Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”
-Arnold H. Glasgow
The Mavs’ second straight win was an exercise in call and response. The Clippers actually managed impressive stretches in every quarter, powered primarily by the brilliance of Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, and, oddly enough, Sebastian Telfair. But each Clipper run was countered by a timely and even more impressive Maverick run. Dallas played with the poise and composure of a playoff team, and unlike the 2008-’09 Mavs, this group didn’t allow a little adversity to transform into the business end of a blowout.
Take a walk with me:
- The Clippers were down 5-8 at the 8:51 mark of the first quarter, and the Mavs looked to be establishing a little bit of offensive momentum. But as the Clips’ defensive intensity increased, the Mavs’ offense came to a steady crawl behind a slew of missed jumpers. Chris Kaman responded with a few jumpers of his own (though of the made variety), and Gordon and Davis each contributed a bucket apiece during an 11-2 Clipper run. Rick Carlisle immediately called a timeout. Though the effects of that timeout weren’t immediately apparent, the Mavs responded to Carlisle’s strategery by rattling off eight straight points through a Marion nine-footer, a Damp layup, and four free throws. L.A. clearly had the Big Mo on their side, but a well-timed Carlisle timeout keyed a great defensive run (the results of the Clips’ offensive possessions: shot clock violation, missed layup, offensive foul, missed jumper, missed shot, missed jumper, turnover) and a more assertive offense.
- The Clippers were down 32-38 at the 6:20 mark of the second quarter, and the Mavs looked to be establishing a little bit of offensive momentum. DeAndre Jordan tagged in Marcus Camby who gave L.A. some life with six points and an assist during a 12-2 Clipper run. That was enough to give the Clips a 44-40 advantage, which is beyond close and starting to get uncomfortable. But just in time, the Mavs’ somewhat stagnant offense came alive with some excellent ball movement, and a late 9-2 Mavs run kept things from getting out of control. Over that stretch, the Mavs made four field goals: three were assisted, two were layups, one was a Shawn Marion slam. Easy buckets are a beautiful thing.
- The Clippers were up 59-57 at the 7:41 mark of the third quarter, and they were still rolling from a late second quarter surge that brought the game within striking distance. Then, not unlike the win a night ago, the Mavs absolutely took over the third quarter. Every Maverick on the floor (Kidd, Terry, Marion, Dirk, Damp) scored in a complete team effort, and the result was a beautiful 17-3 run that would eventually decide the game. The Mavs were not very good offensively in the fourth, but they were able to edge out a victory based on the successes of this run.
- The Clippers were down 71-80 at the 10:47 mark of the fourth quarter, and the Mavs appeared to have the game in tow. Sebastian Telfair had other plans, as he was responsible for nine points in a critical 11-2 Clipper run that brought the game to an even 82-all. Both offenses lacked rhythm and coordination, but the Mavs were able to score some easy points with buckets around the rim, and then relied on the heavy lifters to supply a dagger or two. The result was a sloppy but effective 11-3 closeout, locking up the game for good and throwing away the key.
Nowitzki (24 points on 9-19 FG, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers) looked to be much more comfortable shooting the ball, even if his overall line was a different shade of Dirk. It’s surely worth noting, though, that the Clippers’ bigs are far less equipped to defend Dirk than that of the Lakers or even the Wizards. But it’s about the baby steps, and Dirk showed a bit more of his usual shooting touch to accompany his forays into the paint and trips to the free throw line.
Shawn Marion and Erick Dampier were the Mavs’ finishers, and they performed excellently. Some lobs and interior feeds still reeked of a feeling out process, but Dallas showed a sudden willingness to toss lobs in the direction of Erick Dampier off of the pick and roll. The Kidd-Dampier combo could be a fun new weapon in the half-court game, as Damp made the Clippers pay for not respecting his rolls to the basket. Shawn Marion finished well on the move in all kinds of situations, even if L.A.’s bigs were ready to combat him at the rim. The result wasn’t always a dunk or even a make, but I already admire Marion’s aggressive movement off the ball and refusal to surrender opportunities to shot blockers. Shawn’s shot was packed a few times as a result, but his activity around the basket on both ends helped him total 16 points and 11 rebounds to go with a steal and two blocks.
Kidd, JET, and Barea did an excellent job of finding the right guys at the right times, and they were the only reason why the offense was in gear for key stretches. Kidd finished with 10 assists, JET with 6, and Barea with 4, which isn’t too shabby for a three guard rotation.
