Denver Nuggets 127,681, Dallas Mavericks $0.75 and Half of a Moldy Sandwich

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 10, 2010 under Recaps | 10 Comments to Read

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“…All the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
-William Shakespeare

It honestly does not get much worse than this.

Worst loss in nearly a decade? Check. Embarrassing effort level on both ends of the court? Double check. Truly horrid execution? You betcha. Completely whiffing in a ‘statement game?’ Probably an understatement, but yes. The Dallas Mavericks failed in just about every conceivable way on Tuesday night, giving the players, coaching staff, and front office personnel plenty to think about going into the All-Star break.

You’ll find no more cogent and persuasive argument for the Mavs to make a trade than last night’s misery. The Nuggets just seemed to be operating on a completely different plane of existence, one that was simply beyond that of the pitiful, mortal Mavs. All Dallas could do was stare wide-eyed as Denver’s shooters nailed shot after shot, and marvel at every backdoor cut and spot-on defensive rotation. Nothing the Mavs did on the court could really be classified as actively playing the game of basketball, so don’t misunderstand my rhetoric; the Mavericks were spectators on the floor, watching the true professionals do what they do. They simply couldn’t be bothered with offering the slightest resistance or competition.

Dismissing the Mavs didn’t even require a spectacular game from either of Denver’s biggest stars, Chauncey Billups (16 points, 6-8 FG, six assists, three steals) and Carmelo Anthony (19 points, six assists, four rebounds). Instead, the Nuggets simply cashed in on the ordinary performances of their top players, and supplemented with some ridiculous production off the bench. Four of Denver’s reserves finished in double-figures, and it was actually the ridiculous second quarter runs of the Nuggets’ bench players that put away the game early. The Mavs expect, scheme, and tech to stop the players that are difficult to stop otherwise; Billups is so crafty and Anthony so talented that if you’re not preparing for them, you’re doomed to allow a monster scoring night from one or both. But Ty Lawson? Arron Afflalo? Johan Petro? These aren’t supposed to be the guys that give a team like the Mavs trouble…and yet here we are, looking at a decisive 18-33 quarter that says otherwise.

Without a healthy, fully-functional Erick Dampier, the Mavs have no hope of stopping Nene (21 points, 8-9 FG, eight rebounds). Eddie Najera got the start at center in Dampier’s absence (you know the drill – left knee effusion), but both he and Drew Gooden looked absolutely clueless in “guarding” (I use this term loosely) a player with such size, speed, and finishing ability. Nene was one of the unheralded difference-makers of last year’s playoff series between the Mavs and Nuggets, and his most recent domination of the Mavs was only more of the same.

J.R. Smith (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Chris Andersen (14 points, ten rebounds) were predictably troublesome, if only because the Mavs didn’t match their energy and activity. Based on everything else you’ve read and seen regarding this game, that shouldn’t be at all surprising.

Look, the Mavs were awful. Terrible, really. They slowed to a crawl when the should have (and could have) been sprinting, and now they’ll have to live with the consequences. So the best thing I can tell you to do is just laugh this off. Chuckle a bit at the thought of Ty Lawson running circles around the Mavs’ defenders. Let out a laugh because you know that Malik Allen, MALIK ALLEN, scored six points against Dallas. Just giggle with delight because you know that Denver shot 16-18 at the rim, and that’s probably not even the Mavs’ most embarrassing defensive feat of the night. But most importantly, laugh this off because there’s really nothing else you can do. This loss was so bad that it’s probably beyond anger or frustration, and qualifies as pure comedy. I mean, this is all some sort of elaborate joke…right?

Shot distribution data courtesy of

Dallas Mavericks 110, Golden State Warriors 101

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 4, 2010 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
-Winston Churchill

The Mavs needed this. Not just to avoid going on a four-game losing streak, though that’s certainly important. But even more important than Dallas’ need to not lose was their need to flat-out win. A game like this one isn’t so much about celebrating an end to failure as it is putting together something productive and presenting it in a meaningful way. Success is determined by wins and losses, and though the Mavs have played well for some if not most of 144 losing minutes, it’s crucial that the Mavs find success in 48 minute spurts. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about playing well. But for now, it’s wins and losses that could get the Mavs where they want (and need) to go; anything less than the third seed means a second round collision course with the Lakers, which is no good. As much as I’m sure the Mavs wouldn’t mind soaking up the sun, Los Angeles is not a place you want to be in the playoffs until every other option is exhausted.

So, a nine point win against a team like the Warriors? In which Dallas surrendered a career-high 46 points to Monta Ellis on just 23 shots? It really doesn’t seem like much on paper, but this was kind of big.

