Rank This (Pt. II)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on October 12, 2012 under Commentary, Roster Moves | Read the First Comment

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It’s time to move into ranking the top 10 Mavericks in terms of projected importance for the team this coming season. For those that missed the back end of the rotation, here is a quick recap to get you up to speed:

15: Jared Cunningham

14: Bernard James

13. Dominique Jones

12. Dahntay Jones

11. Jae Crowder

All caught up? Good. Let’s move on and rank players 10 to 6 for the Mavericks.

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Get Back

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 25, 2012 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 10 Comments to Read

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As we’ve come to better know and understand the basic form of this particular Dallas Mavericks roster, we’ve only become all the more familiar with its limitations. Even after acquiring Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, and Dahntay Jones, this was (and is) still a team in need — of perimeter and interior defense, of consistent ball-handling, of creative playmaking, and of dependable long-range shooting. The Mavs managed to address almost all of those issues through the re-signing of Delonte West (per Marc Stein of ESPN.com), and while Dallas is still a tier or two away from even hopeful contention, this low-cost play is a perfect use of the team’s 14th roster spot.

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Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 15, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

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The Las Vegas Summer League is a meal best consumed in buffet style — there is little order to the layering of flavors for the event, but one can nonetheless find plenty of tasty morsels, however disparate they may be. With that in mind, here is a closer look at a few of the notable prospects from Dallas’ first game in Vegas, assembled for you in the most edible form:

  • The Mavs’ stint in Vegas is very clearly an audition process of sorts for Dominique Jones, whose role in the upcoming season is an open question due to Dallas’ open roster. With Rodrigue Beaubois almost perpetually shaky off the dribble and Delonte West as of yet unsigned, there’s a distinct possibility that the Mavs will be forced to rely on Jones as a reserve ball-handler and playmaker.
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    It’s in that regard that Jones’ Summer League success becomes a bit tricky to translate. On this team, he’s the end-all creator, the primary scorer, and the bailout option. He has a lot to prove and a considerable weight to carry, giving these showings a notably different dynamic than what he has and will encounter as a member of the Mavs’ A-team. He did a tremendous job of pouring in points, but I’m not sure there’s much to take away from his shiny scoring total aside from the physicality and skill behind it.
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    There’s no question that Jones is a reasonably safe ball-handler with good driving instincts and imposing strength, but none of that is exactly new. What is new — or at least renewed — is his capacity to finish around the basket after drawing contact. That was the crux of Jones’ college success, but he hadn’t yet managed to convert that element of his utility to NBA defenses and NBA bigs. We may have seen the start of that transition with this kind of performance, even if the level of play makes for an imperfect comparison to standard NBA basketball.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 5, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0105.448.130.425.012.7
Oklahoma City112.058.026.717.613.4

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • You know what they say: If you’re going to lose a winnable series in four games, at least go out in an exhibition for one of the game’s most fantastically understated players, supplying the wood for his buzzsaw in what one can ultimately assume will be a daunting display of razor-focused finesse and craftsmanship. James Harden (29 points, 11-16 FG, 3-4 3FG, five rebounds, five assists) gets a raw deal because the public’s attention span can only extend to two star teammates at a time, but he’s far too good to be relegated as some distant third, and far too lethal to be ignored, even for a second. Dallas tried a number of coverages from a variety of directions in the fourth quarter, but none of it mattered — Harden attacked from the same point on the floor at the same angle, repeatedly bludgeoning the Mavericks with his own unique grace. And, as an important extension: credit upon credit to Scott Brooks, who afforded Harden the opportunities he needed without the slightest interference. Harden keyed the offense and out-dueled Dirk Nowitzki, all because his teammates agreed to spot up from the perimeter, because his coach saw an opening and exploited it, and because he’s a ridiculously difficult pick-and-roll cover.

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The Two Man Game’s Official Dallas Mavericks Versus Oklahoma City Thunder Official Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview for the Official 2011-2012 Official NBA Post-Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 27, 2012 under Commentary, Previews | Read the First Comment

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No series in this year’s playoffs better illustrates the gulf between winning and winnable; the Dallas Mavericks begin their postseason journey against a familiar foe, and although they hold the potential for a hugely significant upset, there is an auspicious lack of logical explanation as to why the series might actually unfold along those terms. Based on the evidence we have, we can’t write the Mavs off completely, and yet the Thunder are simply too good to not be penciled in for the second round on the basis of their far steadier — and noticeably more superior — play on both ends of the court. The playoffs always bring the potential for a reset and subsequent upset, but we can’t rightly expect either without even the slightest justification.

