Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
This week’s installment of Thermodynamics won’t be quite as negative as last week’s. For one, the Mavs actually won a game (emphasis on “a”), going 1-4 on the week. For another, they played fairly well in two of their four losses, both of which came against NBA finalists from last season.
But enough of those generalities. Let’s talk details.
Week 10 (@Thunder, Nuggets, Spurs, @Wizards, @Heat)
1) Darren Collison
This one is easy. Collison had his best week as a Maverick, showing confidence we haven’t seen since the first games of the season. Squaring off against his former UCLA backcourt mate Russell Westbrook, Collison started his week by going 13-of-22 (59%) for 32 points in Oklahoma City. The highlight of his night—and probably the entire NBA week—came at the end of regulation when he nailed a ridiculous, game-tying three. If that’s not enough to convince, here’s more proof that Collison lit it up: when Westbrook was asked about Collison’s performance after the game (a Thunder win, mind you), Westbrook immediately cut off his postgame interview and cussed on his way out of the locker room (credit: AP). As a sidenote, if you’re on a tight budget, I recommend you avoid purchasing Westbrook’s newest book, How to Cope with Minor Frustrations Like An Actual Adult.
Collison used his terrific performance in Oklahoma City as a springboard for a solid week. In all, he shot 35-of-68 (51%), scored 17.2 PPG, and dished out 5.2 APG. These numbers represent a marked improvement from Collison’s previous several weeks. With OJ Mayo’s recent regression — which most Mavs fans expected — Collison’s uptick has been a welcome sight. Now that he’s firmly installed as the Mavs’ starting PG, perhaps these performances will become the norm.
Read more of this article »
From Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
While explaining his decision to participate in Chris Paul’s charity game in his home town of Winston-Salem, N.C., earlier this month, Wizards free agent forward Josh Howard joked that “people still want to see me play.” But being around that thrilling, high-flying environment convinced Howard that he should organize his own event in Dallas, the city he still considers home since being traded to the Wizards in the deal that shipped Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to the Mavericks at the trade deadline in 2010.
With the lockout wiping out the first two weeks of the regular season and more cancellations expected to follow after failed negotiations last week, Howard is taking advantage of the opening to host a charity game on Nov. 12. Players expected to participate include Howard’s Wizards teammates John Wall, Andray Blatche and Nick Young; his former Mavericks teammates Jason Terry, Marquis Daniels, DeSagana Diop and Quinton Ross; Portland Trail Blazers forward and Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge; New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack; Mavericks guard Corey Brewer; Minnesota forward Anthony Randolph; Toronto forward Reggie Evans; Sacramento Kings draft pick Isaiah Thomas; and former NBA player Damon Jones.
Marquis Daniels, ‘Gana Diop, Quinton Ross, and Damon Jones are semi-headlining a charity game hosted by Josh Howard in Dallas. Ain’t life grand?
Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.
This is my eleventh contribution to The Two Man Game, and the most difficult to construct. The challenge of recapping a basketball team’s season without knowing the ending is a significant challenge. How do you tell a story without knowing its conclusion? The simplest technique would be to explain how the Mavericks arrived at this point. The truth is I’m not entirely sure.
Over the past two days I’ve started and re-started this post trying and re-trying to find a theme to capture the structure of this season for the Mavs. Looking for said theme may be where my problems started. Have you ever flipped away from a TV show to avoid the commercials, and come back to that channel to find that you’ve missed two bewilderingly crucial minutes? All of a sudden you’re lost. You know all the characters, the setting remains the same, and yet you’re completely confused by the events unfolding. That’s how I feel about this year’s Mavericks; most of the elements are familiar, but the inciting moment of their season’s plot must have been revealed while I was flipping channels.
The only other team I write about on a consistent basis is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have been as schizophrenic as any team in the league, but have vacillated between bouts of inspiring dominance and soul-crushing decrepitude. The Mavericks have not seen fluctuations in performance quite like the Pacers, so much as a steady stream of shapeshifting. I wouldn’t even characterize it as metamorphosis. There have been no linear changes. Like The Master of Disguise, they have been assuming identities and casting them aside just as quickly. I look away for two minutes and come back to find a completely different team.