First, let’s start with the completely insane: the Mavs’ defense on Monta Ellis was a little bit better than you’d think, based on Ellis’ ridiculously efficient shooting line. He did finish with seven turnovers (a decidedly Monta-like number), and while Jason Terry couldn’t do all that much to slow Ellis down, it wasn’t for lack of effort. I mean, take a look at the shot chart for Ellis. That’s a lot of long two-pointers for a guy who can get to the rim at will, and though I have complete faith in Ellis’ ability to hit the mid-range jumper, that’s pretty much exactly the shot they want Monta taking. He made eight of his 12 attempts from 16-23 feet, which when you think about it, is just stupid good. Some of those were contested and some weren’t, but in terms of shot selection, I think you take those looks over forays into the paint any day. (Only four of Ellis’ 23 attempts came at the rim; that’s about half his season average.)

I mean, there are nights where you make shots, and there are nights where you make this shot (via BDL):

Ellis was the Warriors’ offense last night, as the rest of the roster managed just 38.9% shooting from the field. When Ellis subbed out for a few minutes rest to start the fourth quarter, the Mavs promptly went on a 5-0 run. Without their star in to run the offense or, at the very least, create a shot for himself, the Warriors’ offense completely broke down. Moves and passes on the court were made without purpose, and we were able to see first-hand why Monta Ellis ranks second in the league in minutes per game (41.8 per): the Warriors don’t have any other choice.

We’ve seen similar sequences from the Mavs this season. With Dirk on the bench and Jason Terry and Josh Howard struggling, the Maverick attack was somewhat directionless. Not so against the Warriors. Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7-11 FG, seven rebounds) wasn’t the team’s high-scorer and probably wasn’t even the most impressive Maverick; Jason Terry led the Mavs with 21 points and six assists, Shawn Marion scored 18 on a wonderful 11 of 19 from the field (and nine rebounds to boot), and Drew Gooden ran the floor with ease, and punished the Warriors to the tune of 16 points on just nine shots. But Josh Howard, the prodigal son, looked to have finally found his way home. His spot-up three-point stroke still needs some work, but Josh chipped in 19 points on 9-15 shooting, with a couple of assists and rebounds. Howard just looked so natural on the floor, as if his season hasn’t been eclipsed by the dark clouds overhead and some woefully inefficient play. You could easily accuse Howard of being a bit of a black hole, and this season has been no exception. But Howard didn’t force much at all against Golden State, and though his two assists don’t really grab your attention, he wasn’t stopping the ball. I’d almost forgotten what that looked like, but Howard’s game was a pleasant surprise.

In terms of offense, it really was a complete team effort. That’s five Mavs with 16+ points, and Jason Kidd (six points, 16 assists, six steals, four turnovers) orchestrated masterfully. The Mavs ran the ball down the Warriors’ throats to start, and beat Golden State at their own game; Dallas forced turnovers, got out on the break, and built up an early lead. It’s one that the Mavs would never relinquish, although the Warriors did bring the game within four points with 5:11 in the fourth quarter.

I know that sounds like this was another one of those games. But it really wasn’t. The Warriors had clawed their way back from an 18-point deficit, but from the moment they narrowed it to three, the Mavs took off. Or more specifically, Dirk did. Nowitzki scored six straight before the Warriors could even respond, and from that point on the Mavs simply matched Monta Ellis and the Warriors shot for shot. For once, the Mavs weren’t dodging bullets in the final seconds, and honestly it was a bit of a relief. I’m all for the dramatic, but once in awhile it’s nice to just breathe.

Closing thoughts:

  • Eddie Najera got the start at center, as Erick Dampier sat out another game with a left knee effusion. Najera didn’t contribute much in limited minutes (no points, just one rebound), but did show a bit of his potential value: Najera drew three charges, including two on Monta Ellis. Considering that the only thing that may have kept Ellis from playing the entire fourth quarter was foul trouble, that’s huge.
  • I couldn’t be happier with Drew Gooden’s shot selection. With a guy like Drew, the last thing you want to see is him fall in love with his own jumper. I thought that might be the case after watching Gooden drain his first jumpshot of the night just 40 seconds after entering the game. But to Drew’s credit, he used that first made jumper as a weapon throughout the night. Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins were the primary covers for Gooden, and after making that first jumper, they were both tempted to respect it. Gooden made the textbook move and turned to the shot fake, which was more than enough to goad the eager Turiaf and Biedrins into a block attempt. A few drives and a few trips to the free throw line later, and you have one of Drew Gooden’s best offensive nights as a Mav (in terms of shot creation).
  • The Warriors really were not accounting for Shawn Marion. Most of his points just came during broken defensive sets or off of very basic pick-and-roll action, but he looked like a serious offensive weapon against Golden State’s defenders.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, two rebounds, two assists) looked completely healthy after that nasty fall on Monday night. And he actually got some decent burn playing point guard, too. Beaubois played 16 minutes while J.J. Barea played just eight, designating Roddy as the back-up PG of the night. There’s plenty to look forward to, but his play is certainly a reminder that his play at the point is a work in progress. I still see him as a good second string point at the moment, but there’s nothing wrong with bringing him along slowly, getting him in-game experience with minimal pressure, and easing him into the life of an NBA point guard.
  • Devean George sighting! George scored five points on 2-6 FG for the Warriors, which is about six more points than he ever scored as a Maverick.
  • Dirk has ditched the large, bulbous elbow brace he’d been wearing for the last month or so in favor of a more traditional arm sleeve. Needless to say, the thinner “brace” didn’t have any kind of negative effect on his shot.
  • That said, Dirk did injure his right thumb, which has since been declared a mere bruise. So much depends on Dirk’s right hand, and if nothing else, his minor injury reminded us of the mortality of it all.
  • The Mavs had 32 assists to the Warriors’ 13.
  • Corey Maggete had 20 points (8-19 FG) and nine rebounds for GS and C.J. Watson had 14 points on 5-10 shooting. It was probably the quietest 34 points I’ve ever seen.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Josh Howard. As I mentioned before, Howard not only played well, but played unselfishly. It’s a thing that’s easier said than done for a guy in Josh’s position, and though I know he’s desperate for redemption, that desperation didn’t overcome his fairer basketball instincts.