Still, the bizarre offense could give some a reason for worry. The Mavs managed just 13 points in a messy fourth quarter, and if their opponent had been anyone other than the equally messy Clippers, that could have been a problem. The Mavs came out with a win thanks to their ability to respond when it counted, but it’d be nice to nurse a cozy lead rather than jump into a slug fest.
Of course the defense played a huge role in making the Clippers falter, a fact which shouldn’t go unrecognized. The Mavs played good D inside and out, and though their performance wasn’t flawless, it was impressive nonetheless.
- Even though you wouldn’t know if it from the box score, Baron Davis (9 points on 4-10 FG, 6 assists, 4 turnovers) can still wreck havoc against the Mavs’ defense.
- The Clippers roared back into the game at the end of the second quarter, but their four point lead was quickly erased in the closing seconds when Sebastian Telfair fouled Jason Terry while shooting a 3-pointer. Telfair objected, and was rewarded for what I’m sure was a perfectly cordial objection with a technical foul. Four made free throws later, both teams walked into the locker room with a tie.
- Drew Gooden missed the game with a strained rib muscle on his right side. Kris Humphries played effectively in his absence, even if Kaman managed to bully him inside for points.
- JET was twice called for an offensive foul for pushing off with his off-hand while driving in for a layup.
- J.J. Barea seems to be a much improved jumpshooter, which is a beautiful thing for a guy who already had touch and range.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night, in a bit of a curveball, goes to Erick Dampier. Damp (12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 0 turnovers) protected the rim, rebounded well, and turned himself into a bonafide offensive contributor with his ability to find dimples in the Clips’ defensive coverage and abuse the pick and roll.
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”
Well…did you see that one coming?
You could attribute the Mavs’ biggest (and, well, only) win of the young season to a variety of factors. The first, and in my mind this is almost undeniable, was some favorable refereeing. I hate to play this card and hate even more to have it leave the preview, but the Mavs caught a break or seven last night.
Now, that, in and of itself, wouldn’t have even come close to securing a Mavs’ victory. The more telling display was the aftermath of those…interesting calls. The reigning champs completely unraveled when the balls and calls weren’t bouncing their way, and barking at officials soon became the Lakers’ transition defense of choice. It’s entirely too early in the season to start diagnosing teams, but if I’m a Lakers’ fan, that worries me. There are going to be tough games and there are going to be impossibly tough games, even for the premier squads in the league. You’d like to know that Kobe, Lamar, Ron, and Bynum can keep their heads on straight when the going gets tough. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. And more than anything, that lack of composure is what derailed any chance of a late Lakers comeback.
That, and, oh I don’t know, a completely dominant stretch run by Shawn Marion. In just over two fourth-quarter minutes, Marion alone went on a 8-3 run. As Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea found Marion for an array of runners down the middle of the lane, the Lakers turned the ball over three times and managed just one shot attempt. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve naturally assumed that Jason and Shawn had been long-time teammates, especially when considering that their offensive chemistry elevated them to first offensive option status down the stretch. For a team that has long relied on the dark two man game arts of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, that level of confidence and offensive consistency is a godsend. To have it come from Marion, who has been a Maverick for all of a few months, is even more so.
That’s the difference between the two teams who stayed pretty close for an entire half. Whenever the Lakers needed to dig in and find something on offense, their very visible frustration prevented them from operating at their usual level. Whenever the tides turned against the Mavericks, they either held strong on defense or responded with timely offense. The Mavs played far from a perfect game, but it’s nice to see a bit of resourcefulness translate to a huge victory when Dirk and JET couldn’t quite find the bottom of the basket.
Speaking of Dirk, he had a bit of an interesting night. Though his final numbers aren’t awful (21 points, 10 rebounds), his shot clearly isn’t in regular season shape. Dirk warned us that he may start slow, and he’s done just that, shooting just .385 from the field over his first two games. That’s shocking for a super-efficient star like Dirk, who hasn’t shot worse than .459 since his rookie year. But there’s no reason for alarm; it’s no more than a temporary slump, a slight delay in Dirk’s true arrival for the regular season. Plus, with Dirk totaling 55 points over those two affairs (and 24 FTAs!), there’s no real sense of urgency.
In theory, Kobe Bryant should have completely eclipsed the Mavs during Nowitzki’s time in the shadow. But for whatever reason, Bryant disappeared during the game’s crucial third quarter. Kobe went 1 for 6 in the frame, with a whopping zero assist, despite playing all twelve minutes. The Mavs’ defensive efforts in that quarter were a huge reason why Kobe Bryant was sufficiently shackled to just 20 points (6-19 FG), which just so happens to be Kobe’s lowest scoring output against Dallas since 2003. (For the record, Kobe missed all five of his shot attempts while being guarded by Shawn Marion).