There were the 19-8 Mavericks with Caron Butler finding his place offensively and defensively. There was the mysterious 10 game stretch where Sasha Pavlovic masqueraded as a rotation player. There are the 2-7 Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki. There was the 24-5 run to start the season. There was the 3-10 stretch to close 2010 and ring in the New Year, which was immediately followed by a 19-1 run. At times they couldn’t be scored on. At times you couldn’t stop them from scoring. Unfortunately, those two incarnations never seemed to align.
Through all the ups and downs; rights and lefts and wrongs, the regular season has to be considered a success. With 57 wins, the Mavericks have had their best regular season since the infamous 2007 campaign. If not for their 2-7 stretch without Nowtizki, they could have spent this final week fighting for the best record in the league. 57 wins gives them just two more than last season, but it feels like a much wider gap, mostly because preseason expectations seemed to be down.
Not many people thought this year’s roster would be an improvement over recent Mavericks’ squads. The Schoene Projection system used by Pro Basketball Prospectus predicted a 48 win season for the Mavericks. With their win over the Hornets last night, the Mavs have out paced that projection by 9 wins. They’ve also outpaced their Pythagorean win projection, based on their actual point differential, by 5 wins.
It’s tough to blame anyone for projecting this as a down year for the Mavericks. There is no disguising the fact that they have an older roster, and near the midpoint of the season it was the oldest in the league when weighted for minutes played. Their roster didn’t see much turnover from last year, as they returned 79% of their minutes played. The draft netted them Dominique Jones, who wasn’t expected to contribute this season. In addition, they lost two of their younger stars, Butler and Beaubois, to injury for significant portions of the season. Nowitzki has helped make them great (last week we looked at how much Nowitzki has meant to the Mavericks’ season), but his production isn’t that much different than what he provided last year.
That leaves just one cog unaccounted for: Tyson Chandler.
Chandler was expected to back up the newly re-signed Brendan Haywood. After two straight down and injury-plagued seasons, it appeared the peak of Chandler’s career may have already passed. Yet the Mavs got a far better return than expected. Chandler played in 74 games this season and logged over 2,000 minutes, milestones he hasn’t reached since the 2008 season. He hit career highs in FG%, FT%, PER and a career low in TOV%. The Mavericks’ Defense Rating was 3.95 points better when Chandler was on the floor. Surprisingly, given his small, well-defined skill set, their Offense Rating was much better (+3.23) with him on the floor as well. No Maverick except for Nowitzki had a better Unadjusted On Court/Off Court Rating for the Mavs this season.
The Mavericks’ Defensive Rating was 105.0 this season, the fourth best mark in franchise history, and the lowest since their 67 win team in 2007. As we discussed a few weeks ago, the biggest drops in their defensive efficiency seemed to occur when Chandler’s minutes were limited by fouls or injury. The Mavericks turned in their third best defensive rebounding season franchise history, and posted their highest DRB% since 2008. They center position has been manned admirably in Dallas by the likes of DeSagana Diop, Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood. Each of those burly giants was a capable rebounder and could be effective challenging shots at the rim. Tyson Chandler has the athleticism to do those things as well as hedge effectively and recover on a pick-and-roll, or step out and cover a stretch big man. He made the Mavericks’ defense that much more efficient by adding versatility to a familiar formula.
The following assessment was written of Tyson Chandler before the season started, again from the tremendous Pro Basketball Prospectus:
A change of scenery failed to revitalize Tyson Chandler’s career like it did when he went from Chicago to New Orleans. He was limited by injuries and inconsistent on the floor during his final year with the Hornets, and the same was true of his lone season in Charlotte. Both Chandler’s rebounding and his two-point percentage have fallen dramatically the last two years, and SCHOENE isn’t optimistic about his chances to return to peak form. Chandler is only 28, but similar players were already starting to decline at the same age.
