Left to Ponder

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 8, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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The Mavs came up short in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, over the weekend. The quickly shifted their focus to plan B (or whatever letter), and have made moves to give a little more insight for what the Mavs are looking to do this offseason.

Questions lead to answers and answers lead to more questions. It’s a vicious circle. Let’s go over some key notes as we head into the next phase of free agency.

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Welcome Back?

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 6, 2013 under Commentary, News | Be the First to Comment

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The Mavs aren’t bringing the band back together, but it does appear that they are bringing a piece from their past back. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that the Mavs and Devin Harris are closing in a three-year deal in the $9 million range. For those who don’t remember, prior to the 2004 draft, Washington and Dallas consummated a deal that ultimately sent the No. 5 pick in that draft, Harris, to Dallas. Harris played three-and-a-half seasons in Dallas before being traded to New Jersey as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Jason Kidd back to the Mavs.

Harris went on to spend four years in New Jersey before being traded to Utah as part of the deal that sent Deron Williams to the Nets. He spent two years in Utah before he was traded to Atlanta. This was rare because a start point guard was not involved in the trade. He was traded in exchange for Marvin Williams.

Harris holds career averages of 12.8 points, 4.9 assists on .441 percent shooting from the field. He played in 58 games for the Hawks and averaged 9.9 points, 4.9 assists on .438 shooting in 2012-2013. Atlanta was 35-23 when Harris played and 24-10 in games that he started. Atlanta was 21-6 when Harris played 25-or-more minutes and 20-8 when he scored in double figures, including 4-0 when he score at least 20 points.

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Spanish Flavor

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 5, 2013 under Commentary, News | Read the First Comment

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The Mavs have made a move.

The thoughts of the NBA contracting the Dallas Mavericks based on them striking out on Dwight Howard were clearly premature. ESPN has reported that it will be a four-year deal for $29 million. This news came shortly after the news that O.J. Mayo was going to sign a three-year, $28 million deal. If you ask me for the money being equal or close to it, I’d rather have Calderon.

Calderon was ranked as the best point guard, outside of Chris Paul, on the free agent market. When it comes to shooting and protecting the ball, Calderon is about as good as it gets. The seven-year veteran has career averages of 11.3 points, 7.1 assists, .483 shooting from the field and .399 from 3-point range. His assist-to-turnover ratio is one of the best in the league, a spot where Dallas struggled tremendously at over the course of 2012-2013. He will certainly be able to direct traffic for the Mavs and space the floor with his ability to shoot the rock.

This isn’t all sunshine and daffodils for the Mavs, though. Calderon does have his warts. He struggles on the defensive end, to say the least. He has often drawn comparisons to Steve Nash due to his ability to facilitate for others, but it also rings true for his inability to stay in front of his man on defense. There is a footwork issue and that can also be seen in his lack of free throws attempted. For his career, he only has averaged 1.6 free throws per game.

That said, this was about making a move for addressing one of the weakest areas for the Mavs from last season. Calderon will take care of that issue. In addition, he will be a solid mentor for Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel as they try to find their way in the NBA.

Speaking with Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack on Twitter) covers all things hoop up in Toronto and she had nothing but high praise when it came to describing Calderon. She described him as a “true professional” and that he has “a really, really, really great presence” on the floor. She spoke of his ability to really direct traffic and put the ball in the spot that it really needs to go. It could be the makings of a Jason Kidd-like player that was at the tail end of his career, minus the defensive chops. In addition, she said that he’s “the nicest human being I’ve met in sports.” I know that doesn’t score any points, but that should count for something.

This move will likely also add years onto Dirk Nowitzki’s game on offense. It’s a given that Dirk operates better with a drive-the-bus point guard.  That is something extremely valuable for the Mavs. Making Dirk happy is always a good, good thing.

The Mavs will now need to address the shooting guard and center position. They will also need to decide what they want to do with Shawn Marion. Since free agency has been approaching, the thought was that they could trade Marion to obtain a defensive or more mobile center (like a Marcin Gortat). That still is a possibility. Either way, they’ll need to address those two positions, with center being the higher priority.