- Kris Humphries (8 points, 7 rebounds) had a productive 20 minutes off the bench. That’s exactly what the Mavs need from him until Drew Gooden (2 points, 0-4 FG, 1 turnover) figures out how to be a Maverick. J.J. Barea also continues to impress, and he continue to put pressure on the defense with 12 points (3-7 FG) and 2 assists.
- There was an interesting exchange to end the first half, where Humphries appeared to be talking of big game to Kobe Bryant. I fully expected Hump to talk a big game out of Kobe Bryant, but it may have actually added to the frustration that turned out to be Bryant and the Lakers’ downfall.
- Two games in, the Mavs are making a considerable effort to get the ball inside and to the free throw line. I know it’s been a theoretical point of emphasis for just about every Mavs squad passed, but for 96 minutes it’s been put into practice. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.
- Jason Terry isn’t taking any of the point guard minutes, but he’s playing like more of a point guard. His shot also has yet to show up for the regular season, but JET is moving the ball as deliberately and effectively as he ever has during his time with the Mavs.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Shawn Marion, for essentially ushering the Mavs into the W column. Shawn’s combination of interior offense and lockdown defense meant all the difference in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers attempted some semblance of a last ditch effort.
This is a part of the multi-part season preview, Once More, With Feeling. To read an explanation, click here. To read Act I (the Network preview), click here. To read Act II (the Four Factors), click here. To read Act III (the Coach), click here.
Defining and maintaining a rotation is a bit of a delicate process for some folks, and a simple measure of brute strength for others; it’s either a continued exercise in tinkering and ego-stroking or a desperate attempt to jam fifteen square pegs into one giant round hole. As I discussed in the last segment, Rick Carlisle usually opts for the finesse approach.
But on top of the difficulties that come with appeasing the egos of professional athletes, Rick Carlisle also has the distinct privilege of fitting many multi-positional, versatile players into a series of coherent lineups. What is Josh Howard’s true position? Or Shawn Marion’s? Or Drew Gooden’s?
It doesn’t matter. The designation doesn’t matter so much as their contextual place within lineups and within the rotation. With a team that boasts such an atypical power forward and superstar, we shouldn’t expect each player to fall into neat little roles based on the expectations of their position. The reasons why Dirk Nowitzki is so brilliant are exactly because he’s not what you’d expect from a power forward. So when I say that Josh Howard will have no problem filling in as the starting shooting guard, I want you to grasp my full meaning. I don’t think that Josh Howard will be able to fulfill the ball handling and distributing responsibilities normally assigned to a 2 guard, but in my mind that doesn’t mean he can’t start alongside Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and either Drew Gooden or Erick Dampier.
Photo via ESPN.com.
The Maverick offense is fairly unique in that even though it’s come along way since the plodding isolations of the Avery Johnson era, wing players have rarely had a role of the playmaking part of the offense. Aside from Jason Terry’s two man game with Dirk, the 2 is a position of scoring through cuts and jumpshots. Wings still create shots in one-on-one situations or the additional drive and kick, but the majority offense goes through the expert management of Jason Kidd or the high post savvy of Dirk Nowitzki.
With that in mind, why would Josh Howard and Shawn Marion be unable to coexist peacefully on the perimeter? Each is able to both shoot and slash, but in ways complementary of the other; Josh would rather shoot than slash, and Shawn would rather slash than shoot. But both are (at least) passable from three point range and fine finishers around the basket, which offers the Mavs a plethora of options in the half-court offense. Rare are the teams with two capable perimeter defenders, meaning in most cases either Howard or Marion will have free rein to do what they do best.
The other big question for the Mavs comes on the inside. Carlisle has opted to go with Dampier and Gooden as “co-starters,” with matchups determining the starter at center. That, more than anything, is reflective of the underlying theme of this year’s Mavs: flexibility. Gooden and Damp not only afford the Mavs a versatile approach to the inside game, but their unique contracts (Gooden’s unguaranteed contract and Dampier’s virtually expiring contract) will ultimately dictate the Mavs’ roster changes over the next year.
But while they’re both in Dallas, Gooden and Dampier will give the Mavs two very different looks in the middle. We know what to expect from Dampier: rebounding, on-ball defense in the post, the occasional dunk. But Gooden is more or less a wild card. We know that he’s a more gifted offensive player than Damp, but how will Drew fare on the defensive end? Determining when Gooden is the appropriate matchup will be Rick Carlisle’s first big test of the season, and assessing his offensive contributions relative to his expected defensive limitations. I’m not convinced that Gooden will give up all that much at center, but only time will tell how he will function within the Mavs’ scheme.
Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images.
You have to love the depth that comes with the Mavs’ new additions. Shawn Marion will fill many of the minutes as the Mavs’ back-up power forward, particularly in the rumored small ball lineup featuring the top five players in the rotation (Dirk, Kidd, JET, Howard, Marion). Quinton Ross also gives the Mavs a defensive stopper on the wing, either to neutralize particular perimeter threats or possibly to fill in as a starter for the injured Howard. Kris Humphries is poised to build on his solid preseason by playing as either big, and James Singleton/Tim Thomas fill the role of utility big based on specific need. I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent J.J. Barea, who proved against the Spurs that he’s capable of being a big-time difference maker. Rodrigue Beaubois will get some burn as the third point guard and occasionally as an off-guard, but he won’t get enough minutes to appease the Roddy-hungry MFFLs. I’m already salivating while we wait for Beaubois to actualize his potential, but for now we should all take deep breaths and try to be comfortable with the idea of limited minutes and some DNP-CDs for Rodrigue. All of his hopefully translates for more opportunities to thrive for the big names in Dallas. It’s so much easier to succeed in the NBA when surrounded by a decent supporting cast, and Dirk, Kidd, JET, and Josh have quite the ensemble.
I’m interested to see just how reliant the 2009-’10 Mavs are on the small ball approach. Putting Dirk at center certainly has its perks, but he does give up a bit defensively. We won’t really know for sure until Josh Howard returns from injury, but if last year was any indication (where Brandon Bass was a part of the Mavs’ most effective lineups), it could be Dallas’ trump card.
This is a part of the multi-part season preview, Once More, With Feeling. To read an explanation, click here. To read Act I (the Network preview), click here.
Dean Oliver, in his book Basketball on Paper, isolated four factors that determine NBA success:
- Free throws
That’s it. An entire game of nuance and complexities boiled down to four bullet points.
Of course it’s never really that simple; behind these four headings lies each team’s offensive and defensive numbers boiled into a few metrics. They’re a step beyond your run-of-the-mill counting statistics, but still a bit of a reach from your more advanced measures. But they give tremendous insight into the particular successes of a basketball team, and they’re well worth your attention.
Let’s break it down, now.
Original photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images.
You’ll find that Oliver’s four factors are determined on an offense vs. defense basis. So when I say shooting, what I (and Oliver) actually mean is the comparative shooting success between a team and their opponent.
In terms of their own shooting, the Mavs are certainly above average, but not quite elite (.504 effective field goal percentage or eFG%, 11th league-wide, .004 better than league average). The culprits of a normally potent’s offense decline into near-mediocrity? Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard. Dirk and Josh are good scorers and efficient scorers, but their reliance on two-point jump shots is impossible to ignore when calculating effective field goal percentage, a measure that weighs three pointers appropriately with their additional value. When your primary offensive weapons are shooting jumpers, their eFG just won’t measure up to the league’s premier interior or 3-point shooting outfits.
Keeping the Mavs afloat were the dunkers, Erick Dampier, James Singleton, and Ryan Hollins, and the three point shooters, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd.
In theory, new additions Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden would seem to fit right into that bunch. But their affect on the team’s eFG may be much more difficult to quantify. Shawn Marion was a dynamo during his time in Phoenix, with his eFG topping at .561. But much has happened since Marion’s run-and-gun days, and though Rick Carlisle and the Mavs are vowing to push the pace more than ever this year, it’s a line we’ve heard many times in the recent past. The good news is that last year’s much less effective Marion still managed a .491 mark, which matches J.J. Barea and bests Josh Howard.
Gooden, on the other hand, has posted a much lower career eFG (.474 compared to Marion’s .511), but may be poised for a bump. The only time in Gooden’s career where he has played alongside an above average playmaker was his time in Cleveland. The passing prowess of LeBron James brought Gooden’s eFG all the way up to .511. Jason Kidd shares James’ penchant for assists, and his helpful passes (along with some skilled teammates to relieve defensive pressure) will likely give Gooden more open looks around the basket than he’s ever had before. Hopefully that would at least shoot him in Damp’s direction in terms of eFG, but I’d settle for something right around last year’s team average of .504.