I will be upfront in saying that nothing in that paragraph seemed out of line to me when I read it in the middle of October (Of course, I also thought the Kings would win 44 games this season). Chandler’s resurgence has been remarkable, baffling, inexplicable and inspiring. The splendid Spurs and horrible Heat were the big surprises early in the season. The Bulls’ dominant shift into an even higher gear has been the shocker of the past month. Lost somewhere in the middle were the Dallas Mavericks (somewhat) quietly having one of the best seasons in franchise history. Buried even further in the void, is the fact that Tyson Chandler — after essentially being ruled irrelevant — has changed the fortunes of an actual NBA basketball team.
- Art Garcia profiled the ’05-’06 Mavs in spectacular fashion for NBA.com. Among Garcia’s collection of quotes and anecdotes from that season was those Mavs’ little-known team motto: “Know when to party.”
- This is a fantastic highlight mix of last season, complete with very high quality video. Questionable music choice, though…but then again, you’re asking this guy.
- Rick Carlisle on the use of advanced stats in basketball (via Steve Aschburner of NBA.com): “Statistical analysis has gone two or three generations and now it’s at an extremely high level. So more teams are using that for everything, from performance of combinations to individual performances, to probability of injuries and everything else you can possibily imagine. It’s unbelievable. At a certain point, it’s making sure you don’t have too much information. In most cases, what you believe in your gut is 80 percent right. There might be another 20 percent where the data will make you say, ‘Hmm, I didn’t realize that.’ Whatever that might be. Sometimes it’s a subtle thing, sometimes it’s pretty severe.”
- Jason Terry, on the prospect of taking over Rodrigue Beaubois’ (if you can rightfully call it his) starting spot (via Eddie Sefko): “Maybe I’ll just keep it warm. Or maybe I won’t give it back.”
- Shawn Marion’s value to the Seven Seconds or Less Suns is already well-established among NBA diehards if not the casual basketball fans of the world, but Tom Ziller takes everything a step further in saying that without Marion, playing Amar’e Stoudemire at center would never have worked.
- Marquis Daniels drains a three from half-court. As is everything with ‘Quis: no big deal.
- The Mavs could up keeping Steve Novak and Brian Cardinal. Or they could end up keeping neither. News! Either way, I think it’s safe to say that Dee Brown and Adam Haluska are dust in the wind.
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “[DeSagana] Diop has been a punchline the past year. On performance, he deserved it, but let me tell you something: If there’s a better guy in that locker room — and this is the best locker room I’ve covered in 21 NBA seasons — I don’t know who it would be. You don’t think Gana knows people ridicule him? If he became bitter and surly and introverted, who could blame him? But even when he never got a uniform, when he wasn’t activated for the playoff series to give fouls on Dwight Howard, he was gracious and classy.”
- Chris Tomasson, NBA FanHouse: “Once again, Nowitzki has a picture of the Larry O’Brien Trophy in his locker to serve as his motivation. ‘That’s been there for a while,’ said Nowitzki, who signed a four-year contract last summer after becoming a free agent. ‘It’s going to basically stay there hopefully for the next four years. Hopefully, I’ll get one before then, and I’ll take it down. Or I’ll leave it up until I get a second one. That’s really what it’s all about now. I don’t think I personally have to prove or achieve anything (other than) just winning the ring. So that’s what I’m working on.’”
- Tom Haberstroh broke down the league’s 10 most untradeable contracts (Insider), and our very own Shawn Marion (four years, $32.2 million remaining on his deal) made the list at no. 10: “Already 32 years old, the veteran small forward will almost undoubtedly enact his $9 million player option in 2013-14, when he’ll be 36. Mavs owner Mark Cuban can probably stomach the $32.2 million outstanding on his deal, but that doesn’t mean it was a wise contract in the first place.” DeSagana Diop (three years, $20.8 million remaining) also made the list at no. 7.
- The Mavs will play an outdoor preseason game against the Suns on Saturday night, but Dirk Nowitzki won’t.
- Dee Brown won’t make the Mavs’ regular season roster, but he feels like he’s getting better year by year.
- They’re a few days old by this point, but there was plenty of Dallas love in the annual NBA GM survey. Among the most significant: 11.5% of GMs (tied for 3rd) think Dwane Casey is the league’s top assistant coach, 28.6% (T-1st) think Dirk is the best at his position (which marks the first year of Dirk’s career that Tim Duncan wasn’t the leading vote-getter), and 21.4% (1st) think that Rodrigue Beaubois is the international player most likely to have a breakout season.
