With seven days until free agency begins, it’s time to officially start naming names as ideal targets for free agency. This week, The Two Man Game will go through each position and determine who appears to be ideal fits for the Mavs.
Money is always an issue, but the Mavs will have their share of cap space to work with. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard will not be mentioned on these lists because it’s blatantly obvious that they would be on the top of their respective lists, but they’re still long shots to come to Dallas.
Meshing all the pieces together is just as important of a part of deciding on the pieces. The number one option at shooting guard might not be an ideal match with the number one option at small forward. These rankings will be solely on my own projections. A quick blurb from Editor-in-Chief Rob Mahoney’s free agency primer on the SI.com’s Point Forward will be mentioned for each player.
It’s apparent that the point guard position is the most important position the Mavs will need to take care of this summer. There were countless amounts of times over the year where they looked disorganized on offense and couldn’t execute the simple task of getting Dirk Nowitzki the ball. Getting a point guard who can handle the offense is an extreme priority this summer.
Let’s look at the free agent options at the point guard option.
There have been a lot of positive remarks about the questions and answers series that has started during the offseason. I think people are just thirsty for Mavs information or debate, but we’ll continue running with the series. If you ever have questions you want tossed into future a batch, you can always send them through Twitter or through the comments section.
This batch provides a good mixture of looking back, looking ahead and evaluating who the true gambles are this offseason with free agency. If Dirk and Carlisle were your kids and you had to pick one as your favorite, who would you pick? Wait, parents don’t have to pick a favorite child? Oh, that’s good to know for the future. Anyways, a variation of that topic is brought up.
For now, here are 10 more questions and answers about the Mavs.
Wake Forest Sophomore
6′1.5”, 175 lbs. (Combine measurements)
21 years old
Point guard/shooting guard
Projection: 1st round
For the most part, I try not to worry about position. I’m not concerned with which letters appear next to a player’s name on their rookie card. Team needs are often better defined as particular skills or even skill sets, and to boil that down to position alone essentially ignores a handful of options. That said, Jeff Teague’s position terrifies me. He’s obviously a pretty great talent, albeit one that could have benefited from more time playing college ball. He’s going to be a fine scorer on the next level, and he’s in no danger of slipping out of the first round. There’s nothing inherently wrong with scoring ‘point guards’, provided they’re surrounded with the proper accoutrements. The Mavs got a first hand look at a dynamite scoring point in Tony Parker. Jason Terry is another prime example. Unfortunately, both Parker and Terry are outliers; many other combo guards in the league are high volume scorers but also high volume shot takers (Ben Gordon, Monta Ellis, etc.). Many are turnover-prone, defensively inept, and lack the ability to set up even the most basic offensive sets under duress.
I don’t expect Teague to be an anomaly in the Parker/Terry/Gilbert Arenas mold. He’ll score in the pros at a rate that’ll pay the bills, but likely won’t bring the average team any kind of sustained success. The Mavs want a point guard waiting in the wings when Jason Kidd finally hangs ‘em up or leaves in free agency, but you don’t leave the keys in the ignition for Jeff Teague. The dude is a shooting guard through and through, and one that can’t defend opposing point guards particularly well.
I guess that’s where I draw the line: defending the point guard position. I have no problem with a combo guard on the Mavs, provided they can defend the 1. JET, again, is an exception to the rule, but he’s weaseled his way into my heart with not just dynamite scoring, but very strong efficiency numbers. Looking at Terry’s defensive struggles guarding either guard position, why would the Mavs wish that on a new prospect? Why would they bring in a guy poised for a career of the same troubles, regardless of what his offensive production may be? The Mavs are not only drafting for a contributor now, but also hopefully someone who can stick around for a new era. That new era should not be built on the shoulders of an undersized shooting guard that has shown little defensive aptitude.
