The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, Cleveland Cavaliers 86

Posted by Connor Huchton on March 16, 2013 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Sunrise

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

  • Time makes us all fools, and the tale of Rodrigue Beaubois (6-10 FG, 18 points, five assists) firmly lives and breathes within the changing rhythms of time.
  • Not so long ago, Beaubois represented the Mavericks’ future; this year, he has unfortunately become a representation of disappointing present. The 2012-2013 season has easily been the worst of Beaubois’ career – his ability to score efficiently has submarined and Rick Carlisle has responded by keeping Beaubois out of the rotation.
  • Such a turn of events from the glory of three years’ past is difficult to contemplate and reconcile, but for one night, reconciliation deemed itself unnecessary. The Beaubois of March 15th, 2013 represents the basketball player every Mavericks’ fan once expected him to be – a scorer of flash and genius, an able passer, and an athletic marvel. In the bubble of a single instance, past expectations became reality, and we were allowed a brief glimpse of what could have been, of what should have been.
  • However passing that glance may be, the present is temporarily glorious, and the potential in Beaubois’ game will remain forever enthralling.
  • Of his 10 field goal attempts, only one occurred from between four and 23 feet. He’s never shot remotely well from the mid-range, so removing reckless jumpers in that alluring area could help keep Beaubois in the rotation. (I hope so.)
  • Brandan Wright (6-8 FG, 13 points, five rebounds) has essentially usurped the ‘scoring center’ role of Chris Kaman (2-4 FG, four points, six minutes) over the recent string of games, which I view as a positive development.
  • If Kaman can no longer embody the role he played in the earlier portions of his career, allowing Wright the chance to use those valuable minutes more effectively is the right choice, especially with the added bonus of an exciting block or dunk present.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (6-17 FG, 13 points, 11 rebounds) struggled a bit to begin the game (0-5 FG in the first quarter), but settled into a decent groove over the last three quarters. Early-quarter struggles followed by late-game success has been a trend for Dirk over this recent stretch of games.
  • A more odd and pleasant recent development has been his staunch rebounding, a trait never yet attached to his name. Dirk posted another double-double, his fifth of the season.
  • All five of those Dirk double-doubles (alliteration is fun!) are over the last 11 games. Are we witnessing a completely unforeseen and unlikely rebounding renaissance? (Probably not.)

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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Absolute Fitness

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 27, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm and Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter at@ConnorHuchton.

Jason Kidd exemplifies longevity. His athleticism and strength have slowly dissipated, but even at age 38, his value remains. His game has matured superbly, and at this stage in his career, Kidd is the picture of adjustment.

He may no longer look to attack the basket (his at-the-rim field goal attempts slowly dwindled to last season’s measly 0.6 attempts per game), but Kidd has managed to find strength in weakness; his reduced foot speed has led to greater focus on competent three-point shooting and facilitation from the perimeer. In both of these facets, Kidd excels, and he contributes through made threes, crisp passing, exemplary rebounding, and timely defense.

But so far this season, Kidd has struggled to continue his helpful – if declining – play. His utter inability to make three-pointers (25.8% 3PT) has rendered his already minimal scoring almost completely nonexistent. 66 of Kidd’s 78 field goal attempts have been three-pointers, meaning that his failure to capitalize on these shots has led directly to his general scoring ineffectiveness.

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Appraising Birds

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 1, 2011 under Commentary, Rumors | 3 Comments to Read

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The lockout hasn’t even reached its official end, and yet all eyes are fixed on the summer of 2012. Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams have dominated media outlets with their rumored gravity toward various teams and markets, and though basketball fans are likely queasy already from the trade rumor overload, the hype is legitimate. Those three superstars are hugely impactful players, and while the NBA world would be a better place without the rumor mill’s nonstop churning, to ignore teams’ awareness of next year’s free agent class would be naive. Franchises around the league are working hard to be in a position to take part in the free agent fun, and the Mavs are no exception.

