stronger and more patient than a casual fan would give him credit for and really has the chance to be a special player if the Nets run an offense more attuned to getting him the ball. Against Dallas, they attempted point guard cross screens which did not work with regularity because it was clear what was coming.
  • When playing in a fast paced offense, turnovers are going to happen. But with Darren Collison (nine points, four turnovers), so many of his turnovers are the kind that he shouldn’t be making at this point in his career. After a Lopez put back basket, Collison attempted to pass ahead to O.J. Mayo. Carlisle has urged the Mavericks to push even off of a made basket, so this was normal. That Collison was unable to see Deron Williams, who stepped in front of the pass for the steal, is maddening. Later in the third, he had a terrible turnover on the screen and roll, attempting to loop a pass over Lopez. Defending after a live ball turnover is exceptionally challenging because the defense has to scramble to get back. The majority of both Collison and O.J. Mayo’s turnovers during the recently losing streak were of the live ball variety.
  • Though Dallas native Deron Williams (24 points) a had turnover plagued evening with seven, his strengths are so readily apparent. He gets to the rim almost at will, particularly when going right. The sort of strength he uses to get off shots is rare in guards, let alone those who handle the ball so well. It often looks like he’s going half speed, but if he were to run a more up tempo offense or if the Nets went to the high screen and roll with Lopez more often, the Nets might have a terrifying offense.
  • The Nets had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, eight rebounds), who hit a variety of tough shots over nearly any Nets defender. He finally hit his patented wrong foot fall away over Kris Humphries in he second quarter. Dirk’s attempted this shot (usually off of a spin) three or four times in the last week and while it’s been impossible to stop in years past, Dirk’s leg strength hasn’t been there for him until recently. I hope it becomes a staple in the remaining games.
  • I’ve highly enjoyed the defensive play of Jae Crowder during the last week’s worth of games. Starting Sunday against the Lakers, he defended Kobe as well as anyone this season (that Kobe made a variety of insane shots is besides the point). He continued with decent defense against J.J. Redick, though Redick is the kind of player who causes any NBA rookie fits simply because he is constantly moving and knows how to use his strengths against opposing players. Against the Grizzlies he helped frustrate Mike Conley into a 2 of 13 shooting performance and against the Nets he made a key strip of C.J. Watson as the Nets were attempting to stage a comeback. Early in the season, Carlisle opted to try him on the various small forwards of the NBA and the size he encountered at the position caused him a variety of problems. He’s been much more effective against smaller or weaker guards who can’t deal with his physicality and quick hands. I still think he can turn into a fine defender against NBA small forwards, but asking a rookie to deal with Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony isn’t the easiest of tasks.

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.

 

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 84, Memphis Grizzlies 90

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 27, 2013 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

Grizzbear

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.

  • A twenty five point lead is quite challenging to squander, but the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks find new ways to disappoint us, this time through turnovers and tremendously bad offensive execution. Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Mike James, and Vince Carter turned the ball over 13 times for the second straight game. Though Dallas scored 38 points in the first quarter, over the next three quarters the Mavericks managed only 46 points, including a five point third quarter.
  • The ongoing problem of the Dallas Maverick guards being unable or unwilling to get Dirk Nowitzki the ball when he’s open reared it’s head once again against the Grizzlies. At the two minute mark of the second quarter, Darren Collison attempted to penetrate the lane, as he had shaken his defender, Mike Conley. Zach Randolph effectively shut down the penetration about 10 feet out, because Collison is incredibly averse to contact when driving. Dirk was trailing the play wide open and called for the the ball. Collison looked at Dirk, but since his dribble was still alive attempted to maneuver around Randolph, who deftly cut off his penetration again. This time Collison made a decision to turn and pass to Dirk, but by this time Conley had caught up to Collison and tipped the pass. Memphis recovered the ball, which lead to a Marc Gasol dunk. Get the ball to Dirk Nowitzki. This isn’t a suggestion.
  • Mike James is now shooting under 30% on the year after going 2 for 10 against Memphis. Darren Collison’s terrible inconsistency is making it easy for Carlisle to look elsewhere, but why he keeps looking to James is beyond any basketball observer at this point.
  • Brett Koremos of the Grantland Network wrote a very interesting piece about the offensive pace of the Mavericks. The first quarter, it felt as if the team had read his piece and fully embraced the concept of an early shot clock quality shot attempt. When things began to bog down in the second, due to Dallas rotations and better defense from the Grizzlies, Dallas attempted it’s half court offense, with very poor results. It’s alarming that so few of the younger Dallas players can effectively run a pick and roll. To some degree, we Dallas fans were spoiled by Jason Kidd and Jason Terry’s ability to run a screen and roll with Dirk, both in using the screens to move along the offense or get Dirk the ball. Collison, Mayo, and James all approach ball screens from terrible angles and rarely seem to force a switch. Collison and James in particular seem to make up their minds early in any play and look to shoot more often than pass. Against a team of excellent defenders like the Grizzlies, that is a recipe for terrible offense.
  • There were only three positive aspects to the game against Memphis. First, Chris Kaman attacked the rim and defended hard. He’s not a good pick and roll defender, but early in the game, his one on one defense and help defense set the tone. Second, Shawn Marion resumed his roll of spark plug. He goes to where he’s needed; a flash to the open spot in the lane, a screen and roll for an awkward lay up, defensive rotations, and fast break finishes. Third, Jae Crowder used the high screen and roll to attack the rim and score a lay up in the first quarter. During the Bucks game, Derek Harper mentioned that a player of Crowder’s strength should get to the rim more often. As I’ve understood it, Crowder was a stretch four energy player in college. If he wants a rotation spot for the next few years, he needs to stop shooting pull up twos and continue this trend of getting to the rack.

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.

 

The Rundown, Volume XV

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on February 25, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First 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 Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.

The week was highlighted with trade rumors, determining if Dirk Nowitzki’s basketball game was dead and actual basketball. As usual, it was an up and down week for the Mavericks. The final game before the Rundown, against the Los Angeles Lakers, might prove to be the moment where people might need to find nails for the 2012-13 coffin for Dallas. There’s still time for them and they’re not mathematically out of the picture, but that loss against the Lakers will hurt in a big way. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 111, Orlando Magic 96

Posted by Kirk Henderson on February 21, 2013 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Rabbit in Hat

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.

  • 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.

 

Microeconomics

Posted by Ian Levy on February 18, 2013 under Commentary, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

A Pocket Full of Change

On Friday, at Hickory-High, Ming Wang put together a really interesting piece sharing an interesting new strategy for examining the tradeoff between production and cost for the contracts of NBA players. Here’s the rationale and method in his own words:

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.

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Thermodynamics: Week 16

Posted by Travis Wimberly on February 14, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Fire Ice

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)

FIRE

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.

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Pocket Pair

Posted by Ian Levy on January 31, 2013 under Commentary | 10 Comments to Read

051:365 Magic Pair!

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.

MavsShots

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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.

In addition to his work for The Two Man Game, Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, and a contributor to Indy CornrowsHardwood Paroxysm, HoopChalk and ProBasketballDraft. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.