- Mark Cuban doesn’t hate Don Nelson…anymore.
- John Stockton is the prototype for aging NBA players hoping to remain productive, and Jason Kidd hopes to follow in his footsteps as he continues to play on the brink of 40. Brendan Haywood chimes in: “He takes good care of his body and he’s a consummate professional. He can play forever.”
- Michael Lee of the Washington Post, on Josh Howard’s recovery from a left knee injury: “His improvement has been such a revelation that the Wizards may soon see him on the floor in the next few weeks. ‘If you watch him on the floor doing skeleton runs, you’d think that he could play that night. He’s pretty advanced. A lot more advanced than what we thought, but we’re going to take our time,’ Coach Flip Saunders said. ‘I would anticipate that he’ll probably facilitate things in the next two or three weeks. We’ll kind of take our time and see where we are at. We’re not going to push him back, but we’re not going to push him to get there. We’re going to make sure he’s back close to 100 percent.’”
The ESPNDallas crew put together a list of the top 10 Mavericks of the decade, and here are their rankings:
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Steve Nash
- Michael Finley
- Jason Terry
- Josh Howard
- Nick Van Exel
- Jason Kidd
- Devin Harris
- Jerry Stackhouse
- Erick Dampier
I’m a bit lost as to the criteria used, though. If it’s the out-and-out best players (talent and production-wise) to play for the Mavs in the 2000s, Jason Kidd seems slighted. If it’s based on production in a Maverick uniform this decade, Jason Terry may not be getting the respect he deserves. And if it’s based on…well, whatever metric puts Nick Van Exel (who make no mistake is one of my personal favorites in team history) ahead of Jason Kidd, Devin Harris, and Erick Dampier, then that explains that. This just seems like an exercise where you need to take talent, production, and Maverick tenure all into account, and with that in mind the order seems a bit scrambled.
It’s not an easy list to compile. We can all agree that Dirk stands at the top of the list, with Steve Nash a perfectly acceptable second fiddle. But where do you go from there? Michael Finley is the best scorer of the bunch, Jason Terry kept the Mavs afloat sans Nash and has a Finals appearance under his belt, and Jason Kidd is probably the best of the remaining crop despite his short tenure. After that, you’ve got some combination of Josh Howard, Devin Harris, and Erick Dampier, three Mavs that were absolutely instrumental to the team’s success during the most successful stretch this decade, and each contributing in unique ways that only sometimes show up on the stat sheet (scoring balance, change-of-pace potential, interior defense). Only then do I get to Jerry Stackhouse and Nick Van Exel, but with DeSagana Diop, Antawn Jamison, and MARQUIS DANIELS getting some consideration.
Sound off in the comments, because I’m curious to hear everyone’s take on this. What’s the best way to go about ranking the decade’s Mavs? And given those criteria, who’veyagot?
- Rick Carlisle cracks open the basketball dictionary (via Earl K. Sneed): “The definition of a franchise player is one who wants the responsibility for winning or losing…[Nowitzki] wants the ball in his hands when the game is being decided and the only thing he’s thinking about when he gets the ball is finding a way to win the game…That’s why Dirk is going to be one of the all-time greatest.”
- Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops runs his own numbers, and Mavs fans might not want to look at the net efficiency of Dallas’ bench. A rough return for Q-Ross, and a tough outing for Tim Thomas and Drew Gooden. Brett also notes that last night’s game was a rarity: the Mavericks won the game despite having a negative net efficiency. (Note: you’ll notice that according to the numbers I included in the recap, that was not the case. The four factors numbers I typically use are based on estimated possessions, whereas Brett’s numbers are based on actual, empirical possessions.)
- Old friend of the Mavs DeSagana Diop is still a Bobcat, although you probably wouldn’t know it from last night’s DNP-CD. Tyson Chandler’s the obvious starter and Nazr Mohammed has been playing well of late, but Larry Brown can’t find a minute or two for a defensive center like Diop? When asked, ‘Gana was just as confused (via Eddie Sefko): “I wish I had an answer…I don’t know [why I'm not playing more], but all I can do is keep working hard.”