Shot distribution data from Hoopdata.

Dallas Mavericks 128, New York Knicks 78

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 25, 2010 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images.

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TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
New York85.736.024.438.618.7

Every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction.
-Pablo Picasso

How do you even begin to make sense of a game like that? It was the largest win in franchise history. It was an on-court massacre unlike anything we’ve even dreamed of, and it was so violently actualized that children would probably have been best served covering their eyes. The Mavs didn’t even need Jason Kidd, who missed the game for personal reasons, to post their season best in offensive efficiency (140.7 points per 100 possessions). And they didn’t need Erick Dampier, who missed the game due to his knee effusion, to register their most effective defense performance since November 13th (85.7 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Mavs were shorted a critical piece on both ends of the court, and still went on to pillage Madison Square Garden and burn it to the ground.

The first quarter was competitive, but by the end of the second the Mavs had established a double-digit lead that would only grow and grow. They held the Knicks to just 13 points in the third frame, while pouring in an incredible 38 of their own. There was no specific dominance; Dirk (20 points, 6-12 FG, five rebounds) and Terry (20 points, 8-12 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) shared the honor for the team-high in points, but they were two of just seven Mavs in double figures. The real question isn’t which Mavs did well, but which ones didn’t. And the real answer is…well, no one. 11 Mavs logged minutes, each scored at least four points, and everyone but James Singleton shot over 50% from the field. Even the seldom used Matt Carroll finished with seven points on 3-4 FG, the highest total of his Maverick career.

It’s indisputable that the Mavs played fabulously on Sunday. You don’t win a game by 50 points playing so-so, good, or even great basketball. This was a once-in-a-something collision of white-hot offense, terrific defense, and an opponent that isn’t particularly great at either. But once we’re a day removed, what does this win even mean?

For one, it shows what the Mavs are capable of. This team isn’t offensively challenged, even if they’ve seemed that way throughout most of the season. And while I wouldn’t expect such ridiculous production every night, this collection of players has clearly been underachieving on that end of the court. Josh Howard and Jason Terry’s struggles are well-documented, but just as crucial is finding scoring elsewhere; Drew Gooden (15 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks), J.J. Barea, and the rest of the reserves are still a bit inconsistent, and though they don’t need to necessarily be dependable on an individual basis, there needs to be some accountability among the bench collective. Again, don’t expect them to reach this level of production or efficiency (and definitely not opportunity) on the regular, but when called upon, the reserves need to respond as they did on Sunday.

Also, it shows that the offense is capable of performing without the calming influence of Jason Kidd. J.J. Barea (11 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals) and Rodrigue Beaubois (13 points, 5-8 FG, 3-6 3FG, five assists, six rebounds, five turnovers) did a tremendous job of keeping the ball moving, and the team totaled 25 assists without their primary facilitator and statistical leader in that category. That’s an impressive feat considering how many points the Mavs were able to put on the board, and an even more impressive one considering the substantial playing time and production of nontraditional offensive threats. Dallas was able to rest its starters plenty, and in doing so, should have experienced some a drop-off in offensive production; instead, a fourth quarter that prominently featured Beaubois, Matt Carroll, Quinton Ross, James Singleton, and Tim Thomas (a lineup that played the final eight minutes) actually managed to add to the lead by scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter to the Knicks’ 22.

Beyond that, it’s impossible to say. All we can hope is that team-wide production trends upward after such a dominant performance, and that the Mavs find themselves a way to level out and resolve their consistency issues.

Oh, and if you’ll allow me to step away from the season contrasts and the bigger picture for just a second: Your Dallas Mavericks just beat a team by 50 points. Fifty. Points. Despite how negative my assertions may seem in this recap, nothing on this planet can take away the fact that the Mavs completely obliterated another NBA team by an ungodly margin. They played what was probably the closest thing to flawless basketball I’ve seen out of a Maverick team ever. It’s almost unfair to expect more than that, but a game’s just a game and the Mavs have miles to go before they sleep.