Dallas has roughly $10 million of cap space to work with. Things will clearly open up if they unload Marion for a piece or for space. Keep in mind, the years on Calderon’s deal sound a bit rich, but Mark Cuban said he would likely offer that amount of years in order to help soften the blow if they do end up using the stretch provision on players. It also shows that Cuban is sticking to his plan. If they weren’t able to get the big fish in Dwight Howard, they were going to start to bring in pieces that would help establish the new core for the Mavs.

The Mavs didn’t get Dwight, but they did address a major need. The ball is now rolling and they’ve got someone who can grab it and they know what to do with it.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He also attended Ball So Hard University. Bryan channels his inner-Clark Kent on a day-to-day basis. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.

Under the Microscope

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on June 30, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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This is it. This is the moment that everyone has been waiting for. As it was apparent that the Mavs weren’t going to make the first time in over a decade, everyone circled July 1st on their calendar. They waited to see if the Mavs could really make progress on improving their team.

Some are waiting to say “I told you so” and that dismantling the championship team was a mistake. Over the weekend, I’ve looked over that roster again and the results and I still stand by my belief that that captured lightning in a bottle and Dirk Nowitzki had one of the greatest playoff runs the league has ever seen. As the Miami Heat celebrate their second championship, Dirk and those Mavs will know that they “got ‘em.”

History may or may not remember the 2011 Mavs for what they did and mainly remember what the Heat didn’t do, but there’s no way to erase the fact that Nowitzki was the baddest man on a basketball court that summer.

Last season was a disappointing one as the Mavs wandered through the wilderness of mediocrity. Nowitzki’s injury derailed the season from the get-go. Despite that, the Mavs were able to find a way to stay playoff relevant until the final week of the season. That shows that Dirk and a cast of characters can be a playoff team, but the front office must now make their move and secure more reliable weapons for their star. “We’re trying to accumulate high quality, high character, high energy, high motor, skilled players to put around Dirk Nowitzki,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the draft. “He’s still one of the greatest players in the game and we’ve got to enhance his ability to do what he does.

“We’ve got to enhance the opportunity to keep him playing as long as possible because he loves to play and he’s great. To do that effectively, we’ve got to get the best guys possible around him. That’s a priority and it’ll continue to be one this summer.”

Now is the time. Let’s look at everything under the free agency microscope.

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Rank Them: Point Guards

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on June 24, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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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.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Toronto Raptors 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 30, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0110.049.338.917.511.1
Toronto95.650.019.413.218.9

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

  • I won’t fully subscribe to the hyperbole and say that Ian Mahinmi (19 points, 6-6 FG, five rebounds, two blocks) was the best Maverick on the floor on Friday, but he was likely the most active and — at the very least — the most surprisingly effective. Mahinmi did some solid work on the defensive glass, but he impressed most in his cuts to the rim off of pick-and-roll sequences and as a weak side counter to double teams in the post. It was a blast to see Mahinmi provide a legitimate offensive impact, but let’s not go overboard: Mahinmi was only so effective because of the Raptors’ inability to cover for their own defensive overloading.
  • The Mavs managed an efficient offense without offensive flow, effective shooting, or superior ball control. Offensive rebounding was the crutch early (Dallas grabbed an offensive board on 45.5 percent of their misses in the first quarter), and frequent free throw shooting carried them throughout. The shooting finally came around, but only after the Mavericks amassed 37 free-throw attempts in a 90-possession game.
  • Andrea Bargnani (30 points, 11-18 FG, seven rebounds) didn’t look new and improved — he just looked improved. Subtle changes in approach translated into a highly productive and efficient outing for Bargs, as virtually all of the Mavs’ big men struggled to defend him on the perimeter. His pick-and-pop game with Jose Calderon was deadly; Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd both managed to look a step slow in their efforts to defend it, resulting in a disappointing number of wide-open jumpers. Bargnani capitalized, and used his pick-and-roll success as a launchpad for a terrific all-around shooting performance.

