It’s time to wrap up the position by position evaluation. If the point guard position was the worst spot for the Mavs, the center position was the second choice. Folks got a harsh reminder that Tyson Chandler wasn’t going to be walking back through that door. Going into the 2011-12 season, Dallas had the likes of Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi that had to be replaced.
They got creative by replenishing their center spot by signing veteran big man Chris Kaman to a one-year deal. They also claimed Elton Brand off waivers as he was released by Philadelphia due to the amnesty provision. Brandan Wright continued to log minutes at the center spot, but he also saw more time at the power forward position.
Summing it up:
The centers definitely never had a chance to get into a groove as both Kaman and Brand expected to be playing off of the attention that Dirk Nowitzki received from the opposing defenders. Dirk’s time away due to his knee surgery definitely altered that plan for both big men. That certainly changes the expected results for the centers, but the numbers are still pretty poor over the course of the season.
In terms of rebounds from the center position, Dallas’ centers tied for dead last in the league at 4.3 rebounds per game. The two teams they tied with made the playoffs, but they definitely had more to work with. The teams were the Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat. Both teams were clearly limited with their size in the frontcourt, but they had athletes that helped masked that deficiency.
Those rebounding numbers for the center show a pretty significant correlation to the fact that they weren’t good at getting second chance points. Dallas’ centers were below average in second chance points as they only averaged 3.5 per game. New Orleans’ big men led the league in that category at 6.5 per game.
The Dallas centers had the 11th worst defensive rating for centers at 103.8. Elton Brand was brought in to be the enforcer and anchor in the paint. His defensive rating for the season was 102, better than his career average. He wasn’t necessarily outmatched in his position. Brand isn’t the tallest center in the world, but he’s able to use his frame and long arms as leverage as a defender. The problem was that he wasn’t necessarily set up in a position to succeed as the perimeter defenders weren’t exactly staying in front of their man. That forced the centers, like Brand, to help more than they probably should have needed to.
What do they need?
You either believe you need a dominant center and pair him with Dirk, or you need a highly-skilled point guard and pair him with Dirk. Both would clearly be ideal, but it’s entirely possible the Mavs might have to select just one option.
It’s always ideal to now follow the blueprint that was created with Tyson Chandler. Dirk has said it over and over again that a mobile center who can play defense is one that works best alongside him. Comparing this summer to next summer, this summer’s crop has the potential to bear more fruit as next summer has intriguing names but the options are relatively limited. That means centers, which always get paid, will really get paid next summer because the options are just so limited.
Through free agency and the draft, there will be plenty of options for Dallas when looking at centers. It is very evident that, like the point guard position, they really need to take care of the center position this offseason. It will be very interesting to see which route they take when it comes to the center spot.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University, studying ideologies of Clark Kent. You can follow him on Twitter@BallinWithBryan.
Exit interviews are a time to say goodbye and get a jump start on the summer. Elton Brand came to the Dallas Mavericks in a unique way. The Philadelphia 76ers decided to use the one-time amnesty provision, foregoing the final $18.1 million owed to Brand in the last year of his five-year contract and not having it count against their luxury tax or salary cap. Always the opportunists, the Mavs claimed Brand off waivers with a winning bid of $2.1 million. It was a rough start for him, but he proved to be a versatile threat for the team on both ends of the floor.
Jae Crowder was taken 34th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Through a draft night-trade with the Mavs, he was sent to Dallas, along with 24th overall pick Jared Cunningham and 33rd overall pick Bernard James, in exchange for 17th overall pick Tyler Zeller and Kelenna Azubuike. He emerged as a nice asset for the Mavs. Over the course of the season he contributed in a variety of ways and found himself within the rotation.
It is unknown if Brand will return to the Mavs. Crowder is signed through next season, but could still be seen as a tradeable asset. Here is the quoteboard for Elton Brand and Jae Crowder’s exit interviews.
Just one night after getting to shave their beards, the Dallas Mavericks ensured they will not have a winning season by suffering a 103-97 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis used a 9-0 run from the 8:02 mark of the fourth quarter through the 6:41 mark of the period to turn a one-point deficit, 78-77, into an eight-point advantage, 86-78. The Grizzlies then led for the remainder of the contest.
Dirk Nowitzki tallied a game-high 26 points in 36 minutes against the Grizzlies. He scored 20-plus points for the third time in his last four games (19th time this season). Nowitzki is averaging 22.0 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting over his last four games.
Vince Carter totaled 22 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes against the Grizzlies. With a reverse layup at the 3:30 mark of the first quarter, Carter passed Clyde Drexler (22,195) for 27th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The basket gave him five points for the game and 22,197 points for his career. Carter finished with 22 points on the night and now has 22,214 points for his career. Elgin Baylor ranks 26th all-time in career scoring with 23,149 points.