Closing thoughts:

  • As is to be expected in a game like this, the Mavs provided plenty of fuel for the highlight reel. James Singleton threw down a monstrous jam. Tim Thomas worked baseline for a contested throw-down. And Roddy Beaubois brought out the oooohs and ahhhhs with this.
  • Drew Gooden’s plus/minus for the night? +41. Unbelievable.
  • A fifty-point blowout, an empty-the-bench fourth quarter, and Eddie Najera still doesn’t play. Still waiting on Najera’s first minute on his second stint with the Mavs.
  • Josh Howard came off the bench again, with J.J. Barea taking the place of Jason Kidd in the starting lineup. Drew Gooden started in place of Erick Dampier, giving the Mavs a starting five of Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Gooden.
  • Beaubois was getting playing time as early as the first quarter, and was clearly determined to make an impact. Sometimes that resulted in turnovers, but sometimes it resulted in spectacular plays (both offensively and defensively) for himself and his teammates. Roddy has a lot of growing up to do before he’s ready for a full-time gig, but this guy is still ready, and waiting, to contribute.
  • Josh Howard didn’t hav ea great game, but he had a tidy seven points on six shots, and played some nice perimeter defense. Howard still struggles to defend the post, though…which probably sounds worse than it is given the lack of small forwards with real skill down low.
  • Jared Jeffries, who is averaging 4.6 PPG for the season, dropped 12 points in the first quarter on 4-6 shooting. A little surprising to say the least, especially if you’re familiar with Jeffries’ limited offensive game. And somewhat predictably, he missed all of his field goals the rest of the way, and added just two more points off of free throws.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Rodrigue Beaubois. If you’re going to make me pick and choose between all of the Maverick contributors, I’m going to tag the guy who hasn’t played many meaningful minutes in the past month and a half. He’s a truly engaging player, and though his opportunity may not come today, games like these keep us looking forward to tomorrow.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 11, 2010 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

  • Fish points out that Dirk Nowitzki is among the league leaders in plus/minus, and that is impressive. But even more impressive is that Dirk is among the league leaders in adjusted plus/minus, which keeps teammate quality and opponent quality as a control. Not too shabby at all. (Interestingly enough, Shawn Marion is second on the team in APM for a one-year sample size, although Jason Kidd trumps him in two-year production.)
  • And a bonus stat: if you take a look at the players in the league with the highest defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions for an individual player), you’ll find two Mavs in the top four. Coming in at number four is the understated Erick Dampier, who does more for the Mavs’ D than he will ever get credit for. But at number three? Dirk Nowitzki. It’s an imperfect metric, but it does speak to how far Dirk has come since his early days in Dallas.
  • All things considered, this is a solid attempt at recreating Dirk’s visage through hair. Yes, I just typed that.
  • Jason Kidd has blocked more shots this season than Brad Miller.
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu, one-time Maverick and former fan favorite, finds himself cut from yet another team. A tough break for a good guy, and one with NBA-level talent at that.
  • As predicted, the Nets waived Sean Williams today as part of the Hump-Najera swap. Could they go for the twofer and cut Shawne Williams before the stroke of midnight?
  • Josh Howard (thigh) is practicing again and Drew Gooden should be active for Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, but Tim Thomas is now among the walking wounded after landing on Gooden’s foot during practice.
  • Eric Freeman (who has succeeded Bethlehem Shoals over at The Baseline) on Eddie Najera as journeyman (featuring a quote from Najera originally from Chris Tomasson of FanHouse): “‘That would be the icing on the cake to go to a championship (contender),’ said Najera, speaking by phone from New Jersey, where he had been sent home from the Nets’ road trip. ‘Of course, if this opportunity (to go to Dallas) happens, then I would be really happy. But if it doesn’t, I also would be happy.’ This says less about Najera’s specific feelings about the teams and more about the life of a journeyman. When you’ve moved several times over your career, you learn to find the good in every situation. Maybe that turns playing professional basketball into more of a job than a dream, but it’s also the best way to stay sane.”
  • Mark and Sebastian over at NetsAreScorching are getting to know Kris Humphries a little better, thanks to a little help from yours truly. Venture over and see if there’s anything I missed, and feel free to leave your own thoughts on Hump’s game in the comments at NAS.
  • Najera on the trade (via Mark Francescutti at the DMN): “I think I’m the type of player that can perform on winning teams,” Najera told New Jersey media members. “Obviously, right now, [the Nets] need playmakers and I’m not that type of guy. We need one-on-one guys and I’m not that type of guy…I’m the guy that’s going to keep his mouth shut, have a good attitude and always come to work when he’s healthy and try to help win ball games.”
  • M. Haubs of The Painted Area on the Mavs’ team rebounding: “Slightly surprised the Mavs are not a better rebounding team currently. Have a great collection of rebounders on the roster, especially above-average rebounders at perimeter positons (Marion, Kidd, Howard). Granted, Howard has been dinged up, but still think Dallas should be better on the boards. Can’t ask much more from the center positon, where Dampier and Drew Gooden have been pounding the glass this season. Coach Carlisle needs to find a way to get some better rebounding efforts outside the 5-spot. Kidd is playing the same amount minutes as last year (35.6), but averaging one less rpg than last year. Not to mention, Shawn Marion is having the worst rebounding year of his career. Also, Dirk has slowly seen his reb. production decline over the last few years. Suffice to say, Dallas has been underachieving on the boards thus far, but the raw talent is there to improve internally.”