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The Difference: Toronto Raptors 84, Dallas Mavericks 76

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 29, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas84.090.544.712.025.620.2
Toronto100.049.323.229.420.2

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 deserve no leniency, no respite from blame. They lost to a bad team. They lost to a bad team missing Jose Calderon, Sonny Weems, Andrea Bargnani, a half-game from Linas Kleiza (who was ejected), and a limited stint from Jerryd Bayless (who injured his ankle, left, returned, re-injured his ankle, and departed for good). They lost at home. They lost a game they should have won unless half of their roster was comatose, and yet they failed to keep pace. This loss doesn’t mark the end of Dallas’ days, nor does it quash the Mavs’ dreams of contention, but it’s a notable demerit that can’t just be written off.
  • Ed Davis may have been the best player on the court for either team. He notched 17 points (on eight shots), 12 rebounds, three steals, three blocks, and zero turnovers in just 31 minutes, which is a bit more than most anyone expected from the rook against a proven defense. Davis has a nice touch and good instincts, but he had it way too easy. Brian Cardinal’s substantial minutes at the 4 didn’t help, but Shawn Marion really should have (and could have) done a better job in boxing out Davis and keeping him away from the basket.
  • Marion (12 points, 5-10 FG, five rebounds, three turnovers) and Caron Butler (15 points, 7-16 FG, three rebounds, four turnovers) had decent games, but with the Mavs’ various defensive concessions, that wasn’t enough. If Dallas had put together a superior defensive showing, a win would have been reasonable even with an average offensive performance sans Dirk. Instead, Jason Terry was the only Maverick with a plus offensive performance, and the team sputtered to a mark of 90.5 points scored per 100 possessions. Yuck.
  • Dallas was plagued with unproductive passing and frequent ball-handling errors. On average, the Mavs commit a turnover on 13.8% of their possessions. They forked it over on 20.2% of their possessions last night, in part because of over-dribbling and over-passing that took the place of substantive playmaking. Dallas has an excellent creator in Jason Kidd (seven points, 3-11 FG, six rebounds, four assists, three turnovers), but he did little to set up his teammates with quality looks, and when he did, they were unable to connect. Not all of the Mavs’ failures were due to execution — they missed a number of quality three-point looks in the  fourth quarter, for example — but turning the ball over so frequently stalled Dallas’ offense and triggered Toronto’s fast break.
  • The three-point shooting finally came back to earth. Dallas made just five of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc, good (probably the wrong word choice) for 22.7%. The starters didn’t make a single three, and Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Butler combined to go 0-for-7 from distance.
  • Nowitzki misses very few games due to injury, but on those rare occasions where he does sit, the folks watching at home are usually gifted with Dirk’s on-air broadcast stylings. Nowitzki joined Mark Followill, Bob Ortegel, and Jeff “Skin” wade for over half of the third quarter last night, and didn’t disappoint. He took shots at Brian Cardinal and Jason Kidd for their age (the latter of which he said was 58 years old), gave a lengthy defense of his game-night sartorial choice, offered some intelligent commentary, exploded after Tyson Chandler slammed home a Kidd alley-oop, and yelled “Got ‘em!” after Linas Kleiza was ejected. Followill described Dirk’s on-air showing as an “A+ performance” during Nowitzki’s sign-off, to which Dirk fittingly responded: “Yes, it has.”
  • Where have you gone, Tyson Chandler? Maverick nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Brendan Haywood (two points, two rebounds, one block) was predictably lethargic, but Chandler (three points, six rebounds, three turnovers), too, had a bit of an off night. He may be the second best Mav on his better days, but this was certainly not one of them. Ian Mahinmi was the most impressive big to man the middle for Dallas, and he didn’t exactly have a huge night; two points, one rebound, and two blocks for Ian.
  • As poorly as Dallas played, they still had a winnable game sitting in their lap for most of the fourth quarter. The Mavs rushed shots. They turned the ball over some more, just for kicks. They surrendered open looks to Leandro Barbosa (12 points, 5-12 FG, two stealsk) and DeMar DeRozan (16 points, 7-13 FG). They just flubbed any chance at serious competition over the final minutes. Needless to say, Dallas needs to be better. These losses happen, but the Mavs need to be better.