O.J. Mayo once again struggled against his former team. Mayo went 1-of-6 from the floor for only two points. He had four turnovers in the game. After seeing enough, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle emphatically called a timeout and benched Mayo for the remainder of the game. Mayo did not want to speak to anyone after the loss. He dressed and left the locker room by the time the media was allowed to enter.
Some notes before the quotes:
- Vince Carter scored 20-plus points for the second time in his last three games (12th time this season). Carter is averaging 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.7 blocks and 30.3 minutes over his last three games. He has shot 55 percent (22-of-40) from the field and 60 percent (9-of-15) from deep over his last three contests.
- With the loss, Dallas was unsuccessful at sweeping a back-to-back this season.
- Memphis’ 64 points off the bench is a new opponent-high. The previous high mark was 63 by Washington on Nov. 14.
- Against his former team, O.J. Mayo averaged 8.5 points on 35.1 percent shooting from the field, 30 percent from 3 and 3.8 turnovers this year.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ befuddling loss to Memphis.
Encapsulating a team’s essence in one word is difficult, particularly when that team is the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks and one isn’t supposed to curse. Those conditions standing, however, the word which best describes both the current and future outlook of these Dallas Mavericks is “unpredictable.” The instability which characterized the Mavs this season will become the new normal as Dallas prepares to enter another hyperactive off-season.
As the primary topics of discussion shift away from the playoffs and beards, talk of free agency will ramp up. A rush of predictions, rumors and opinion pieces will attempt to assign a method to the ongoing Mavericks madness. It is a void into which I will willingly plunge as an analyst, but I wish to first beg your forgiveness. The task of predicting Dallas’ moves this offseason, or offering reasonable advice to its ownership, is a tall task, and potentially a fool’s errand. Anyone searching for a definitive answer would be wise to remember that little in this Mavericks era can be anticipated; most everything has yet to be determined.
“Know me… and know fear.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
This offseason, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will need to look at the current roster and evaluate which players are a priority. It’s difficult to decide if a good game represents a glimpse of greatness or a fleeting moment. In other words: should we expect more from them or are these anomalies, outliers, from subpar players? Of course, consistency would be nice, but so few of the new players this season were consistent.
To help Cuban and Nelson, I offer my rundown of “best games” from the players who had their first season in Dallas (thus, no Brandan Wright, but I already covered him last week). I also limited my list to players who had significant minutes this season (no Anthony Morrow or Jared Cunningham).
Elton Brand Best game: December 1st vs. Detroit, Mavs win 92 to 77 Stats of note: 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks From the game recap, Kirk Henderson wrote: “A healthy round of applause for Elton Brand (17 points, 12 rebounds) is in order. While its exciting to see Mayo shoot well, seeing Brand hit those 10 to 15 foot jump shots was such a relief. Last season Brand shot a fantastic 45% clip from that section of the floor and was a big reason many were initially so excited to pair him with Dirk who would, in theory, open up the floor for Brand the way he has for so many others. Prior to tonight’s game though, Brand has shot an absurd 23% from that range. Tonight Brand hit three shots in that area and it forced the Detroit defense to close out on him, thus opening the floor for his five makes at the rim.” “Brand’s confidence on offense bled over into his defense; his four blocks helped keep the momentum in favor of the Mavericks. Pairing him with Bernard James (six points, 3 rebounds) was a different look for Dallas in the second quarter. It’s probably a rare sight though, both Brand and James are around 6’9″ and Carlisle was looking to steal minutes while Chris Kaman was in foul trouble.” My thoughts: Elton Brand averages a double-double per 36 minutes, but he’s not going to get 36 minutes from the Mavericks. While he may be the most balanced (offensive and defensive) player on the Mavs—with Shawn Marion certainly in that mix—Brand isn’t going to be a high priority in the off season.
The Rundown is back. Every Monday (unless there’s a better feature to run with), The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavs, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.
As the season is starting to wind down, the odds look incredibly bleak for the Mavs and extending their playoff streak to 13 years. With five games left, they still trail the Utah Jazz by 2.5 games. Utah owns the tiebreaker over both Los Angeles and Dallas, so it’s essentially a three-game lead Utah owns over Dallas. The dark number for Utah is 2 and 3 for Los Angeles. That means Dallas needs to avoid any combination of actual losses and Utah wins equaling out to two to stay alive and three for Los Angeles. It’s going to take a miraculous run, and some luck, for Dallas to sneak into the playoffs. With a win against Portland, Dallas will have the chance to accomplish something they’ve set out to do since late January – shave their .500 beards.
Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
That’s all she wrote. While not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the Mavs’ hopes of making the dance are all but dead. They came into this week with a discernible chance, but a 1-2 run against a slate of tough opponents changed all that. A loss to the top-flight Indiana Pacers put the Mavs on life support; another loss to the mediocre Los Angeles Lakers was the death blow.
To no one’s surprise, this will be the most downtrodden installment of Thermodynamics this season. But don’t fret. The Mavs won’t stay down forever.
Week 23 (Pacers, Bulls, @Lakers)
1) Dirk Nowitzki (well, mostly)
In the first two games this week, Dirk was stellar. He scored 21 points on 10-of-20 (50%) shooting against the Pacers, and was essentially the sole reason a 25-point blowout wasn’t even worse. Two days later, in the Saturday matinee against the Bulls, Dirk turned in his best performance of the season: 35 points, an absolutely preposterous 14-of-17 (82%) from the floor, and a personal 8-1 run to end the game. That afternoon in Dallas, Dirk did what only a handful of players in the league can do — he single-handedly pulled a victory out of otherwise certain defeat, and he did so against a quality team. Nowitzki’s week didn’t end well, as he shot a poor 4-of-13 (31%) and was generally ineffective against the Lakers. Some will blame the team’s inability to consistently get him shots — “Well, of course he can’t shoot well if he only gets X shots in first half,” they’ll say. Although that complaint is indisputably valid as a general matter, as applied to Dirk’s shooting poorly in a particular game, it falls flat as an excuse. Nowitzki is capable of shooting well on very few shots — in fact, he does it all the time. Exactly 125 times in his career, Dirk has shot better than 50% on fewer than 12 attempts. His poor shooting against the Lakers certainly didn’t cost the Mavs the game, though it most certainly didn’t help. Still, his week on the whole was vintage. The Bulls game alone has a firm spot in Dirk’s pantheon of greatness.
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’ season, for all playoffs-related purposes, ended on Tuesday night, and now we’re left to consider what this lukewarm, odd journey meant.
As a Dirk Nowitzki three-pointer failed to reach its intended destination late in the fourth quarter, I realized it would fall to me to essentially eulogize a tumultuous season of Mavericks’ basketball.
I thought about O.J. Mayo in the fall, Shawn Marion in the winter, and Dirk Nowitzki in the spring. I thought about the guarded hope of Brandan Wright’s line-drive hook shot, and I thought about the eager play of Bernard James. I thought about the managerial sense of Mike James, and the ever-hopeful exuberance of a Darren Collison drive. I thought about Vince Carter’s return to respect and the journey he and all of us are on, and I thought about the stoic stare of Elton Brand. I thought about all of this, and I sighed and considered all the different reasons that this sum of hope would now amount to nothing in a competitive sense. But a season is not nothing, no matter the result. It’s an emotional journey for those who (perhaps foolishly) choose to invest in its path. That path will lead longtime Mavericks’ fan somewhere unexpected this year – to a place apart from the playoffs. But disappointment does not erase the uniqueness of the journey, and another season and another path awaits in the not-so-distant future.
What I will write about tonight is the summation of a grimly typical occurence - a harsh regression to realistic shooting performances, and a firm departure from the exalted three-point bubble of glory that’s gracefully covered all of this team’s faults for the last month or so.
Zach Lowe wrote that sentence less than a week ago, and it’s prescience quickly came to fruition.
The Mavericks’ reliance on mid-range success was perhaps the most tenuous aspect of the team’s recent form, and tonight the team failed in that area entirely.
The only Maverick who succeeded regularly on offense was Chris Kaman (7-10 FG, 14 points, six rebounds), who turned in one of his better performances of the season.
Dirk has always defied defensive hopes with his dominance of the left-sided mid-range game, but that defiance counted for little against a hard-charging Lakers’ defense.
He shot and missed all four of his shots from 10-23 feet in that left region, and misses like these always ring loudly with foreboding for even the greatest of mid-range shooters.
And like so many nights this season, any hope for a defensive save collapsed after an especially rough second quarter.
Earl Clark (7-14 FG, 17 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks), once widely considered a draft bust and NBA failure, played a far more complete and Maverick-destructive game than anyone once would have guessed possible not long ago.
But it did happen, as Clark scored from any region possible and defended Dirk with all the aplomb of a young James Worthy.
Even more decimating was the play of one Kobe Bryant (8-18 FG, 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists).
In the absence of Steve Nash, Bryant and the other Laker guards found Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard (10-20 FT) in the post all night, to the tune of a combined 38 points on 25 field goals (and 22 rebounds) from the pair.
I’d guess this kind of complete performance is what the overbearing contingency of Lakers’ fans always imagined when this team was first constructed – solid post play, tough interior defense, and a confident Kobe controlling tempo from the perimeter.
But such a performance couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Mavericks, who simply appeared unable to generate a significant counter to the Lakers’ play.