Welcome Back, Eddie

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under News, Roster Moves | 5 Comments to Read

The trade is official, and Eduardo Najera is the newest Dallas Maverick. Via the press release:

Najera (6-8, 235) will be returning to Dallas after playing his first four professional seasons for the Mavericks. Dallas originally acquired the rights to Najera in a draft night trade with Houston on June 28, 2000. He played in 208 games (34 starts) as a Maverick averaging 4.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per contest. Najera also played in 39 postseason games with Dallas, including 19 games (5 starts) in 2003 when the Mavericks advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

Here’s a classic American Express spot from Najera’s first stint with the Mavs, featuring Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Dirk, Steve Nash, Najera, and a slightly less crazy Don Nelson:

Hidden in Plain View

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

The Kris Humphries-Eddie Najera swap is still pending league approval, but one of the latent benefits of trading two players for one is the open spot on the roster the Mavs now have the benefit of filling. More than likely, they’ll fill the spot with a minimum salary guy who will play very, very little, or they’ll fill it with a string of 10-day contract players before settling on someone they like. The point of all of this, remember, is to save a little bit of coin. So the Mavs will likely wait as long as possible before making any kind of monetary commitment, and then sign an efficient, low-baggage vet for as little money as possible.

I expect more. The classic move here is to find the vaunted “locker room guy”: a player-sage with experience and leadership who has mastered the art of playing without playing. He influences the mood and effort of others by having a positive impact on team chemistry, and he’s a net-gain to the franchise without playing many minutes. That’s all well and good, but I’d very much prefer the Mavs go for someone who’s younger and hungrier. They should try looking for a diamond in the rough, or at the very least a piece of quartz. You’ll find that while there aren’t many all-stars to be had on the open market in January, rotation players can be found if you look in the right places. And though right now the Mavs are likely only looking for a 15th to fill out the practice roster, provide chemistry intangibles, and to have another live body around, wouldn’t it be nice if said 15th man had rotation potential?

Luckily, I know just the place to start looking: the D-League. Consider me an advocate of the system and what it represents, and as you may remember, I’m particularly fond of Donnie Nelson’s venture into D-League ownership in Frisco. That said, while I like to escape to the D-League for some sightseeing, I decided to enlist the help of someone a bit more familiar with the landscape: Steve Weinman of the wonderful D-League Digest. Maybe at the moment, D-League ball doesn’t quite tickle your fancy. That’s cool, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But I hope you’ll acquaint yourselves more and more with the the league and the process over the next few months, if only because I think that the new Frisco affiliate can be very fruitful if used properly. Weinman’s work at the Digest is a fine way to do that, and though the specific players, teams, and match-ups may not interest you just yet, they’ll give you a feel of what’s to come. With a firm understanding of the system and a realistic set of expectations concerning what that system can produce (specialists, hustle players, and hopefully contributing members of a rotation), the Frisco experiment should prove to be a boon for the Maverick brass.

But I digress. In the meantime, the Mavs have a spot on the bench that needs filling, and a league full of prospects they could potentially do it with.

According to Weinman, “the place to start is with Anthony Tolliver – who might well be the best all-around player in the league.” Steve honed in on Tolliver (who you may remember from short stints with the Spurs last season and the Blazers this season) following his ubiquitous brilliance in a losing effort:

I can’t find a word more descriptive of Tolliver’s performance than “everywhere.” At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Tolliver is a large man, even by basketball standards. But the seven threes he took weren’t typical of the 21st century pseudo-bigs who hang around the perimeter waiting for kickouts. On several sets, he facilitated the Idaho offense from the top of the circle, displaying his deft ball-handling skills and comfortably creating his own outside shot off the dribble.  That he went just 2-for-7 from the three-point line can be forgiven because Tolliver has a fine track record as a bomber from deep: He shoots 40 percent from three for his D-League career and hit a scorching 47.8 percent of his attempts in the first week of the new campaign.

But this was no post-Detroit Rasheed Wallace-type showing either.  For as much time as Tolliver spent on the perimeter, he somehow seemed to be involved in everything that went on inside for the Stampede as well.  AT routinely established position down low, delivered several great feeds to cutters from the blocks, made a couple of post moves of his own and earned himself eight trips to the foul line.  Though he didn’t finish consistently around the bucket, he seemed to constantly materialize wherever the ball came off the rim.