I don’t mean to undervalue him; Teague is a player. He has a pretty valuable skill, and one that will translate to a long, well-paid career in the NBA. Still, I can’t help shaking the feeling that Teague is best served as a back-up. He seems destined for a shot-in-the-arm scorer, which may or may not fit a team’s needs. The Mavs already have that player in Terry, and to a lesser extent in J.J. Barea. They’ve pretty much got the market cornered on scoring small guards. That’s why I don’t like Teague’s prospects with the Mavs. If he can fool some teams into thinking he can reliably run an offense, he could end up as a long-term starter at point guard, despite his shortcomings in that role. Maybe that works if you’re running the triangle, or if you have another player to share those responsibilities, but the Mavs don’t have that luxury.
I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Teague. The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc. The projections are based on Teague’s two-year career at Wake. For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):
(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played. For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)
Okay, first thing’s first — a note about the player comparisons. Teague had a stat line that had few comparison points. There are plenty of players that do what Teague does, but few that do those same things on Teague’s projected scale; he’s somewhere between the sweet scoring two guards who dish a few assists (think Monta Ellis) and the much less effective developing prospects at that same position (think Louis Williams). That led me to include not one, but two rookies, who have a statistical sample size of a whopping one season.
That said, there’s still some sense to be made of all this. Teague’s career averages project to balance out in the same range as Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo’s rookie seasons. Not bad at all, but falling well short of stardom. Mayo and Gordon also have a bit of height on Teague, making their lives as shooting guards a bit easier.
In my opinion, Larry Hughes compared the most closely out of the three regardless. Hughes doesn’t shoot as effectively by any stretch, but he holds the edge in rebounding. Regardless, Teague would likely find the most success in a role similar to where Hughes should have been his entire career: coming off the bench. Both have the speed and savvy to score off the bench, even if Hughes has been deluded by either himself or team management into fancying himself a starter. I realize that Larry Hughes isn’t the kindest of projections, but the numbers have no agenda. That, and the clear lack of options for comparison made things a bit problematic.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Blazers have legitimate interest in Jason Kidd. Boot up the trade machine!
Nick Prevenas of NBADraft.net: “The 2009 draft frequently draws comparisons to the 2000 draft — otherwise known as the worst draft in NBA history. Kenyon Martin (a player eerily similar to Griffin) went No. 1 overall, but never developed into the dominant power forward we expected to see after his career at Cincinnati was stopped short by a broken leg. He turned into a key cog in the Denver Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals, but injuries have held back a potentially promising career. The rest of that draft was just dreadful. Marcus Fizer? Keyon Dooling? Jerome Moiso? Courtney Alexander? Lottery picks. Seriously…Is this year’s draft that bad? At this point, I’m leaning no. However, it is the type of draft where a team would much rather pick in the 15-25 range than from 4-13…[Jrue] Holiday — along with guys like Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Stephen Curry, Jordan Hill, Jeff Teague, and so on — are seeing their stock artificially inflated because of the lack of competition.”
Matt Kamalsky of Draft Express breaks down the shooting guards in the draft (notably Marcus Thornton, Terrence Williams, Jeff Teague) by the numbers.
John Hollinger’s Draft Rater is very high on Ty Lawson, Austin Daye, and Nick Calathes, three prospects which have been linked to the Mavs via rumors or simply availability. The three came in as the 1st, 4th, and 6th best collegiate prospects respectively, outclassing plenty of their lottery-bound draftmates. Jordan Hill and Patty Mills are listed as potential disappointments. Hollinger willingly admits that the Rater has missed the boat entirely on some prospects, so keep in mind that prospect hunting is hardly a science.
The Nets’ GM, Kiki Vandeweghe, gave a glowing review of Lawson following his workout in Jersey: “To me, it’s more of what the guy has inside. It’s more about speed, quickness…At the end of the day, that’s what basketball is. Would you like to have taller players on your team? Yeah, it’s basketball…But having said that, this guy I think is one of the more ready guys to play. If he comes in, he helps a team, no question about it…First of all, he’s very strong…If you look at the history, he makes other players better, knows how to play. If you go back through the history of our league, guys who were very strong that way — no matter what size they are — they find a way to compete at their position. I think he really helps a team.”