The cornerstones of these Mavericks, mid-range and three-point shooting, dissipated with the rapidity of a changing wind, and an inability to capitalize at the rim (6-12 FT) closed the door definitively on any sort of courageous final comeback.
I have no doubt that the Mavericks, not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will go on fighting with the heart of a battling, worn down champion, as they have all season. This team does not lack for heart – it simply lacks for well-fitting parts.
Along with all the pain and struggle of an uneven season, the 2012-2013 Mavericks heaved forward, one three-pointer at a time, until the proverbial well ran dry and there was nothing left to do but keep fighting against a dooming reality. Playoffs may go, but beards are forever.
“Greetings, men of Earth, I have been awaiting you.” — Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
Let’s start with a philosophical question: What’s the most important position on the court? Like all philosophical questions, it’s more of a thought experiment than something to directly answer—similar to “if a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Obviously, in regards to the “most important position,” the answer is that it depends. It depends on the players the team has, the type of offense and defense the team runs, and the opponents they face. The discussion is more significant than the conclusion, because it reveals fundamental thoughts on how basketball operates as a team sport. I would suggest that the debate narrows down to the positions of point guard and center. The point guard is often the “floor general,” the person who controls the ball up the court, and sets the offense. The point guard has his hands on the ball, facilitating, more than any other player. The center is closest to the basket. In theory, he has the high percentage shot. He is also the defensive anchor, the last resistance for anyone driving to the basket. His very presence can alter the offense’s decision on whether or not to dare any closer to the rim.
This season for the Mavs, the point guard and center positions have been the most inconsistent and continually in flux.
At point guard, the departure of Jason Kidd may have hurt the Mavs more than they are willing to admit. Then there was the mysterious departure of Delonte West. Darren Collison hasn’t been able to make his case as the starting point guard or even deserving more minutes when coming off the bench. He has had moments of offensive production. But for someone so fast, he hasn’t been able to move particular well—especially on defense. I shudder every time I see Collison attempt a full-court press against another point guard. As he backpedals, playing his opponent close, I can count down the seconds, 5… 4… 3… 2… until a foul is called against Collison. To fill in the gaps of Collison’s gaffs, the Mavs have used Derek Fischer, Dominique Jones, Rodrigue Beaubois, and finally settled on Mike James. James, while not a perfect or even long-term fix, has surpassed expectations. Collison may eventually grow into his role as a starting point guard, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time.
At center, the Mavs have four players all vying for the same spot: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Bernard James, and Brandan Wright. Each of them have, at times, disappointed. Bernard James, although older than Brandan Wright, is a rookie. He’s the only one who gets a pass. Anything James can produce this season is a boon for the team. However, Brand, Kaman, and Wright are all free agents next season, and they need to be evaluated with more scrutiny.
Several weeks ago I put together a post highlighting the incredible amount of turnover on the Mavericks’ roster and rotation this season, and looking specifically at the effectiveness of different player pairs. At that point, 19 different players had dressed in a Mavericks uniform during the 2012-2013 season, not including Delonte West who was released just before the regular season started. That number has now climbed to 21, despite the team’s slow march towards 0.500 and a potential playoff berth. The larger pieces of the rotation finally seemed to have fallen into place, which means Rick Carlisle can return to tinkering around the edges. Plenty of elements have been difficult to watch this season, but among the most challenging for me has been the trial-and-error…and error method Carlisle has needed to piece together the limited specialists on this roster into a consistently reliable attack. We’ve never seen so much of the error portion of his process in years past, and Carlisle’s previously masterful performance in managing rotations have raised expectations to obscene levels. As Dirk Nowitzki has returned to form and all the new parts have become more secure in understanding how they fit around him, the tumult has eased. It’s an incredible relief to feel that identifying useful player combinations is no longer such a daily battle.
Obviously, I’m still hung up on these player combinations, so I decided to take another look, again using a Tableau Visualization. The chart below shows each different player combination the Mavericks have used this season graphed by their minutes played. I divided the season into six-game segments so each mark displays the numbers for just the previous six games. The color of each line represents the effectiveness of the unit, as expressed by Net Rating; red is good, green is bad. You can use the search filter at the bottom to focus in on any pairing that strikes your fancy.
The overall graph, displaying every combination is an overwhelming amount of information. But in looking at the hornet’s nest as a whole, a few things should pop out. The first is how inconsistent the use of different pairings has been. Injuries have shuffled the cards at different points during the season, but the jagged peaks and valleys adorning most of those lines emphasize what a shifting surface the Mavericks’ rotation has been. The second point is how inconsistent performance has been. Six games is not a huge sample slice by which to be measuring these groups, but most of the pairs, especially those at the top, have been rocketing back and forth between terrific and terrible.