It was Tolliver who sprinted to the sideline to snare long rebounds from unsuspecting Dakota guards and revive multiple Idaho possessions, and it was Tolliver who fought his way to loose balls amidst the pack inside as well. Defensively, we saw more of the same. One second, Tolliver was jumping out to double a guard on a high screen-and-roll; the next, he was waiting at the rim to provide help on penetration or swat a shot out of vicinity of the basket.

There are plenty of guys on the basketball circuit who can fill up a stat sheet, and Anthony Tolliver did his share of box score-stuffing on Wednesday night: 20 points, 17 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 6 turnovers. But to borrow the type of term Walt Frazier enjoys using, I can remember few other occasions when a player seemed as omnipresent as AT did on Wednesday. Given that he posts a career D-League true shooting figure near 60 percent, to think that he is often most of what he was on Wednesday night plus a considerably more efficient scorer is scary.

Tolliver is, in many ways, the class of the D-League. And though he doesn’t fit the Mavs’ most obvious need (another big man, preferably one capable of filling in minutes at center) in an obvious way, he could still be a nice addition to a team like Dallas. AT is probably best served playing in the big leagues as a combo forward, and he could essentially offer an alternative to Tim Thomas. That doesn’t give any extra rest to Erick Dampier or Drew Gooden (unless it involves Dirk sliding over to the 5), but it does fill the last spot in the rotation with a capable, versatile player that’s just 24 years of age.

In Tolliver, the Mavs could get another spot-up three-point shooter, a capable defender at either forward position, and a good defensive rebounder. He’s not a perfect player, but he has clearly defined strengths that could be of value to a NBA team. I just hope that NBA team is the Mavericks.

Weinman also offered three alternatives in the way of big men:

Rod Benson (Reno): He of the Boom Tho movement recently announced a halt to his blogging in an apparent effort to curtail any possible reasons for NBA teams to shy away from him. Long arms make him a very good shot-blocker in addition to being a solid rebounder.  There are many out there who are bigger fans of his game than I am – there isn’t a particular part of his game that has really wowed me when I’ve watched him this year.  He has a decent offensive game, and he has started working on Tim Duncan’s bank shot from the wings, which is a work in progress.  He’s a legit 6-10, although a bit more bulk and further refinement of his offensive game would make him a stronger candidate.

Dwayne Jones (Austin): Gets pooh-poohed a bit because he doesn’t have much to speak of in the way of shot-creation skills and certainly won’t be initiating his own offense at the next level.  Doesn’t really seem to dominate games at the defensive end, though he can definitely hold his own in that realm.  All that said, we’re talking about a guy with legitimate NBA size (6-11, 250 pounds) who is posting 17 points per game on better than 60 percent shooting from the field thanks to the fact that he hammers the offensive boards (more than six per game) and does a ton on put-backs and tips.  He leads the league in per-game rebounding at more than 15 per game (and yes, it would be great if someone out there were tracking rebound rate in the D-League, though the Toros don’t play an especially fast pace – so I don’t think the figure is too misleading).  Given that you don’t call a guy up from the D-League to dominate the ball or be some kind of star, I think this may be the guy for the spot if the decision to push for a big man because he’ll be able to do much of what he already does at the next level – scrap around for rebounds and get a few garbage buckets while forcing opponents to put a body on him on the offensive glass. Plus, he has the size to guard opposing bigs.

Carlos Powell (Albuquerque): The lefty has been an offensive dynamo all season, averaging nearly 23 points per game, and knocking down more than 34 percent of his threes in addition to doing plenty of scoring inside.  Problem is, he’s only 6-7 and more of a 3-4 tweener at the next level. And while he is a serviceable defender, I’m not sure he does anything aside from scoring that will be particularly valuable from a big man at the next level – and you’re not bringing a guy up to give him 20-30 touches per game.  This is a guy who wowed people at the Showcase and is headed for an eventual call-up, but he probably isn’t the one for this spot.

That said, Rick Carlisle may not be solely interested in an additional big man. Rodrigue Beaubois found a bit of playing time in the Mavs’ last two games, but Carlisle doesn’t seem quite ready to trust Roddy as the team’s third point guard. Supposing he wants to keep Jason Terry in his natural 2-guard position, picking up another PG would seem to be an understandable temptation. I’m all for the “FREE RODDY” movement, but Carlisle is a guy who knows what he wants; if he’s not ready for Beaubois to initiate the offense, then get him a third PG whom he is comfortable with. Since you mentioned some interest in a point guard:

Dontell Jefferson (Utah): Nearly universally regarded as the top choice for the next call-up…until the Jazz made the surprising call to bring up Idaho’s Sundiata Gaines last week. There were apparently some concerns about Jefferson’s knees, but if he is fully healthy, he’s the first choice at the one: Jefferson is a dynamic scorer and distributor who shoots the three-pointer well (39.7 percent from the field), defends and has great size at 6-5.  Can moonlight at the two as well.