There’s reason to think that the Mavs might be competitive in this series, but we lack the magic bullet that could throw any predictions over the top. There’s a chorus for good reason; “Oklahoma City in six,” is the most reasonable outcome at this point, although there’s a distinct possibility of this series breaking in virtually any which way. We shouldn’t be surprised to see the Mavs push this to seven or lose in four; there are too many variables at work to have a good feel for how either team might play over the course of this series, leaving us with questions on questions and OKC’s far more convincing regular season exploits.

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The Difference: Utah Jazz 123, Dallas Mavericks 121

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 17, 2012 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas117.0103.450.025.515.212.1
Utah117.949.538.929.214.6

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • This game went all the way to the competitive limit, but Dallas’ defense eventually collapsed because of its collapses by design. The Mavericks were content to swarm the Jazz bigs on their interior catches, and although that’s sound strategy considering the personnel and skill sets of both teams, Utah benefited from far too many wide open jumpers. A result this insanely intricate obviously wasn’t decided by those comfortable J’s alone, but if we’re looking for a consistent factor that carried more weight than, say, controversial calls or specific late-game sets, attentions should rightly turn to how so many Jazz shooters found unoccupied real estate. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Gordon Hayward don’t need offensive help, and yet because of the specific gaps in the Mavericks’ defensive matchups, there was little choice for Dallas but to offer systemic help. Look to Jefferson and Millsap’s tough late-game makes, an absent whistle, or Devin Harris’ baffling number of threes, but the Mavs seemed to really lose this game when their inability to create stable offense became juxtaposed with their defense conceding that very thing to the Jazz.
  • If nothing else, this game taught us plenty about Rick Carlisle’s desperation for offense, and more specifically, his designs to improve the Mavs’ offensive potential with perimeter shooting. Dirk Nowitzki (40 points, 13-26 FG, nine rebounds, six assists) was predictably spectacular, but no Maverick seemed both interested and capable enough to assist him throughout the bulk of this game. Jason Terry (27 points, 11-25 FG, 4-9 3FG) was absolutely tremendous late and both Delonte West (16 points, 5-8 FG) and Vince Carter (18 points, 5-15 FG, 12 rebounds, four assists) did great work in spots, but had all of their efforts come earlier and more consistently, this game may have been decided in regulation. Dallas was wanting for scoring of any kind beyond Nowitzki, so much so that Carlisle kept Brendan Haywood on the bench for the game’s final 30 minutes in favor of the more offensively capable Ian Mahinmi, and parked Marion — who was unmistakably absent in his time on the floor — for the final 27 minutes in favor of either Carter or West. That’s a pretty lengthy substitution of defense for offense, particularly when Jefferson is so formidable down low and Gordon Hayward was blowing by Jason Kidd with regularity. Yet considering the downward slope Dallas’ defense has taken over the last 20 games or so, an offensive jump-start is an absolute necessity. This isn’t a one-time occurrence; this team’s scoring is in shambles, and the defense is no longer oppressive enough to pull out consistent wins. Substitution patterns this radical may have been too great a cost, but Carlisle’s concern for the offense within the context of this game and the playoffs is rather clear.

The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 112, Dallas Mavericks 108

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 15, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.0113.753.417.014.06.0
Los Angeles117.948.929.029.46.3

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • This was a game that deserved to go into overtime, and unlike far too many extra-period affairs of the post-lockout season, actually behooved its audience to. Dallas may have bogged itself down into isolating Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 9-28 FG, 3-8 3FG, 14 rebounds) at times in an effort to get him going, but for the most part the Mavericks’ ball movement was quite good; Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, 5-6 3FG, four assists) and Delonte West (20 points, 9-15 FG) both did wonderful work as shot creators, and the entire offense was built on and benefited from the virtues of the extra pass. Sadly, execution doesn’t always lead to elite efficiency; try as the Mavs might to work the ball around and make the right plays, Nowitzki’s shooting struggles and the Lakers’ ability to apply defensive pressure in all the right places kept this a wide-open game. Meanwhile, the Lakers sans Kobe were in a position to exploit the necessity of the Mavs’ over-helping; only Brendan Haywood had the hope of checking Andrew Bynum without a double team, a fact which essentially required that each of Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright’s minutes be plagued with openings on the weak side. It wasn’t the fault of Jason Kidd (who was often caught cheating off of his man to help on Bynum), or even Wright. It’s merely the reality of this rotation, and if these two teams meet in a potential first-round series, it’s a reality the Mavericks will have to confront on more specific terms. (One related thought: A potential factor that could oddly make the Lakers’ swing passing more manageable from a Maverick perspective? Kobe Bryant. Players so brilliant rarely make decisions as oddly short-sighted as those Bryant makes with regularity. He may think three moves ahead of his defender in the post, but basketball chess games last a bit longer than three moves.)
  • There’s no use in demanding perfection of any team at this stage in the season, particularly one that has seen as much in-season variance as these Mavericks. That said, is it enough to be pleased with strong effort and decent execution against an opponent missing a star? I was going to say that this game sums up Dallas’ season nicely, but perhaps that response does so even more aptly.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 97, Portland Trail Blazers 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 14, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0105.453.612.039.022.8
Portland102.245.827.727.114.1