In that vein, Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN.com dropped a fairly startling report yesterday:

In a surprise development on the first day that NBA teams and agents could start talking about new contracts, Tyson Chandler came away convinced that his time with the Dallas Mavericks is coming to an end.

“I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” Chandler told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.”

…Chandler maintains that staying in Dallas has always been his first choice, but he expressed disappointment that the communication between the sides was minimal from the end of the NBA Finals in mid-June and the June 30 deadline for extensions. On Wednesday, when teams and agents were allowed to commence free-agent negotiations, NBA front office sources listed New Jersey, Golden State, Houston and Toronto as the teams chasing Chandler hardest.

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The Butterfly Effects, Pt. III: No Rush

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 30, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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With the unofficial, metaphorical ink on the tentative CBA structure beginning to dry, we’ll take to look at how the new agreement impacts the Dallas Mavericks teams of today and tomorrow.

The new collective bargaining agreement is like catnip to NBA fans, who appreciate the return of the league as a general rule, and also have an unquenchable thirst for rumored roster moves. Few things generate excitement on par with a prominent player switching teams, and the amnesty clause included in the new agreement theoretically allows for all kinds of movement involving all kinds of interesting players.

At this point, the clause itself likely needs no introduction. But for those unfamiliar, here is the provision in question, written out in this detailed memo (via SI.com) in plain English:

Each team [is] permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.

The rumors that dance through all of our heads are two-fold: not only are there intriguing decisions regarding whether teams should cut players using the amnesty clause at all, but also the possibilities governing which released players end up signing with which teams. Dallas is not a likely landing spot for any of the top amnestied players, for the sole reason that the team lacks the cap space to participate in one of the quirkier elements of the amnesty rule itself:

A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the player’s salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Oklahoma City Thunder 87

Posted by Ian Levy on May 22, 2011 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas89.0104.548.217.121.413.5
Oklahoma City97.737.243.230.015.8

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

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’ offense was magnificent in the first half. Every movement was crisp and precise, whichmade the Thunder’s stagnation even more apparent. By my count the Thunder attempted just five shots at the rim in the 1st Quarter, with two coming on offensive rebounds. Everything else was on the perimeter. Both sides had plenty of movement, but the Mavericksdisplayed a prescient awareness of where space would be, moving there as it opened up. The Thunder seemed to be seeking open space, and in most cases it eluded their desperate chase. On offense, the Thunder players were looking for opportunities to score; the Mavericks were waiting for opportunities to score. One Dallas offensive possession, in particular, stood out to me. Their second possession of the 2nd Quarter started with a Jason Terry steal. Within 12 seconds, the ball had crossed half-court, at least four passes had been made, three different Mavericks had touched the ball, nearly every Thunder defender had been forced to make a rotation, and Dirk Nowtizki had knocked down an open 16 footer.
  • In the 4th Quarter the Mavericks’ offense came off the rails. They scored enough to hold on and win, but gave up quite a bit of ground. Instead of the movement and passing that helped them build their lead, which had gone as high as 23 points, there seemed to be a concerted effort to “Get the ball to Dirk.” This resulted in isolation after isolation. A few tough defensive possessions from Nick Collison and the Thunder were back within striking distance.
  • Kevin Durant had a tough night, as Stevenson and Marion hounded him into a 7 of 22 performance. Durant certainly helped them out by staying on the perimeter. Just 4 of his 22 shot attempts came at the rim, and just one of those 4 was taken before the 4th Quarter. Some may point to his 0 of 8 shooting on three-pointers as a fluke. However, most of those long jumpers were contested and he struggled all game long to find enough space to operate comfortably.
  • Tyson Chandler completely out-Perkinsed Kendrick Perkins. Chandler finished with a game high 15 rebounds, and stated clearly that the paint belonged to him from the game’s outset. The physicality and nastiness that Chandler has brought to the Dallas back line is what Perkins was supposed to give Oklahoma City. Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if the Chandler to Oklahoma City trade, of two years ago, hadn’t been voided because of his toe injury.
  • I’m a basketball nerd so I see references and connections everywhere. ESPN’s time out feature during the 1st Quarter, on notable playoff beards was clearly paying homage, intentionally or incidentally, to the now-defunct FreeDarko and the “Hair up There” section in their Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History. Well done, nameless ESPN segment producer.
  • The biggest storyline going into this game was Thunder coach, Scott Brooks, holding Russell Westbrook out for the entire 4th quarter of Game 2. The narrative coming out of Game 3 will likely continue to focus on Westbrook; but I’m curious to see what shape it will take. Westbrook was 8 of 20 from the field, and scored 30 points, thanks to 14 free throw attempts. His critics will likely focus on his 7 turnovers and 4 assists. I would be happy to offer criticism of Russell Westbrook for his play tonight, but none of it would focus on the ratio between his shot attempts and Durant’s. A comparison of their shot attempts as an evaluation of his effectiveness misses the point completely. Despite how it’s been framed this week, the problem is not a trade-off between Westbrook forcing the action or Durant getting open looks. It’s a trade-off between Westbrook forcing the action or Durant forcing the action. The Thunder offense created next to nothing in terms of open looks for Durant tonight. That’s an indictment of the entire team and everything leading up to the culmination of each possession, not just Westbrook’s ability and willingness to deliver the ball.