Dave Berri also makes the case for Lawson. That’s not one, but two of the most prominent stat heads in the field on Lawson’s side. Ty also has all of the “heart of a champion” rhetoric and anecdotal evidence he could possibly need. Considering that all that really seems to stand between Lawson and a guaranteed spot in the lottery are his measurables, can the Mavs really expect him to tumble to 22?
The Knicks may have some interest in Hill at 8, so if the Mavs are content with moving up in the draft to snag him, they’d best play it safe and aim for Washington’s 5th pick. Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be doing that at all for the likes of Jordan Hill. And then again, maybe Hill has convinced the Wizards to stick around in the lottery.
Michael Stephenson, in a guest post for TrueHoop: “Teague had the purest stroke and hit his jumper most consistently in the drills and during the scrimmage…But it was obvious that he’s a level behind and had trouble keeping up with his peers. In an extremely guard heavy draft, I imagine it’s going to be tough for him to turn many heads.” The peers that Stephenson describes are Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans.
John Givony, of DraftExpress fame, wrote a feature on point guards for NBA.com. Conveniently absent from Givony’s superlatives is Jeff Teague, and there’s a reason for that: Teague is not, and likely will never be, a conventional point guard. Asking Teague to run the show is akin to asking a young Jason Terry of the same
The Mavs certainly have competition for the services of Terrence Williams. The Nets seem awfully high on him, and the Bobcats would not only make sense (Williams seems like a Larry Brown kinda guy), but be entirely possible with the 12th pick.
Williams knows how to win over the hearts and minds of NBA coaches, teammates, and die-hards: defense. It’s what separates him from the rest of the talent pool the Mavs may face with the 22 pick, and Williams has the size, the resolve, and the athleticism to be a fantastic defender in the big leagues.
I didn’t have a chance to attend the NBA Draft combine first-hand, but plenty of my blogger compatriots provided the eyes and ears on the scene. Graydon and Tim got the ball rolling at 48 Minutes of Hell, but other bloggers sat down with players in the Mavs’ draft range:
Also, as part of ESPN’s D.R.A.F.T. Initiative (a needless acronym for an in-depth study of the draft), a nameless analyst crunched the numbers on player value based on draft position and by team history (both are accessible to ESPN Insiders only, I believe). Neither is very optimistic. Both analyses are based on John Hollinger’s Estimated Wins Added (EWA) metric, a step beyond PER and Value Added (VA) that measures the comparative worth of any player over generic replacement-level talent. Oddly enough, pick number 22 is tied for the lowest EWA in the entire first round. In all honesty, this means little; just that in drafts past, the players chosen at 22 haven’t been all that great. The fact that many late first round selections match or trump the EWA of earlier draft positions should actually give Mavs’ fans great comfort; drafting earlier hardly guarantees a productive player, and drafting later hardly guarantees the opposite.
The team-specific data and grading is another beast entirely. Teams were ranked based on EWA above or below the expected EWA at each of that team’s picks (to prevent penalty for consistently drafting late in the draft and prevent bonus for consistently picking in the lottery). Based on that standard, the Mavs ranked 20th out of 30 teams in the last 20 years. That said, most of the picks that sandbag the Mavs’ ranking took place before Donnie Nelson took over basketball ops in 1998. Though Donnie is hardly considered a draft prodigy, the Mavs have enough value picks in addition to their two big hits (Dirk and Josh Howard) in that time to propel the Mavs’ EWA through the draft well into the black. In fact, if you compare the Mavs’ net EWA (actual EWA as compared to expected EWA) during Donnie’s tenure to the other teams’ 20-year rankings, the Mavs would be safely in the top 10. One incredible player can easily counter a half-decade of failed picks, and that should be taken into account when properly digesting the D.R.A.F.T. Initiative’s numbers. But if we’re comparing Donnie Nelson to his peers over his tenure, I find that Donnie may be looked on more favorably than one would expect.