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavericks, in spectacular fashion, very nearly blew what should have been a walk-off win. The entire game had been a rather simple affair; a Blazer team without LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t really a Blazer team at all, and in their limited state Dallas was able to create great shots through easy offense (and consistent offensive rebounds), defend effectively without doing anything flashy, and gradually build up a 24-point lead by the tail end of the third quarter. Dallas had let off the gas just enough throughout the fourth to give Portland the slightest possibility for a comeback, but only with a three-minute stretch of lazy, fatigued, and ineffective play did the Blazers nearly capture some magic. During that stretch, the Mavs went 0-for-4 with five turnovers, as Dirk Nowitzki, Delonte West, Shawn Marion, and Brandan Wright each took turns committing blunders. Those miscues fueled the Blazers beyond token effort; most teams will run the court and put up points to close the gap as much as possible in the waning minutes of a double-digit victory, but that horrible, horrible stretch of Maverick basketball gave validation to the notion of a sincere comeback. So naturally, such a comeback came, and the Mavs ended up with a blowout win that wasn’t a blowout at all. In Jason Kidd’s absence, West (21 points, 10-17 FG, seven assists, six rebounds, three steals, six turnovers) logged over 44 minutes. Nowitzki (24 points, 8-14 FG, nine rebounds, five turnovers) and Marion (17 points, 8-10 FG, 14 rebounds, three assists, three turnovers) ran 37 minutes apiece, with Terry (10 points, 3-16 FG, three turnovers) not far behind at 34. Dallas dawdled when they should have separated and collapsed when they should have sustained, and a 24-point lead crumbled to three in a little more than a quarter. I think the appropriate response is likely still disappointment rather than disgust, but what Mavs fan could be blamed for feeling either?

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Tessellating Pieces

Posted by Ian Levy on April 13, 2012 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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There are just under two weeks and seven games left for the Mavericks before the end of the regular season, time enough for a seemingly infinite number of potential outcomes. While a playoff berth is anything but assured (gulp), it seems like Dallas will at least be present in the first round to begin a title defense in the postseason proper. A year ago, the Mavericks finished the regular season by winning four in a row, then systematically built themselves into a seamless juggernaut through a series of progressively more astounding playoff victories.

Although they don’t have the same components that completed last year’s title run, there still exists on this roster all the raw materials to build a similarly potent contraption. Over the last three and a half months, each of Rick Carlisle’s attempts to rebuild this machine have been derailed by injury, inattention, and periods of inexplicable individual futility. However, the nature of the project has changed with the departure of Lamar Odom.

Odom represented a large and potentially powerful piece of the puzzle, and until it was announced that he and the team were parting ways early last week, there was simply no question of his inclusion. Now that he’s out of the way, the slate is cleared and the job can be begun anew. No more accommodations or allowances need be made; Carlisle has 13 days to dabble and experiment, try new looks and new orientations, and decide what this team will look like when the playoffs finally, and hopefully, arrive.

Here are a few chemistry experiments Carlisle might be interested in trying.

TWIN TOWERS

Odom’s absence leaves a void in the Mavs’ front court, and judging from the two games since, Brandan Wright will be helping to fill that space. On Thursday night against the Warriors, Wright spent most of his playing time strictly as a center and backup to Brendan Haywood. He played admirably in this role crashing the glass, scored on found possessions, and did his best against the wily David Lee. However, on Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to see a few minutes of Wright on the court alongside Ian Mahinmi, which to me is a much more tantalizing possibility.