Antonio Anderson (Rio Grande Valley): My personal favorite player in the D-League.  Not a point guard by nature, but he’s done plenty of ball-handling for an RGV team that regularly runs with three guards, and chats with the front office personnel from RGV while at Showcase last week yielded that they expect him to be a second or third-string point guard who can also guard twos at the next level.  Anderson is a terrific passer with great size at the point (he’s 6-6), which allows him to see passing lanes nicely over his man much of the time. He’s also an excellent defender whose shooting from mid-range and beyond continues to improve.  Just received Performer of the Month honors in the D-League, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t get a look at the next level down the stretch.

If Nelson, Cuban, and Carlisle see a superior player in the free agent pool, then so be it. I’m all about meritocracy, and if a player is talented and fits well in the system, then by all means. But the Mavs are doing themselves a great disservice if they don’t explore all available options simply because of convention. Veterans can add a lot to a team, but the Mavs have already traded Humphries’ youth and athleticism in favor of Najera’s savvy and leadership. Shouldn’t they use the remaining roster spot to regain a bit of that youthful energy in the rotation?

Passing Go

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 9, 2010 under Roster Moves | 3 Comments to Read

All indications show that Monday will be Kris Humphries’ last day as a Maverick, making his time in Dallas rather short-lived. On a basketball level, the swap of Humphries for Eduardo Najera accomplishes very little. Najera counters Hump’s athleticism and rebounding instincts with experience, defensive acumen, and veteran savvy, but at best, this deal seems to be a wash for the Mavs.

Najera is not the rebounder that Humphries is nor the finisher, but I think there’s legitimate reason to believe that Eddie is a superior defensive big man than Kris, despite his 33 years of age. Hump has the tools to be a pretty decent defender, but watching him defend the pick-and-roll is just brutal. And although he puts in the effort on the low block, he simply isn’t a good on-ball defender in the post. Wrap all of that up with a “somewhat lacking in defensive awareness” bow, and you’ve got the whole Kris Humphries package. Energetic player, terrific rebounder, and a limited defender.

It’s hard to know what to expect out of Najera at this point, given his recent injury history. He had yet to be effective in his limited time with the Nets this season (just 204 minutes in 13 games due to various injuries), so it’s difficult to determine exactly what he can offer at this point in his career. But there’s definitely reason to believe that Najera should perform better as a Maverick, if for no other reason than the superior talent surrounding him and the lack of dark clouds lingering overhead. Energy guys like Eddie operate at their best in systems where they don’t need to make regular, tangible contributions; it should be more about his influence on the team’s energy level than his rebounding totals. He won’t fly around the court like Hump, but Najera is plenty capable of physical play inside, scrapping for possessions, etc. Plus, New Jersey’s record is bad enough to get into anybody’s head, and to make the jump from a dismal 3-33 squad to the 25-11 Mavs should be a breath of fresh air for a vet like Eddie.

Keep your fingers crossed that Najera can make an impact defensively. Although Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden are doing a nice job at the top of the center rotation, it would be nice to have Eddie as a situational alternative.

But in all honesty, this trade isn’t about basketball. Looking at the levels of talent on both sides, Humphries is a better talent than Najera, and though he has holes in his game, he has plenty of time to mend them. He has a reasonable contract for this season and next, but in Najera, the Mavs have found a contract that’s even more reasonable. The slight savings there compounded with Shawne Williams’ contract (and the luxury tax savings from both) make this a nice, tidy cost-cutting move for the Mavs. Though it’d be nice to see if Humphries could stick around and become a more complete player, Dallas has managed to save nearly $5 million without making a significant drop-off. Hump was having a nice season for the Mavs, but he’s still and end-of-the-rotation guy. If Cuban can save $5 million by making a slight concession, that’s just sound management.

For those of you that are curious where this $5 million number is coming from, let’s break down the salaries:

Kris Humphries$2,900,000$3,200,000 (PO)$0
Shawne Williams$2,416,067$2,41,1487 (QO)$0

Eduardo Najera$3,000,000$3,000,000*$2,750,000*

Salaries from Storyteller Contracts.

First of all, a few things to consider:

  • The second year of Kris Humphries’ contract is a player option, which he will likely accept. 2010 may be a big year for the free agent market, but I don’t see teams knocking down Hump’s door.
  • The second year of Shawne Williams’ contract is a qualifying offer, which he would not have been given by the Mavs and will not be given by the Nets (reports indicate that the Nets intend to waive Williams).
  • The last two years of Najera’s contract are partially unguaranteed; the guaranteed values are $2,500,000 for ’10-’11 and $2,250,000 for ’11-’12. So if the Mavs decide to sever ties with Najera after this season, they can cut a bit of the longer-term salary commitment.

So in terms of ’09-’10 salary, you have Najera’s $3 million vs. Humphries’ $2.9 million plus Williams’ $2.4 million. The difference in salary commitment is roughly $2.3 million, which is doubled because the Mavs are well over the luxury tax. That’s $4.6 million back in Mark Cuban’s pocket, which is pretty substantial.