In terms of shooting defense, the Mavs were better than you might think (.493 eFGA, 10th, .007 better than league average). We’ll find the true source of the Mavs’ defensive woes in other areas, but in terms of forcing opponents into difficult shots, the Mavs weren’t too shabby. Though the now departed Antoine Wright’s eFG allowed last season was actually better than Marion’s, the Mavs hope that familiarity with the system as well as his teammates will help return Marion’s production to its previous highs. That isn’t a misguided notion; though familiarity and comfort level matter a great deal on the offensive end, they’re an absolute necessity for operating effectively in a defensive system. Marion needs to know where to rotate and when, and that’s a tough thing to do when the only constant in your life is Marcus Banks. Shawn Marion and Josh Howard are the keys defensively, and if the Mavs are going to transform into a top-notch defensive squad, the improvement will have to come on the wings. If not, there will be nothing to offset Jason Kidd’s lead feet or the Mavs’ lack of help-side shot blocking, and we’re looking at yet another year of average-ish defense.
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.
The Mavs are not a good offensive rebounding team (.266 offensive rebounding percentage or ORB%, 16th, .001 worse than the league average). It’s an ugly truth that comes along with playing a perimeter-oriented power forward, talented though he may be; If Dirk is fading away at the elbow, he’s not going to be in position to hit the boards.
That leaves the primary offensive rebounding duties to fall on the shoulders of the Mavs’ centers, and for the most part, they’ve stepped up to the task. Erick Dampier, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Hollins were among the team’s leaders in ORB% last season, and though they didn’t perform at All-NBA standards (actually, Dampier did nearly match Dwight Howard in this ORB%), each performed admirably when acting as a one-man boarding crew.
It’s no big. Offensive rebounds are tremendously important and help create possessions out of thin air, but it’s hardly a requirement for team success. Though the Blazers and Lakers were near the top of the league last year in offensive rebounding, six of the top fifteen teams didn’t even make the playoffs. The Magic and Spurs were worst and next to worst in the league, respectively. I don’t feel too bad about the Mavs’ mediocre ranking in that department for exactly this reason, and though we should probably expect more of the same in 2009-10, it’s hardly a reason to panic.
That’s only because the Mavs are a competent defensive rebounding team (.746 defensive rebounding percentage or DRB%, 8th, .013 better than average). Dirk more than makes up for his poor offensive rebounding numbers with his work on the defensive glass, and he’s helped by Erick Dampier and the best rebounding point guard in the game, Jason Kidd. This is another area where the additions of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden will pay dividends, and if each rebounds at a rate equal to their career averages, they would immediately be two of the top three defensive rebounders on the team. And, if the preseason is any indication, Kris Humphries should be a contributor on the glass as well, supposing he can carve the minutes from Dampier, Gooden, and Nowitzki’s hands.
Even if the Mavs don’t improve in rebounding by rank, they should at the very least improve in terms of rebounding percentage.
Photo by the AP.
In the days before Jason Kidd’s return to Dallas, the Mavs were a low assist, low turnover franchise. It got them all the way to the NBA Finals, and created a team ethic after the departure of Steve Nash. Typically, with the return of a true point guard comes the return of the high turnover numbers. Yet somehow, the Mavs have maintained their status as elite ball protectors despite Kidd’s sometimes reckless (yet effective!) passing style (.121 turnover percentage, 3rd, .016 better than league average).
That’s largely because Dirk, JET, and Josh Howard are all unusually careful with the ball. When your team’s (qualified) leaders in usage rate are also the most careful, that translates to some pretty impressive team numbers. Kidd can throw lobs and full-court bounce passes all he wants because at the end of the day, the Mavs’ big possession stars are handle the rock with care.
Now, if you’re an endless optimist, this might be the part where you turn away, cover your ears and eyes, and sing “LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” Even though the Mavs low turnover numbers are worthy of your awe, their opponent’s almost equally low turnover rates are at the very least worthy of an exasperated sigh (.123, 25th, .010 worse than the league average). The Mavs are not very good at creating opportunities by forcing turnovers, and their lack of speed on the perimeter has brought on-ball pressure to a grinding halt. So much emphasis is put on staying in front of a man rather than trying to exploit him, and though that might be a necessity on a team that lacks a lockdown defender on the outside, it also results in a painfully low amount of opponent’s turnovers.
Though the addition of Shawn Marion (and, to a lesser extent, Quinton Ross) would theoretically improve upon this weakness, I’m not quite so optimistic. I do think that Marion will find success in Dallas, but it’s impossible to argue against the fact that he’s lost a step. And as Shawn gets older and older, his utility as a defender will certainly dwindle. I still think he’s a capable defender in many ways, but Marion has less athleticism to compensate for gambles, leaving in a position to play more “honest” defense than ever. If less aggressive perimeter defense translates to less forced turnovers, then Marion will likely fall in line with the more defensively conservative Mavs.