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

The Difference: San Antonio Spurs 97, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 19, 2011 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

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 used to be a low-turnover team, but this season has featured a startling number of giveaways (Dallas ranks 17th in turnover rate, far from the elite status they’ve held in that category over the last few years) and last night stood as a comical representation of the team’s inability to control the ball. There were passes to no one in particular. By my count, Maverick players dribbled the ball off their own feet at least three times. So it was for the entire evening, as Dallas committed unforced error after unforced error. San Antonio obviously deserves credit for capitalizing on the Mavericks’ mistakes, but the home team dug their own grave in many respects.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 4-11 FG, three rebounds, three turnovers) may have been an effective defender against Andre Miller and Monta Ellis, but Tony Parker (33 points, 14-22, four rebounds, three assists) had a field day against him. It didn’t help that Tyson Chandler was in foul trouble throughout the game and that Brendan Haywood only decided to play effective D in the second half, but Beaubois just couldn’t stick Parker in half-court settings nor did he — and this is one of the weaker elements of Beaubois’ defensive game at this point — get back in order to adequately defend in transition. Parker is dangerous in any context, but particularly so when given a full head of steam. He had that on the break, obviously, but Parker was also able to drive effectively after shedding Beaubois around screens. Guarding either Parker or Manu Ginobili seems like a miserable task, but Beaubois — and his help — will need to be better in that area if Dallas has any chance of topping San Antonio at some point in the playoffs.
  • This game seemed a bit familiar. Dirk Nowitzki was incredible, but lacked the high-volume scoring help necessary to put Dallas over the top. The Mavs had their moments on offense and defense, but always seemed a step behind. Tim Duncan (22 points, 8-13 FG, eight rebounds, two steals, three blocks) still scored efficiently, even though Dallas had capable defenders in front of him at all times. San Antonio put a lot of pressure on the Mavs’ ball-handlers, and they buckled. The margin between these two teams really isn’t that large, but over the last two seasons the Spurs have held a definite edge. I’m not sure how likely that would be to change if these two clubs were to meet in the postseason, as this game seemed like a natural extension of last year’s first round playoff series.
  • Shawn Marion suffered a right wrist injury that kept him from playing in the second half. X-rays on the wrist were negative — which is great news, because Dallas can’t afford to lose anyone at this point — but the Mavs certainly missed Marion over the final 24 minutes. Frequent double-teams deterred the Mavs from working through Nowitzki as much as they should have in the first half, but Marion carried the offense in the meantime. San Antonio doesn’t really have a good defensive counter for Marion, so he went to work in the post against Ginobili and a cast of smaller guards, and drove into the paint from the weak side after some nice ball reversals. His runners and hooks won’t fall every night, they did on this one, and the Mavs sure could have benefited from his offensive production in the second half. That said: Marion wasn’t exactly at his defensive finest, as he completely blew his coverage of Ginobili on multiple occasions. It’s nights like these that make one wonder how Dallas was ever an elite defensive team at all.
  • To those who still cling to the fourth quarter as all-important, take a look back at the tape of the first quarter from this game. Sure, the Mavs could have played better in the fourth, but this game was lost in the first frame.
  • Good to know that using Dirk in high screen-and-roll action at the top of the key still works as an antidote to double-teaming. Nowitzki created a mismatch almost every time he set a high pick for Kidd, Terry, Barea, or Beaubois, either by causing the guard to switch onto him or baiting another defender to slide over in order to help. From that point, Nowitzki would simply begin backing down his defender, and turn to fire over them (while spinning away from incoming help on some occasions) from the free throw line. Dallas lost, but this approach (in addition to Marion’s post-ups, the shots created from Beaubois’ penetration, and other stratagems) does offer some hope of how the Mavs might counter a team like the Spurs in the future. There were blunders aplenty, but it’s not as if this game didn’t give Dallas something to work with.