Mahinmi and Wright have alternated this season in playing backup center minutes, lifting fans with the athleticism and effort, before grounding them with their inexperience and lack of awareness. However a Wright/Mahinmi combo offers some the potential to be a devastating combo if deployed in the right situation.

The two have played just 37 minutes together for the entire season, but some very positive things have happened in those minutes. With both on the floor the Mavericks have posted a Defensive Rating of 77.2, holding their opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 35.7 percent. Stretched (and stretched they would be; 37 minutes isn’t much of a sample size) across an entire season, those numbers would be the best in the league by a wide margin. When Wright and Mahinmi are on the floor together, the Mavs have a total rebound percentage of 56.0 percent with an offensive rebound percentage of 37.5 percent –and accomplished all that defensive and rebounding dominance at a pace of 97.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

That said, having both players the floor together presents some serious problems. Offensive spacing would suffer dramatically, and polished post players like Andrew Bynum, Zach Randolph, and both Gasols would eat either Wright or Mahinmi alive. However, against an athletic up-tempo team like the Thunder, Spurs or Clippers, Wright and Mahinmi could help the Mavericks keep pace, disrupt pick-and-rolls, defend the rim against penetration, and control the glass. Games against the Warriors and Trail Blazers might be the time to try this combo out for an extended period of time and see what it might offer for spot duty in the playoffs.

THREE GUARDS

Small-ball lineups featuring multiple ball-handlers have been a staple of Carlisle’s cross-matching rotations the past few seasons. Vince Carter has played plenty of small forward this year, but what I’m really talking about here is some three-man combination of Delonte West, Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jason Terry. The one that intrigues me the most would be the West-Beaubois-Terry grouping — that trio hasn’t played a single minute together this season, and while they present the most potential problems at the defensive end, they also present the most interesting combination at the offensive end.

If the playoffs started today, the Mavericks would be matched up in a series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Even with the addition of Ramon Sessions, the Lakers would have struggled against quick, athletic penetrators. West-Beaubois-Terry would allow the Mavericks to keep the floor spaced, attack from multiple angles, and put pressure on Gasol and Bynum to defend the rim. It could end up being a disaster, but almost every other combination of players has been tried by Carlisle this season. With seven games left, it might be worth giving this one a look to see if there’s anything there.

YINSANITY

I realize this suggestion may cause me to get laughed off the internet, but I think Odom’s departure may also make room for Yi Jianlian to make a meaningful contribution in the playoffs. Yi is best known for the disparity between his production against chairs and his production against NBA players, but he does have a few legitimate basketball skills; he’s a solid rebounder, can move the ball on offense, and most importantly: is a consistent shooter. Although he’s shooting just 38.0 percent on the season, Yi is averaging 1.03 points per possession on spot-up possessions. Looking again at that potential Lakers matchup, it would be nice to be able to keep Gasol away from the rim, and open space for the second unit when Dirk is on the bench. He’s certainly a liability defensively, but no more than Peja Stojakavic was last season, as he was busy shredding the Lakers from the perimeter.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows and HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 112, Golden State Warriors 103

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.0121.755.122.730.410.9
Golden State112.051.228.433.317.4

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Considering that every NBA team should be expected to make a run at some point or another, this game went quite well. One could demand better maintenance of a double-digit margin, want particular players to score more effectively against such lackluster defense, or pick nits here with Dallas’ occasionally odd execution, but in a general sense it’s hard to look down on an effort where Jason Kidd (nine points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, two turnovers) made a real impact, Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, 5-9 FG, five assists, one turnover) was among the more constructive forces on the floor, the reserves managed 57 points, and Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 10-23 FG) was Dirk Nowitzki. This certainly wasn’t a spotless performance, but it was another quality outing at a time when Dallas can’t afford anything less.
  • For the pessimists out there: the Mavs’ execution of the pick and roll seemed fairly lazy at times, as Kidd and Delonte West in particular were completely derailed in their pocket-pass attempts. Things will certainly have to get crisper in that regard, and the transition defense could still use plenty of improvement. Neither of those shortcomings was enough of a problem to put Dallas’ efforts in serious jeopardy, but they could prove more costly if they persist against better competition.
  • In their current form, the Warriors are a perfectly miserable basketball team. There were some decent individual efforts on Thursday, but overall the team’s operation is reminiscent of a confined gas; they’re objects floating within the limits of a particular space, toward no end in particular and without any coherence of movement or purpose. The Mavs’ defensive inattentions afforded the Warriors the space to make their random bounces seem constructive, but this is a team in disarray, to say the least.

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