Photo by the AP.
Dirk shoots jumpers. JET shoots jumpers. Josh Howard shoots jumpers. Jason Kidd, Tim Thomas, and Matt Carroll all shoot jumpers. Even Marion and Gooden dabble. That’s almost an entire offense predicated on successfully making jump shots, and while it’s not exactly conventional, it is successful.
That doesn’t mean we should expect many free throw attempts.
The Mavs are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league in terms of percentage, but most fans probably wouldn’t know that because of just how rarely the Mavs go to the line (.224 free throw attempts per field goal or FTA/FG, 22nd, .012 worse than league average). That’s not likely to change in the Dirk Nowitzki era, barring the acquisition of a big-time offensively skilled center. And I’m pretty sure MFFLs stopped holding out hope for that years ago.
Values for the Four Factors from Basketball-Reference.com.
- First, a programming note: Rather than sweetly serenade you during the week leading up to the regular season opener, I’ve decided to completely blitz all of my readers with a pretty substantial multi-part preview leading up to Tuesday’s launch date. So clear your schedules on Monday and Tuesday, because we’ve got an appointment to get PUMPED UP.
- SI.com released their scouting reports for every NBA team, and I’m honestly shocked with how accurately the Mavs are portrayed. I see no devil in the details, just understanding and experience with the Mavs’ personnel. Kudos, SI.
- The replacement refs, as one of their final acts in office, called takesies backsies on a Drew Gooden ejection.
- Dirk currently ranks second in scoring among the all-time greatest foreign-born scorers, but he’s on pace to topple Hakeem at some point (hat tip to Skeets at Ball Don’t Lie).
- The panel of ESPN experts have released their predictions for the NBA’s regular season awards. Rick Carlisle received 3 votes (which puts him in a tie with Flip Saunders and Phil Jackson for the most votes) for Coach of the Year, Shawn Marion netted a mention for Most Improved, and Jason Terry, somewhat inexplicably, only received a single vote for the Sixth Man Award. Look, I love Marquis Daniels. But I can’t even begin to explain how Daniels topped Terry in votes.
- Sean Deveney of The Sporting News (and The Baseline) picked out Kris Humphries as a preseason star. He isn’t wrong.
- Antawn Jamison apparently isn’t done sitting on the shelf, which means that he’ll miss the season opener against the Mavs (and then some).
The preseason has long been upon us, so it’s about time we check in.
There have been plenty of things to watch so far in the preseason, and between new Mavs and new haircuts, I’d vote it a success. The easiest way to break down that success is to look to the numbers, even if preseason stats mean somewhere between nothing and less nothing.
First, the per game numbers (courtesy of Doug’s Stats.) for all games prior to tonight’s match-up with the Cavs:
Or, if it tickles your fancy, the Mavs’ per 36 minute numbers:
And hey, just for fun, Basketball-Reference.com offers up some fun advanced stats with the preseason data. I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing the top Mavs in terms of offensive rating and defensive rating.
It’s easy to get swept up in the momentum of a few impressive dunks and some flashy numbers, but everyone in Mavs land is hoping that Kris Humphries’ preseason performance is more than a fluke. It’s clear that Kris has some value, but the extent of that value is a little bit fuzzy. At minimum, we’re looking at a Singleton-esque big off the bench, hopefully capable of playing some center. At best, we’re looking at a full-fledged Brandon Bass replacement. Humphries’ level of efficiency on both ends has been flat-out ridiculous for a player of his caliber, and to expect that to continue once the regular season opener rolls around is a tad generous. But if talking to the ceiling is an accepted practice, I see no reason why wishing for it should be any less the norm.
Marion’s production has been equally delicious, but there are a few footnotes. First and foremost, he only played two games. Austin Croshere could put up mind-numbing numbers over two preseason games, but that doesn’t make him the “missing piece.” Also, none of Marion’s minutes were played alongside Josh Howard. Having those two on the wing together could fundamentally change their production either for better or worse, but the absence of Josh is enough to think twice before proclaiming Marion’s greatness. But I won’t be stopped me from doing just that. In those two preseason games, he was great. Take from that what you will.
Photo by Danny Bollinger.
- A proposed nickname for dominant preseason presence Kris Humphries: Krash Humphries. Two notes: I generally shy away from intentional misspellings in nicknames unless they’re especially pun-worthy, and technically Gerald Wallace already has the nickname ‘Crash’, even if it’s a different spelling.