The Difference: Chicago Bulls 82, Dallas Mavericks 77

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 21, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas85.090.640.424.720.916.5
Chicago96.541.115.534.715.3

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

  • In the last two games, the Mavericks have experienced contests of completely different complexion. Against the Lakers, both teams moved the ball well and poured in points with only periodic defensive resistance. Against the Bulls, neither team could score even remotely well, and the offensive struggles were far more deep-seated than players missing makeable jumpers. Neither team could set up and execute on account of the other team’s defense, and though it was an ugly product from a basketball standpoint, it’s nice to see the Mavs’ D in full effect. 90.6 points per 100 possessions is a hideous number, but 96.5 points allowed per 100 possessions? Oh so pretty.
  • Dirk Nowitzki (19 points, 6-16 FG, four rebounds) is not completely healthy. You can see it on his turnarounds, particularly deep in the post. Many of his attempts look like poor imitations of his usual routine, as Nowitzki fails to create the same amount of space that affords him time to release. You can see it on his help defense in man-to-man or when he rotates in the zone; Dirk is just a half-second slower when an opponent makes a quick pass or cut. The Mavs’ offense looks even more painful with Nowitzki out, but it’s hard not to wonder if a bit more rest would have best for Dirk. Here’s to hoping the training staff knows what they’re doing, because without Nowitzki in the mix, the Mavs are a miserable watch.
  • Jason Terry (12 points, 5-14 FG, four assists) returned to Earth, DeShawn Stevenson attempted all 10 of his shots from beyond the arc, Jason Kidd leveled out (2-of-4 shooting from three but only eight points overall, six rebounds but only three assists to six turnovers), Shawn Marion (six points, 2-7 FG, three turnovers) misfired, Sasha Pavlovic disappeared, and J.J. Barea missed each of his four shot attempts. Maverick basketball! Catch the fever!
  • It’s honestly shocking that the turnover numbers for both teams weren’t more horrendous. Both teams had a lot of trouble holding onto the ball, but in a lot of cases, it translated into wild shot attempts or recovered loose balls, but neither team was in any kind of offensive sync, and that applied on the catch as well as the shot.
  • In the game against L.A., the Lakers’ offensive rebounds were painful, but only because their misses were so few. Dallas struggled to get any stops whatsoever, so it was noticeable when they squandered the opportunity due to poor rebounding. Yet overall, the L.A. didn’t have a particularly effective night on the offensive glass. Chicago was a bit different. The Bulls pulled in 34.7% of available boards on the offensive end, with the geriatric Kurt Thomas accounting for five of Chicago’s 51 offensive boards. Nowitzki and Brendan Haywood weren’t much help on the defensive glass, and Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion alone couldn’t box out everyone. Four of the Bulls’ starters had at least three offensive rebounds. That’s a failure in rebounding team-wide, and these defensive rebounding problems have been a recurring theme for the Mavs all season.