- David Arnott of Rufus on Fire on Dirk’s game-winner, or more specifically, Boris Diaw’s defense of it: “[Diaw] did play the best defense possible on Dirk Nowitzki at the end of OT. Maybe Hakeem Olajuwon blocks that shot. Maybe.”
- Sometimes, when you’re so incredibly frustrated that your team dropped a winnable game to a superior opponent, you write something like this: “I’m not going to recount it here in detail but the officiating was worse than brutal tonight. You could sense as much as the Bobcats headed into the 4th quarter up by eight, 70-62. The Mavs were struggling, yes, but Mark Cuban was at his manipulative best by trotting out The The Protectors of Freedoms and Liberties on the sidelines complete with Gary ‘Lt. Dan’ Sinise leading the charge. What official in his right mind is gonna let this many war veterans go home unhappy with a loss to the Charlotte-freakin’-Bobcats? Thus we had several magical off-the-ball fouls on the ‘Cats to get them into the penalty early in the quarter and combined with the team’s sloppy handling of the ball (18 turnovers to 13), allowed the Mavericks to come back and tie the game, send it into overtime and let Dirk go to work.” How insidious!
- Dirk’s scoring is a given in clutch situations, as is Jason Kidd’s defense.
I have a soft spot in my heart for fans of the Bobcats. In a sense, Charlotte was Seattle before Seattle even knew what that metaphor would come to mean. So after the city had its team swept out from under it, I felt like the Charlotte Bobcats might need some help. So in 2004, I declared the Bobcats to be my “second team.” I know it goes against the more traditional tenets of fandom and all that, and I don’t care. I love me some Gerald Wallace.
If you’re at all interested in the Bobcats, the natural way of things will ensure that at some point you end up at Queen City Hoops, the best ‘Cats blog in the biz. Brett Hainline is not only an incredibly smart fella, but his statistically focused writing is still not only interesting but easily accessible for casual fans, or even hardcore fans who don’t regularly check the APBR Metrics boards. I’m thrilled to say that Brett is now one my newest neighbors in the TrueHoop Network, and as such I thought it’d be appropriate if we traded thoughts on the recent DeSagana Diop trade. Here are my questions about the two newest Mavs, and his answers:
Rob: Historically, Matt Carroll has been a top-notch three point threat. Is the significant drop-off this season largely a product of a different unfamiliar role in the offense, fewer opportunities, or has the guy just lost “it”?
Brett: Matt is a rhythm guy – the more time he gets, the more comfortable he gets, and the more he does. The drop-off really started last year, with the addition of Jason Richardson – Matt struggled to find a role with the presence of another designated shooter always on the court. His usage rate came way down – he just stopped shooting nearly as much, and without that, he is not terribly useful (on a basketball court). Carroll had been such a solid scorer for the Bobcats before these last 2 seasons that I think he just needs some confidence restored and a well-defined role to bounce back.
Rob: What is Ryan Hollins’ greatest strength and his greatest weakness? Also, what is the one significant area that he must improve in to take the next step up in his game?
Brett: Ryan has incredible athleticism – I know when talking about basketball players that is almost always the case, but this guy is ridiculous. In addition to college basketball, he was on the track squad – doing the high jump – yes, a 7-footer participating in the high jump. Unfortunately, the same body type that allows him to be a standout track star also causes him to struggle in the post in the NBA. Ryan is lacking the bulk to bang in the post, and struggles to defend one on one and to rebound consistently as a result.
Rob: The Mavs’ defense has come and gone this season, and though Dallas is certainly desperate for three-point shooting, a consistent defense could go a long way towards establishing a firm place in the Western Conference elite. Is Carroll as bad of a defender as I fear he might be? And, is Hollins going to be “that guy” who can swat shots like mad but bites on every pump fake?
Brett: Carroll is a great defender – as long as he is defending an athlete similar to himself. He works hard, gets good position, and contests shots – but he is just a tad bit too slow and a little too gravity bound to be a decent defender. Staying in front of dynamic wings is a real challenge for him and he can’t sag off his man and still contest the shot. Matt works hard but it can only carry him so far.