- Related: Mike Fisher sees similarities between Humphries, Eduardo Najera, and Brandon Bass.
- Wayne Winston, Mavs stats guru and subject of Henry Abbott’s multi-part feature at TrueHoop, is now Wayne Winston, former Mavs stats guru. The change in NBA employment status is independent of his comments on TH, even if it does seem like Winston was canned shortly after claiming he wouldn’t take Kevin Durant on his team for free. Quite the claim, but apparently completely irrelevant in the Mavs decision to head in a different direction with their stats work.
- Michael Lee of the Washington Post (on his Twitter account, @MrMichaelLee), during the Mavs-Wiz preseason bonanza: “Rodrigue Beaubois just picked Gil’s pocket and dunked. He looks nice. Has 11 points. Can we start calling him The Darker Tony Parker?”
- Mark Cuban is less than thrilled with the Mavs coverage on ESPN Dallas.
- If Jason Terry could somehow morph into a great defender at this point in his career, that would be absolutely fantastic. But color me skeptical. Terry tries on defense, he just doesn’t have the technique or the size to really defend well at the 2.
- Devin Harris fawns over Boston’s acquisition of Marquis Daniels (via Mike Fisher at DB.com)
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog has taken it upon himself, every year for the past century, to assemble a giant crew of bloggers for the singular purpose of previewing each and every team for the upcoming season. Here’s my contribution on the Mavs, and rest assured: this is just a taste of the previewing to come, so stick around.
Last Year’s Record: 50-32
Key Losses: Brandon Bass, Antoine Wright, Ryan Hollins, Gerald Green, Devean George, Jerry Stackhouse
Key Additions: Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, Quinton Ross, Kris Humphries, Rodrigue Beaubois, Nathan Jawai, Jake Voskuhl
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The Mavs made significant strides this off-season by turning a lot of nothing into something. Jerry Stackhouse barely laced up in 2008-2009, and yet a money-saving provision in his contract made him valuable enough to net Shawn Marion via trade. They added Quinton Ross to fill the void of the departed Antoine Wright. Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas were picked up for pennies on the dollar, and Kris Humphries may hold unexpected value after being considered a throw-in in the Marion deal. That’s quite a catch of players, even if it doesn’t quite heal the burns Otis Smith was kind enough to leave with the Marcin Gortat ordeal.
It’s comforting to know that the powers that be (Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson, Rick Carlisle) are willing to really go for it when it comes to improving the team. Between the courting of Gortat, the acquisition of Marion, and the trio of signings that brought Gooden, Thomas, and Ross, the Mavs’ brass clearly has an eye on the prize and the Mavs’ shortcomings in the cross-hairs. Whether or not those moves are enough is still very much ‘To Be Determined,’ but I’m optimistic. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the hustle and bustle.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
- Overall offense. What more would you expect when you toss one of the greatest distributors the league has ever seen, one of the most potent shooters on the planet, and a handful of high-production/low-turnover players into a blender? Mmm…that’s one offensively efficient smoothie.
- Roster flexibility. The Mavs are blessed with all kinds of options. Against bigger teams with more traditional post threats, the Mavs can use a big lineup of Kidd-Howard-Marion-Dirk-Damp. When in need of more offense, they can sub out Damp for Gooden, or play Terry at the 2 and shift Dirk to the 5. If they’re looking for all-out defense, Carlisle could theoretically trot out Kidd-Ross-Howard-Marion-Damp. And all of those lineups don’t even mention point guards J.J. Barea and Rodrigue Beaubois, big man Kris Humphries, or resident gunner/headcase Tim Thomas. Most of the Mavericks can swing multiple positions, and that gives Rick Carlisle nothing but options.
- Defensive rebounding. You may not think it, but the Mavs have always been a pretty strong team on the defensive boards. Dirk is surprisingly good in that area, as are Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden. Jason Kidd is primo when it comes to rebounding point guards, and adding Shawn Marion to that bunch can only help.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
- Quickness on the perimeter. This is where the Mavs usually get burned. Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and pretty much all other point guards capable of breaking the sound barrier tend to give the Mavs fits. Jason Kidd’s lateral movement just isn’t what it used to be, and unfortunately Jason Terry lacks the defensive acumen to pick up the slack. The great hope is that some combination of Josh Howard and Shawn Marion can be used in a Trevor Ariza-ish role, where speed is countered with length and athleticism. It could work, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
- A lack of “true” centers. Erick Dampier is the only true center on the roster, and he may not even start or finish most games for the Mavs. If Dampier were to be injured or if the Mavs opt to cash-in on Dampier’s virtually expiring contract with a trade, the Mavs would be without a big man to counter the few existing centers left. Others consider this to be a weakness much more than I do, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t sleep easier knowing there was another big body on the roster in place of say, Shawne Williams. And no, Jake Voskuhl doesn’t really count.