However, if you’ll take a look at the Mavs’ salary commitments down the line, some of that $4.6 million is hedged by the final years of Najera’s deal. Najera’s contract runs one year longer than Humphries’, and how the Mavs stand financially could very well be dependent on their decision keep or release Najera. If the Mavs keep him and choose to pay his full salary both next year and the year after, their total financial commitment from this trade is $8.75 million. By comparison, the total obligation of Humphries’ and Williams’ combined contracts (assuming Hump takes his player option) is $8.5 million. If the Mavs choose not to keep Najera, their total salary commitment is $7.75 million. So although Cuban and the Mavs shave their salary commitments now, you can see that down the line, most of those savings end up in Najera’s hands.

This, of course, assumes that the Mavs’ total salary remains more or less the same. If Nelson and Cuban would wiggle the team under the luxury tax line in the future (which doesn’t seem likely, given the talent and contracts on the roster), any minor savings from the deal over the long-term (such as the slight margin if the team cuts Najera) are doubled. Plus, it gives Cuban’s wallet a bit of a break today, in exchange for paying out tomorrow. Given the current state of the economy, that’s something.

While I’m sure Najera wasn’t exactly what Mavs fans were hoping to net in exchange for Humphries and Williams, it’s a sound deal. It’s far from a home run, but as long as the overall savings work out in the end, the Mavs have accomplished what they were looking to accomplish. This will also likely be the last that we hear of Shawne Williams, and good riddance. While the details of his indiscretions are still held in-house, I’m glad to finally have some closure.

Goodnight, Sweet Hump

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 8, 2010 under News | 9 Comments to Read

It’s with an incredibly amount of regret that I have to announce the end of Hump Day. The Mavs have completed the deal in principle that we discussed here last week, sending Humphries and Shawne Williams (who will subsequently be cut) to New Jersey for Eduardo Najera.

New Jersey will have to use it’s trade exception ($2.4 million) to absorb the excess salary. More to come tomorrow, but a tip of the hat to Humphries for all of his hard work during his short time here in Dallas, and a nonchalant look-away for the exiled Shawne Williams.

More to come tomorrow in terms of what it all means.

Rumor Mongering: Do the Hustle

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 5, 2010 under Rumors | 6 Comments to Read

Trade season is officially upon us! While there’s been plenty of speculation concerning what the Mavs should do with Erick Dampier and his virtually expiring contract (as well as Drew Gooden and his conveniently structured deal), there’s been little in the way of whispered rumors much less substantive trade discussions. Credit the Mavs’ record and chemistry thus far for that.

But apparently, the Mavs were still actively looking to cut ties with Shawne Williams, and were willing to part with Kris Humphries to do so. Yahoo!’s Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski:

Discussions for a trade that would’ve exchanged Eduardo Najera for Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams are “on life support,” a league source said, because the New Jersey Nets have been unable to clear a roster spot to make it happen. New Jersey had hoped the Dallas Mavericks would add some money to the deal to allow them to buy out Williams’ contract, but the Nets haven’t been able to make a roster move. They tried to trade former first-round pick Josh Boone to Denver for Joey Graham and his non-guaranteed deal as a precursor to the Dallas deal, but those talks dried up, too.

Najera has fought injuries all season, but when healthy he’s certainly comparable to Humphries; Najera a bit more range, a bit less athletic, and much better defensively. But that’s hardly why the Mavs would pursue such a deal. Najera’s contract over the next to seasons is partially unguaranteed, meaning they’re likely to be on the books for less in total coin if Hump and Williams were shipped out in favor of Najera. Eddie would make his grand return to Dallas and be a free agent by summer, and Shawne Williams would likely be the Nets’ problem. But it wasn’t meant to be, and unless there’s a change in New Jersey’s roster situation, the talks are dead.

Rumor Mongering: I Think I’ll Pass

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 13, 2009 under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski continues to stir the pot on the Vince Carter-to-Dallas rumors:

The proposed deal, which isn’t imminent, would send Carter, Keyon Dooling and Eduardo Najera to the Mavericks for Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse…The Mavericks have lost guard Jason Terry to a broken hand and desperately need perimeter scoring to stay a contender in the Western Conference. The Nets’ and Mavericks’ front offices engineered the Jason Kidd-Devin Harris blockbuster at the trade deadline a year ago. Nets GM Kiki Vandeweghe and Mavs GM Donnie Nelson have been active trading proposals, league sources say.

So the lukewarm interest in Carter is quelled by the involvement of Josh Howard (which creates an equally problematic hole at the 3), the inclusion of non-factor Keyon Doolong, and Eddie Najera’s contract.  For all of our sakes, Donnie and Cuban, please don’t pull the trigger on this one.  Carter’s a decent offensive upgrade over Josh, but he nukes our cap strategy, doesn’t launch us into contention, and necessarily makes the Mavs start from scratch when they finally decide to rebuild.