As for Ryan, in a word: Yes. In more words: He will come from the weakside and jump over/into/on his teammate to block any shot he can get near, despite the results. 25th in the league in fouls per minute – 7.7 per 40 minutes. Kind of fun to watch how high he goes for them, somewhat alarming to see him (or a teammate) tumble to the court from great heights after the collision.
Many thanks to Brett for humoring me with the Q&A-ness. And again, if you’re not reading Queen City Hoops, you’re missing out.
EDIT: Check out my responses to Brett’s questions here.
Disclaimer: I originally posted the following on Hardwood Paroxysm.
I have some fond memories of the Mavs’ 2006 run to the Finals, and there is no doubt that DeSagana Diop was an essential cog in that team. But when the two-headed center that the Mavs employed suddenly transformed into a one headed center tied to a head-shaped doorstop, things got ugly. So from Dallas’ perspective, it makes perfect sense to ship Diop to Charlotte in exchange for Matt Carroll and contract filler Ryan Hollins.
Dirk and Brandon Bass both present considerable defensive problems when they’re forced to defend the post. That’s where Diop was supposed to add to this Mavericks team. Needless to say, that hasn’t exactly been the case. Diop is one helluva soldier in regard to his unwillingness to act up or cause problems when faced with limited playing time, but unfortunately, that is where my compliments of Diop’s season end. He’s always been an offensive liability and it seemed like his D had finally caught up. He struggled to defend stronger foes and really has problems with the pick and roll. He doesn’t have the foot speed to keep up with centers when they step out, and watching him try to guard a point guard on the switch is a bit like watching a cat chase his own tail. It’s harsh, I know, but the time for niceties is long past for the Mavs. Now, it’s about finding the right guys for Coach Carlisle’s attack, and that directive is executed beautifully with the acquisition of Matt Carroll.
Dirk, Jason Terry, and Jason Kidd are excellent at opening up the corners for their teammates. Devean George (28.9%), James Singleton (14.3%), Gerald Green (29.4%), and Antoine Wright (25.6%)have gotten plenty of open looks from the corners. And plenty of those opportunities have ended up with a shot that makes me vomit in my mouth, ever so slightly. Green could get there, and damn do I want him to, but for the time being he’s a sparkplug at best and a ‘factory which has the sole purpose of manufacturing turnovers’ at worst. The rest of the crew ain’t bad (Well, except for Singleton. Sweet rebounder, but I wouldn’t mind if I never saw him take another three.), but they’re not good enough for a team that wants to shoot as often as the Mavs do. The idea is that with Carroll in the corners, the offense could really open up. He’s having a down year that would make Larry Hughes blush, but he’s also a career 40.3% shooter from deep — nothing to scoff at.
The perk of this trade is that there is virtually no downside. Diop was playing marginal minutes anyway, and a combination of Bass and Singleton will likely fill in the gaps. But beyond that, I see two pretty big advantages for the Mavs:
- Yes, Caroll is owed $21.5 million over the next five years. But that contract is also front-weighted, meaning that his $5 million salary for 2008-2009 is as high as it gets. In the heavily asterisked summer of 2010, Carroll will be on the books for just $4.3 mil. Not bad at all, especially when compared to Gana’s $32 million deal over the same five years ($6.5 in 2010).
- Suppose that Carroll throws up a brick fest during his time with the Mavs, continues his tear of 2008-2009 sucktitude, and becomes a complete waste of space. Carlisle has shown that he isn’t shy about jerking around minutes, and he simply won’t play Carroll if he doesn’t deserve it. Be it in practice or in games, Matt Carroll is going to have to earn every minute he plays in a Maverick uniform.
Ryan Hollins is a non-factor that was likely included for salary/warm bodies that play the center position reasons.
To some extent, I do feel bad for the Bobcats. They can use the frontcourt depth, but since the summer I’ve felt like the trade game could turn into a hot potato game of Diop’s contract, and my money says the music just cut out. Game over man, game over. Enjoy paying a back-up big enough money to cripple your free agent plans, guys.