- Age. The Mavs are bordering on geriatric. Rodrigue Beaubois is essentially the team’s one great, young hope, but the rest of the rotation is either in their prime or beyond. It starts to show with the team’s quickness, and the Mavs’ — shall we say — experience could certainly play a part in recovery from injury and durability.
4. What are the goals for this team?
The playoffs are an assumption for a team that has yet to miss the post-season (or fall short of 50 wins) this decade, so the goal is to have some measure of success come April. I’d say a reasonable goal for the Mavs would be the Western Conference Finals, a destination well within their reach, but one that would require triumph over some stacked competition.
Another goal (albeit one that’s a bit more difficult to gauge) jotted down on the Mavs’ white board is defensive improvement. Some of last season’s defensive performances were inexcusable, but with the off-season additions and a renewed commitment to the defensive end, the Mavs seem as focused as ever on improving the “finer” end of the basketball court.
5. Will Shawn Marion be able to play effectively alongside Josh Howard?
This is another argument based on the somewhat arbitrary positional designations, but one that seems to be getting a lot of buzz in Mavs-land. Howard and Marion are, at their core, small forwards. I would agree with that. But both players are more than capable of manning multiple positions, meaning the capital letters next to their name and number in the program are a bit arbitrary. The real question is: do Shawn Marion’s talents create too many redundancies with Josh Howard’s, and leave too many flaws exposed? I have a hard time believing that to be the case.
Howard and Marion are both solid 3-point shooters and slashers. They’re both capable defenders and rebounders. And position aside, what part of Howard and Marion’s do-it-all games means they can’t play well with others? Marion’s success depends more on his place within the hierarchy of the team and less with the space he occupies in the program.
Predicted Record: 53-29
The Mavs are in a funny place. They’ve got a boat full of third wheels and mouths to feed, but the stone bird in the hand place isn’t worth two roster spots in the bush. Don’t argue, just nod.
Sixteen players, fifteen roster spots. Waiving Greg Buckner moved the Mavs one step closer to roster equilibrium, but that was the easy part. Parting ways with Buck was a no-brainer considering the savings involved, but unless the Mavs can find a trade partner willing to do a 2-for-1 swap, they’ll be paying a player’s full player salary for naught. No prospect, no practice squad filler, no D-League assignment, and no donut runner.
Most of the players are safe. The Dirks, JETs, and Kidds of the world hardly have to worry about being cut before training camp, and even the Tim Thomases and Matt Carrolls can sleep easy knowing their roster spots are likely safe. But if the league-imposed guillotine comes down to enforce the roster limit, there are three guys in particular that may want to consider alternative arrangements:
- Shawne Williams – one year, $2.4 million: Williams has long been out of the Mavs’ plans. Brought in as a gamble and a project for Rick Carlisle, Williams never cracked the playing rotation and only turned in a few solid efforts. Shawne has been held at arm’s length for some time with no clear indication of exactly when things went sour between him and the Mavs. But “personal reasons” is the new “back spasms” is the new “plantar fascitis” (I kid), and the team’s apparent lack of interest in Williams could never be more pertinent. If Carlisle, Nelson, and Cuban are convinced that they’ve seen all they need to from Williams (and that outcome seems likely), Shawne could be on his way out.
- Kris Humphries – two years, $6.1 million: Kris Humphries is one of the new kids, but his role on the team is certainly ambiguous. The Mavs have already filled their high-energy undersized big slot with a familiar face in James Singleton, and Drew Gooden and Shawn Marion would seemingly make all of Humphries’ skills redundant. Can Humphries defend centers? 82games.com seems to answer that question with a conclusive “Meh.” Humphries’ substantial price tag may be enough to keep him a Maverick (though only from some bizarre logic that keeping him forces validation, regardless of the fact the price is paid regardless)
- Nathan Jawai – one year, $736,420: Nathan Jawai is still a man of mystery, and Mark Cuban himself admitted in his chat with the Dallas Morning News that even he hasn’t had a chance to see Jawai and evaluate him properly. I can’t claim to be any more knowledgeable, as I admit that most of my insight into the Jawaibberwocky is based off of second-hand judgments and footage of limited game action. But his contract is slim and there’s no built-in obligation, making him easy to sever ties with.